‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series where we pose the same 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.
Jonathan Somen, Managing Director, AccessKenya Group
1. What was your first job?
My very first job was as a safari guide, guiding tourists around Kenya when I was 18. My first office job was working as the COO of Kilimanjaro Water, the first real bottled water company in Kenya.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
My brother and business partner. I have learned a huge amount from him and we have worked successfully together building numerous businesses since 1994 when we first started our original business.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
Driving the business forward and also ensuring as much reliability as possible for our customers. That is the baseline of the future of our business.
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?
Focus, focus, focus, focus! We have been very focused on what we are best at, and ensuring that as we do other things, we don’t spread ourselves too thin. We continue to focus and remember what our core business is.
5. What are the best things about Kenya?
It is simply the best! There are many things that are great about Kenya but the people are probably one of the best things about it. Kenyans are very helpful, engaging and pleasant and this creates a very conducive environment. Also, many people are really striving to improve the status quo.
6. And the worst?
Corruption, bureaucracy and red tape that slow down businesses and the delay in building out infrastructure (which is thankfully improving fast now).
7. Your future career plans?
To continue to building AccessKenya to be a stronger market leader and to roll out more valuable services to our customers so as to make a difference to their communications and efficiencies.
8. How do you relax?
Flying is my key relaxation, where I get out of the office and don’t think about the office. I also enjoy playing with my kids and playing sports to relax.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
Find a good idea, analyse it and critique it to see if it is really as good as you first thought. If you still like it after a few weeks, then it is probably a good idea. Focus on it, stay focused on it and have unbending belief in your own ability.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
Building out infrastructure, creating more enabling environments with less red tape and more encouragement for businesses. Focusing on the long term and the bigger picture for the benefit of the continent
Jonathan Somen is co-founder and managing director of data and IT services provider AccessKenya Group, the first publicly listed ICT company in Kenya.