Management Magazine
Cover Story

Bold and solutions-oriented

Karen Kandie is a finance specialist with more than 20 years experience in leadership and management. In her current assignment as Managing Director of IDB, she is an influential player in driving growth in the industrial sector, with key focus on the ‘Big 4’ Agenda. She engages Management Magazine on the strategic role of IDB in development and the achievements made so far.

  • You have risen through the ranks and served in various leadership positions before your current position. What has been your greatest achievement as a leader so far?

My greatest achievement has been realised through my current assignment – as the Managing Director of a key institution in Government. I believe that my background in the private sector brings with it a bold and solutions-oriented attitude that spreads to our staff in enabling them fulfill our mandate. I have also developed an excellent relationship with my board members. At IDB, the leadership I exert is aimed at making me and the institution I lead an influential player in driving the industrial sector to greater heights, as we focus on achieving the ‘Big 4’ Agenda.

  •  As a leader, how do you ensure that you keep growing and remain at par with industry trends?

I invest in life-long learning and growth. I read widely and at any one time I am reading a book, which widens my worldview and is a source of inspiration. I have recently finished reading Becoming by former First Lady Michelle Obama, and The Champion by David Waweru. I am currently reading Vienna Prelude by Bodie & Brock Thoene, one of a fictional series on European history. I also access online short courses, especially when I want to explore an area in depth. I am a member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Institute of Certified Financial and Investment Analysts, which keeps me up to date in my profession and with industry trends.

  • The 2019 Theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter, which is a call to action for driving gender balance across the world. How do you think women in Kenya can achieve this balance better?

Gender balance is key to achieving a better world for all. When women, who form about half the world population, are fully engaged, we all share in the benefits. A better world is where everyone is involved and no one is left behind. Women in Kenya can achieve this by building on past achievements, because we must appreciate that a lot of progress has been made here. Women should not allow negative stereotypes and more traditional cultures to derail their dreams and aspirations, because women can. There are many women who have risen to leadership positions here neither because of nor despite their gender.

  • How do you manage a fast-paced work life with your other interests and commitments?

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is always work in progress, and so it is something I continue to pursue. My family is a priority, and allocating time to exercise and meet up with friends is also important. I play golf at least once a week, which is also an opportunity to network and market IDB. 

  • Give us a brief about your leadership strategies, from the time you were appointed to lead operations at IDB Capital.

My first responsibility on joining IDB was to conclude with the National Treasury on a credit facility for lending to industry. The USD 1.5 million facility had earlier been signed between the government of India and the Government of Kenya, but it had remained unutilised for almost a year. The second responsibility was to roll out the credit to the market. This involved energising the staff and focusing on the rollout, as well as reaching out to the target market.

  • IDB has developed high competence in project selection, appraisal and management for purposes of strategic financing of projects for sustainable economic growth. What is the strategy here?

As a development finance institution, the strategy is to direct capital to those sectors of the economy that have the greatest potential to drive economic growth, create employment and widen the tax base. The purpose is to de-risk the sectors and therefore help them attract even more capital from the private sector. IDB is, therefore, a Government`s policy tool to attract private capital to priority sectors of the economy.

  • IDB Capital assists small, medium and large enterprises, new or existing companies seeking expansion, modernisation or diversification. What impact is this expected to have towards the overall growth of Kenya`s economy?

We are an emerging economy with a lot of potential for growth, and IDB’s role is to enable this growth through providing long-term affordable capital. Industries need to scale up production, especially to compete in the global economy. Achieving scale is critical to the growth of the economy and creation of jobs, and the widening of the tax base. This requires immense capital investment, most of which will come from the private sector. IDB`s greatest role is, therefore, to de-risk sectors with the highest growth potential and make them attractive to private capital.   

Q. What innovative plans are in place to position IDB Capital and its services as the best by global standards?

The focus of IDB is on the ‘’Big 4” Agenda, especially the manufacturing pillar, to grow its contribution to GDP from 8.4 per cent to 15 per cent. Key to us is also the food and nutrition pillar – to ensure the country is food secure. We are in particular addressing this through supporting technology upgrade from the more advanced but still emerging markets such as India. We are also looking at more capital investment in agro-processing and post-harvest loss reduction, where IDB is playing a catalytic role in providing long-term capital. 

  • What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring leaders, especially women?

Young aspiring leaders should pursue their dreams with passion, focus and integrity. Life will throw you many challenges, and when you fall, wake up, dust yourself and keep moving. Aim high and higher, because the world has immense opportunities. Don’t let any setbacks derail you. Start where you are, with what you have. In the Bible, the book of Exodus 4:2-3, when God wanted to send Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses gave many excuses: he thought he was a nobody, he was shy, he had a stutter and he made many other excuses. God asked him what he was holding, and he replied that it was a walking stick. That is where Moses started, with a walking stick, and with it he parted the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to cross over to the Promised Land.

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