‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series where we pose the same ten questions to business leaders across the continent.
James Mwangi, CEO, Equity Bank Group
1. What was your first job?
I was an accountant at Ernst & Young.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
Many people have had an impact on my career. My late mother had an enormous impact on me when I was growing up. Microsoft founder Bill Gates has influenced me in philanthropy and I have admired the humility of former South African president Nelson Mandela on a personal level. On a managerial level I admire the leadership at General Electric and Apple.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
The main concern for me is sustaining [the] organisation’s culture that has held the bank together and made it a high performance organisation and a great place to work in.
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I think I really cherish honesty, integrity, and a down-to-earth approach towards life which allows me to connect with most people.
5. What are the best things about your country, Kenya?
That must be our optimism.
6. And the worst?
The negative ethnicity.
7. Your future career plans?
Philanthropy. I will move away from the bank to giving.
8. How do you relax?
By spending time with my family. Being on a treadmill early in the morning really energises me.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
We are seeing an opportunity for Africa’s youth to be involved in innovative ventures that Africa can leverage to transform itself, particularly in agriculture. We need to look at ways to unlock the youth demographic dividend. Job creation is essential for the youthful population to be meaningfully engaged and positively contribute to the development of the continent.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
We need to implement strategies and resolutions made in forums like the World Economic Forum on Africa. This should help us move to the market and solve some of the social constraints that have held Africa back for a long time.
James Mwangi is the CEO of Equity Bank Group. He was awarded the 2012 Ernst &Young World Entrepreneur of the Year award. Mwangi is an astute businessman best known for his efforts in shepherding the Equity Bank Group from a technically insolvent building society in 2004, to one of the largest and most profitable companies in Kenya.