Carole Kariuki Karuga
CHAIR OF BOARD: SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONES AUTHORITY
You cannot omit her name in any literature or article on any discourse on what or who impacts business in Kenya. If she is not facilitating one aspect of business or the other, she is meeting a business delegation from either within or without the country.
If she is not steering a committee that is organizing a national or international conference, she is a key speaker, delivering a well thought, structured and prepared paper in either a conference of high voltage business people or a group of university students. If she is not following up the seat of government, judiciary or parliament for the quarterly Presidential, Chief Justice or the Speakers round table, she is a key facilitator and most watched presenters in a ministerial or sectorial meeting.
The quality of her presentations and papers is usually easy to discern: by the sheer numbers of the important people in attendance; by the flipping of note pads as the delegates take handwritten notes on their note pads of the key deliverables from her presentation.
Always deeply researched and powerfully and meticulously prepared papers are a much sort after literature by both students and lecturers yearning for quality stuff to boost their academic literature.
Her opinions span across political, economic and social issues that one would confuse her as the chief policy maker at the Vision 2030 delivery secretariat. From speaking on the economic framework in response to COVID-19. From giving her opinion on why the government should have delayed the minimum tax, as the timing is not right, coming immediately when the country is reeling under the heavy weight of the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. In calling on the government to undertake an urgent, independent and transparent audit on the usage of all monies expended on both capital and recurrent expenditures. When advising on the sourcing goods and services under the BuyKenya BuildKenya mantra and simplifying the world trade concept, ‘we buy from you, you buy from us.
Meet Carole Kariuki Karuga, the queen of business and chair of the board at the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA), a Kenyan statutory body established in 2015, through an Act of Parliament (Special Economic Zones Act No. 16 of 2015). SEZA is the regulator of all Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Kenya and is responsible for designing, approving, establishing, developing, operating, promoting and regulating SEZs. It also issues licences and implements government policies and programmes relating to SEZs. Further, the Authority is in charge of determining the investment criteria and investment thresholds for the businesses in the zones and maintains records of the enterprises and residents operating in each zone. If all these is not influence, what is?
How does Carole Kariuki Karuga influence and impact business. Carole chairs the board whose overall objective is to contribute towards the transformation of the country’s economic base in order to realize a higher and sustained growth, employment creation and poverty reduction in the country. The specific objectives of the agency she leads are to attract both local and foreign investments, to expand and diversify production of goods and services for domestic and export markets, to promote value addition, to promote local entrepreneurship through Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), to enhance technology transfer, development and innovation, to promote County and National industrialization by exploiting comparative advantage of local resources. From these responsibilities, a diplomat from outside Kenya meeting with her for the first time may misconstrue her role and mistake her, as the cabinet secretary (CS) for Trade and Industry in the government of Kenya.
SEZs are established in Kenya as one of the strategies towards realizing Vision 2030 and the Big 4 Agenda. The SEZ Authority mandate includes creation of an enabling environment inside and outside of the zones through:
• Development of integrated infrastructure facilities;
• Creation of incentives for effective facilitation of economic and business activities by SEZ
• Removal of impediments to economic or business activities undertaken by SEZ Enterprises.
According to Carole, there are a number of very compelling reasons to invest in Kenya, among these, Carole points out, is the fact that Kenya is a strategic location and a gateway to East and Central African region bordering the Indian Ocean. Kenya is also well suited as a production and distribution base to service Africa, Europe, the Middle East, South Asia and other Indian Ocean Islands.
Ms Karuga adds that the country enjoys a liberalized and strong economy in the region: Kenya is the largest and the most advanced economy in East and Central Africa; with strong growth prospects supported by an emerging, urban middle class and an increasing appetite for high value goods and services.
Ms Karuga posits that the country boasts of a wide market access. Kenya’s membership to regional economic blocs assures investors of market access to the local market of approximately 50M people, the East African Community (EAC) market of 180M people and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) market with 520M people.
For a long time, Kenya has been a beneficiary of several trade preferential arrangements, including AGOA and EPA which gives duty free access to USA and EU among other markets. The country has an improving Infrastructure that is relatively well developed, including four international airports in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret, an extensive road and railway network (including the SGR), a modern deep-sea port in Mombasa, capable of handling bulk and other containerized cargo, an expanding, liberalized energy sector and digital telecommunication networks.
Carole also cites the vibrant capital markets and a pro-markets reforms and continuous improvement on the Ease of Doing Business rankings. Other reasons for investing in Kenya, according to Ms Karuga are low risk investment environment due to the political stability and favourable and favourable investment macro and micro policies.The government is keen to reducing energy cost and improving availability, to quote the new chair of the board of Kenya Power, Vivienne Yeda, an attorney, banker and economist, who was tapped from the Eastern Africa Development Bank (EADB) where she is the Director General (DG).
Through organized input from bodies like the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and the East Africa Business Council (EABC) Kenya presents a robust and well-established private sector.
Ms. Karuga is also the CEO of KEPSA and is credited with transforming KEPSA from a little-known business institution to one of the most influential institutions in Kenya and Globally. KEPSA is the apex body of the private sector in Kenya, galvanizing the private sector through public-private dialogue and influencing the economic and development agenda of the country and Africa.
Carole Karuga holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Economics and Sociology from the University of Nairobi and a Master’s degree in Public Administration and International Affairs from Bowling Green State University, Ohio, USA. She has also pursued several professional courses on Public-Private Sector Dialogue, Global Leadership and Private Sector Development among others.
She currently serves in several boards including: East African Cables PLC, IS Kenya (Internet Solutions) Business Advocacy Fund, Danish Embassy-Kenya, a United States International University–Africa Trust, Global Compact Network, Kenya, and Advisory Board Member, ACF Women in Business Initiative of the Africa, France, Nairobi Innovation Lab, Operationalisation of the Kenya National Convention Bureau and Council Member of the National Council of Administrative Justice chaired by the Chief Justice of Kenya.
Carole previously served on the following boards, among others: Harvard University Center for African Studies, Africa Advisory Board, USA, Business Leaders Caucus Group of Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation by OECD, France, The Center for Corporate Governance Board, Kenya, University Council Member of the Daystar University, Kenya, Emerging Leaders Foundation, Rotary Club of Langata and Growth Oriented Women Enterprises Kenya Program (GOWE), Kenya.
Ms Karuga is a member of several professional bodies including The Rotary Club of Langata, Kenya Institute of Management (KIM) and Institute of Directors (IoD) of Kenya.
Ms. Karuga has been recognized with several awards for her leadership and role in the development of the Private Sector including nomination as one of the TOP 25 CEOs impacting business in The 25th Anniversary Special Awards Nomination Edition of the Business Monthly, East Africa Edition, January – February 2020, one of the Top 100 Women CEOs in Africa, by Reset Global People in partnership with Pulse, and Avance Media, in 2019, Global Female Leadership Impact Award and Induction into the Global Women Leaders Hall of Fame (GWLHOF), by Centre for Economic and Leadership Development (CELD), during the 2017 South America-Africa-Middle East-Asia Women’s Summit (SAMEAWS), under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Juma Bin Maktoum, Dubai-UAE, The Moran of the Burning Spear (MBS) 2012 and Heads of State Commendation (HSC) 2011 by President H.E Mwai Kibaki, Top 40 Under 40 Women in Business Awards Kenya, 2011 and 2012 consecutively by The Business Daily, Kenya, Contribution to Society Award by Nairobi Chapel 2011, Kenya, Outstanding Role in Creating Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) for Business Growth by ILO Kenya Women Entrepreneurship Development 2011, Role in Growing Sustainable Business Initiative 2006 by UNDP Kenya, Role in the Development of the UN Global Compact 2006 by UNDP Kenya.
In 2012 she was voted ‘Extraordinary Personality to Inspire the Future’ by 80% of the 20,000 students of the Entrepreneurship Clubs of Kenyan Universities.