CHAIR OF BOARD: KPLC
During the 43rd Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on November 13, 2020, the UK trained scholar, banker and attorney, Vivienne Yeda was elected the Chairman of the board of Kenya Power Lighting Company (known daily as Kenya Power-KP) breaking the glass ceiling, becoming the first woman to lead the board of the strategic utility firm.
The appointment of Vivienne Yeda is no surprise for those who have worked with her before. Vivienne is the Director General (DG) of the East African Development Bank (EADB). Prior to her appointment as the CEO at EADB, Vivienne was Resident Representative and Country Manager-Zambia at the African Development Bank Group (ADB).
Vivienne, as Chairman, is expected to lead the turnaround of KP to provide sustainable energy to the Kenyan economy, energy that is both affordable, reliable and sustainable. The affordability aspect of energy is critical to the social and economic development of a country. It is also part of the critical drivers recognized and flagged as fulfilling one of the 30 UNSDGs.
Vivienne will be leading the new KP board in planning for adequate electricity generation and distribution to meet demand; build and maintain the last mile transmission network and retail electricity to both corporate and individual households effectively and efficiently.
Among the priority areas already identified by Vivienne is inculcating an integrity culture, instituting good corporate governance practice and re-engineering KP organizational performance management structures to help move the utility firm back to profitability.
In KP latest interaction with the consumers, the firm has embarked on offering customers the level of service desired, including access to power through efficient and prompt connectivity, including an improvement on the reliability index by reducing outages to the bare minimum and prompt billing. These key performance indicators (KPI) are already in the out-tray, with actions already taken to roll out the needed interventions.
The board, under Vivienne has already targeted to grow revenue by enhancement of revenue protection efforts, rationalization of electricity and an easier to administer billing system that also includes an efficient self-meter reading, followed by prompt issuing of invoices and reducing the turnaround time for making payments to within two weeks.
Indeed, the board’s vision for Kenya Power is to become a reliable, predictable, trusted and provider of affordable electricity to Kenyans. ‘We want to be a customer-centric company, sharply focused on providing power to Kenyans, and be the preferred provider of power, because Kenya Power provides an excellent service. Together we will restore and enhance the image and fortunes of this company. We are focused on getting Kenya Power to where it belongs, amongst the most successful and admired companies in Kenya and Africa’ opines Vivienne.
Thanks to the oversight of–the new board, improvement in operational performance at KP is noticeable, with year to date of 140,000 new customers connected against a target of 125,000 despite the COVID-19 pandemic, since the last AGM.
KPLC has in its immediate term plans of introducing additional revenue streams, including solar as well as partnering with county governments, to make each a regional profit centre. This action is expected to shove up the numbers.
The new board plans to follow up on the Government’s extension of a moratorium on concessional loans it had procured on behalf of Kenya Power, as among the initiatives the state should be employing to help the company find a firm financial footing and health.
Also on the radar is a strategy for efficient debt collection especially from other state departments, government agencies, state owned enterprises (SOEs) and county governments.
According to Vivienne, the few months she has been at KP have been fascinating. She avers that despite all the negative stories about the company, Kenya Power is a fascinating, complex business, full of first-class people who want to do well. She reminds us not to forget that the company continues to do something that many other countries envy: distribute electricity regularly, despite an aging infrastructure and distribution system.
To Vivienne, it is her task and the board she leads to focus the company on its basic mandate, to allow staff to use the incredible talents they have to grow KP into world class supplier of electricity.
She lists the following as the board’s short-term priorities which will lead to the start of the turnaround: to stabilize the cash position in order to provide KP with a platform for recovery and growth. She states that the board is paying close attention to operational costs while pushing for debt collection and prompt billing and payments of amounts as they fall due.
The board under Vivienne will first instituting measures for effective and efficient running of KP before thinking of imposing a tariff increase, to cushion Kenyans from the current financial burdens arising out of an economic down turn occasioned by effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The cost of energy to KP and subsequently to the consumer will be the key focus of the Board to ensure that Kenya remains an attractive investment option for both domestic and foreign investors. KP’s strategy is to work in partnership with producers to provide clean, green ,reliable and affordable energy . KP will look after its own business to ensure that it is the best reliable and affordable energy solution provider. KP will also build on its partnership the other sector institutions including EPRA, GDC, KETRACO and KENGEN to ensure efficiency and containment of costs in the sector.
Already, a strategy paper has been developed and will act as a guide for the board going forward. The new board is aligning KP to the global structural changes, including climate change and energy distribution and consumption efficiency. To this end, Vivienne lists customer focus, customer service and purposeful well-thought-out balanced and cost effective power production agreements, motivated employees among the list of short- and long-term focus areas.
With KP wading into an increasingly competitive business space with, for example, solar energy being seen as a big threat now and into the future, Vivienne discloses that the board is already implementing a strategy to secure the power market and ensure that the KP remains the energy solutions provider of choice into the future.Kenya Power is agnostic about how power is generated. KP takes in power from all sources—hydro, wind, solar, and geothermal.
Vivienne is up to the task, as board chair at Kenya Power, considering her achievements at the EADB where she has helped to restructure management of many poorly performing firms and successfully turn them around, through prudent management advisory and offering development financial packages that have supported and developed into some of the best companies in the East African region. Most of the firms developed or restructured under Vivienne’s watch at the EADB have since become blue chip companies, generating new assets and profitable, consistent and quality sustainable growths in the critical sectors of the region’s economy including agriculture, manufacturing, education, banking, transport and communications.
To Vivienne, the appointment to the chair of the KP board is a great and personal honour and privilege . KP is critical to Kenya’s well being on all fronts: economic, health, education – you name it, and the likelihood is that every aspect of the life of all Kenyans has a need for available, reliable and affordable power. To be appointed to a leadership role in such an institution is both a great honour and an enormous challenge.
Vivienne Yeda states that to enjoy the distinction of being a member of an august club of women business leaders at the top echelon in the country, reminds her of her career journey and the lessons learnt along the way that she brings into her role as chair of the KP board: resolve, prayer and hard work..