Mike Macharia – the Kenyan businessman with pan-African ambitions
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“The Chinese look at Africa from this continent-wide perspective with a view to consolidating opportunities and combining resources. We need to stop compartmentalising countries and looking at Kenya on its own, Uganda on its own, and so on. It would be significantly value adding all-round to find solutions that address African problems as a whole,” advises Macharia. “It would be vital to lobby our governments to provide bilateral agreements to enable products and services exports across the countries.”
Macharia seems to be taking a dose of his own advice. SST, after all, is looking to be a “fully African company”. “We want to operate in all tier one markets in Africa and create a company that has a brand of excellence in technology-driven business solutions and rivals the global blue chip consultant firms currently playing in the technology and business space in Africa,” he adds.
In 12 years the company has grown steadily and now prides itself with the successful implementation of projects in a number of African countries, including Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
SST is also pushing beyond the boundaries of Africa and already has operations through acquisitions and partnerships with companies in Europe with a joint pan-African vision.
“This expansion plan is based on an equity point platform as SST already has fully-mature intellectual property that can be used and replicated across Africa in line with the whole drive towards Africanisation,” he notes. “There are Nigerian banks that have extended to Europe and America. These banks have succeeded in moving away from the traditional mentality of being West African, and only exploring pushing services across Africa. This is an [idea] that our Kenyan banks could latch onto – enlarge their dreams to include global destinations and diversify beyond the few that have expanded out of East Africa.”
Although SST had announced plans to list on the Nairobi Securities Exchange in 2013, these plans have been rescheduled for revisiting in due course. “Looking at the way our capital market is structured and especially in an election year, and also considering the low appetite of investors in the stock market, I would say it may not [be] the best time to consider this [listing],” explains Macharia.
SST is, however, exploring other markets where investors have a better understanding of technology stocks. It is also looking at large multinational companies that want to form partnerships in Africa.
“Sometimes it makes sense to identify trade sales and acquisition prospects, where you look at already established international companies that can invest or ride on the footholds of your business to give them access to a pan-African market,” says Macharia.
When he retires, Macharia plans to become an investor and build an African venture capital operation that will be involved in stimulating technology startups. He would like to make a strong positive impact on the continent and create a lasting shift. “My experiences can add value to many businesses,” he says.
Macharia is actively involved in mentoring young technology entrepreneurs and graduates. Through Knowledge For Life, a programme run by SST, graduates receive mentoring and training from SST staff, including Macharia himself, preparing them for employment and entrepreneurship.
Although things are not always rosy and business and entrepreneurship has its ups and downs, Macharia advises that one should be persistent and never give up.
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