Kenya has a unique place in the global IT landscape, its industrious people stand out as well as their readiness to embrace technology
BY VICTOR ADAR
Echotel’s Ken Munyi has always been in information technology, finance and administration management space. An exciting 15 years’ journey has seen him lead organizations both in Kenya and Tanzania.
Mr Munyi began his career with Fellowship of Christians Unions (FOCUS) as an accountant before moving to Africa Online in Tanzania where he joined as assistant accountant. He grew through the ranks, and would be a finance manager in the East African country with the company before taking up the general manager role in 2006.
Upon expiry of his assignment, he returned to Kenya and oversaw the merger of the then Africa Online and Afsat Communications in 2010 and launched the IWayAfrica Kenya brand into the market. Besides being a corporate magnet, he has a soft spot for soccer, and is an ardent Manchester United fan – with a predilection to reading, travelling, baking and listening to jazz.
He is on the driving seat of one of Kenya’s ICT solutions provider that recently opened a branch in Kenya, now operating as Echo Kenya Limited. He spoke to Victor Adar on why technology is a powerful tool in the corporate arena.
What lured you into the IT world given that your background is accountancy? How are you managing?
Interesting question, but I am in good company given the dynamic nature of careers these days, so many people making a career out of a field other than the one they studied, it calls for flexibility and adoption and certainly doing what one finds exciting. Despite my training in accountancy and extensive engagement in the IT world, I see myself as a business leader, leadership has a universal relevance and application.
What’s your unique proposition for the Kenyan market?
We are the only cloud-based, pan-African ICT service provider that delivers value in creative and transformative ways, with a focus on building mutually beneficial partnerships with our clients, especially the corporates, and multinational enterprises.
The timing is quite surprising coming in a time when General Election is just around the corner. In fact, it is perceived as a risky time, what’s your risk philosophy?
It is said he who watches the clouds never plants, the timing is right to launch a new brand, launch new offerings, attract great talent and more importantly advising our clients who need to respond to a fast-changing environment, prepare for the days ahead and similarly solve some of the pressing problems today.
During the launch of the company, you talked about using Kenya as a launching pad into other African markets, what informs the optimism that Echo Kenya will do well?
Kenya has a unique place in the global IT landscape, its industrious people stand out as well as their readiness to embrace technology. Geopolitically Kenya is the doorway to the region. Its stable and progressive economy impacts the rest of the region significantly, therefore starting at the Silicon Savanna was a no brainer.
Do you think you will be able to gain a significant market here, say, in the corporate or SME segment?
We see a great need, more and more companies and adopting a Cloud-first strategy. The previous IT set-up that’s focused on technology, premised-based architecture reflects the past rather than the future and needs to be replaced with an agile solutions orientation. We are seeing many companies ready to embark on the next step of their journey, that’s why we are bullish.
What’s your plan over the next few years? Can we expect more expansion into other regions?
Our plan is the establishment of a digital services gateway, an ecosystem of diverse technologies, vendors and partners based and through our consultative engagements orchestrate solutions for our customers, ensuring that their IT set-up is purposed to support their business strategy. Kenya is the start of a journey that will see the same capabilities availed to the rest of the region and the continent.
Your take on the future of ICT, especially cloud-based solutions? Is it a growing sector? What are the challenges and opportunities?
The future is cloud, especially in a ‘systems and applications’ driven world. Many companies are adopting a cloud-first on all future deployments given its agility and scalability. As work gets more distributed, collaborations grow and physical locations assume less significance, the adoption of cloud-based solutions will grow. Some of the challenges are legacy systems and traditional mindsets, especially where IT is defined by what is seen i.e., servers, routers and ‘blinking lights’ in the server room. Cloud-based solutions adoption requires a systematic approach to align the entire set up i.e., hardware, connectivity, security, skills to the cloud-first strategy.
Lately, companies have been struggling with one of the reasons cited by them being the maddening Covid-19. What’s your view on the effect of coronavirus pandemic on businesses?
The Covid-19 pandemic has been disruptive – affecting every aspect of our lives; social, economic, and of course healthcare. Though much has been said of change and need to be ready to change, many companies didn’t anticipate or prepare for what has happened, interestingly, however, the technology is available to usher companies to the next phase of their digitalization. In a sense the pandemic has generated increased awareness and accelerated the pace of change.
With change however comes new opportunities, there is always the desire to roll back to where we were in March 2020, a better approach however must be to embrace the new context, rethink our business models, as Echo Kenya we are here to help businesses respond to the changing and challenging landscape.
How many workers have you employed locally? Or how many people do you plan to hire?
We have a complement of 35 staff, however, given our ecosystem and plethora of partners we work with a huge number of talented and innovative and resourceful people.
Our hiring will be driven by our model and growth, so we will keep attracting dynamic and gifted persons that fit our culture, however, we are obsessed with owning and controlling input so we expect that the talent available within the ecosystem will be many times over those we directly employ.
How much is Echo Kenya valued at the moment?
It’s misleading and even difficult to attach a monetary value – how do you value a system of all infrastructure we have access to through our partners, diversity of skills across the continent that we leverage, depth of hardware and software solutions and intellectual property at our disposal?
Okay, your final remarks?
It’s a new dawn, IT as an enabler can generate massive competitive advantage for businesses, it’s a powerful tool enabling our response to a changing and challenging environment, that’s why Echo Kenya is here, talk to us… and let’s take you with us beyond boundaries into the realm of great possibilities.
A certified accountant (CPA) with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Economics and Sociology, certification in Information Systems Audit, and also holder of a Post Graduate Diploma (PDH) in Strategic Management from the University of Leicester, UK, the adept corporate leader is currently pursuing his MBA at University of London.