Assignments & Westgate Hostage Situation

Over the past few weeks, my colleagues and I have been assigned to the various clients that have been cultivated by our local partner, Equity Bank.  Though we are still working in a very fluid and changing environment, it is exciting to get to get our hands dirty in the actual engagements. While I initially started working with the team assigned to a Kenyan retailer, I have since been moved to a different family business whose story is as intriguing as it is complicated.

Some background: What started roughly half a century ago as a way for an enterprising young man to pay for school by selling eggs to his neighbors has grown into one of the most successful family businesses in Kenya, operating in several industries across the country.  Over the past few decades, new ventures have been undertaken by the same entrepreneur, and he and his family have become prosperous.  As is the case anywhere, there are differing levels of commitment by the entrepreneur’s now-grown children to become engaged with the businesses.  Some have worked within the business for the entirety of their adult lives, while others have remained at arm’s length.

A few years ago, the patriarch/founder passed away. Since then, the family has begun to learn the businesses and other family assets are much more sizable than they realized previously.  Piecing together documents and accounts that were only known previously to the head of the family has taken years, and more are sure to crop up in the future. The part of the business that will be the focus of my current project are the real estate investments. Over the coming weeks, I will be taking stock of what the family currently has, and what options and strategies the family may wish to employ to maximize the properties’ potential. This will be a great learning experience for me personally, and I am excited to be on a project where the clients are genuinely interested in embracing changes that will benefit them and their families over the long term.

Child enjoying the 75″ HD screen at the Nakumatt Junction supermarket

Westgate Mall Attack

Over the weekend, a mall in Nairobi’s Westlands district was the focal point of violence, leaving dozens dead and possibly hundreds more injured.  The group claiming the attack is al-Shabaab, a Somali terrorist group with links to al-Qaeda.  While this blog’s focus is on consulting, local businesses, and culture, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what will assuredly and sadly be one of the largest international news events for Nairobi while I am here.  I cannot put my head in the sand and hope that pretending that terrorism doesn’t exist will make it so.

All the members of my team are safe.  From what I can tell at this point, everyone in my extended network (business school alumni and professional local colleagues) is safe. My guess is that over the coming weeks and months, security around the city will be on high alert, and extra precautions will be taken at every location that may be seen as a target.

One thing I would like to add to the discussion about Westgate is that it is not exclusively an ex-pat, let alone American, shopping area, by any stretch.  Yes, it is upscale, but its clientele includes Kenyans, Indians, Chinese, and basically every other major group that lives in the city.  My team and I have been there, and one colleague works nearby, so we are familiar with the area.

Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of those hurt or lost by the attack, as well as the Kenyan authorities who will be attempting to restore safety and provide leadership and stability in whatever capacity they can over the coming weeks and months.

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One thought on “Assignments & Westgate Hostage Situation

  1. Pingback: Client Presentation, Karen, & Beach Trip | D'Africa

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