By The IndependentIt’s easy to fall into the age-old narrative that Africa is a land hidebound by corruption. But, at the annual Africa CEO Forum in Geneva this week, corporate leaders were pushing a very different theme.
In fact, the C-word was one that few delegates wanted to talk about, preferring instead to discuss the same kinds of subjects that one finds repeated and rehashed in any Western corporate forum: successful corporate acquisitions, the rise of digital technology, corporate governance in family-owned businesses.
The atmosphere is upbeat. In Africa, far from being vilified like they often are in the west these days, business bosses are increasingly seen in popular opinion as the agents for positive change, modernity and progress.
Take Chris Kirubi. Western readers may not have heard of him, but in East Africa, and in particular Kenya, he is seen as Africa’s answer to Sir Richard Branson. Little surprise, then, that he was declared chief executive of the year.
Despite his 70-something years – “we Africans never know our age, but I feel 25 all the time,” he says – the garrulous Mr Kirubi DJs on a popular Kenyan radio rock show and dispenses advice to thousands of young Kenyans on how to get ahead in business. With his 314,000-strong army of Twitter followers, he’s none too shabby on social media either.
Forbes magazine puts his worth at $220m (£145m), making him a Kenyan shillings billionaire. Only two months ago he made $30m selling his stake in the East African insurer UAP to Old Mutual.
It’s one of many companies he’s bought and sold since starting off in business doing up decrepit office blocks in Nairobi.