James Mworia, CEO, Centum Investments, Kenya
Still in his 30s, James Mworia started at the bottom rung at Centum in 2001, working as an intern in the filing room while studying for his chartered financial analyst exams. The opportunity to read the files gave him a deep understanding of the company’s business – enough to land him a full-time job.
He rose to head of investments in 2005, before being promoted to become the youngest CEO of a listed company in Kenya in 2008.
Centum is a well-established player in Kenya, first listing on the Nairobi Stock Exchange in 1967, but under Mworia it has begun to push out across the region. In 2010 it added a second listing in Kampala, Uganda, and has diversified its shareholders to more than 38,000 institutions and individuals.
It has build solid stakes in regional blue chips, such as Coca-Cola’s local subsidiary, UAP Insurance and Kenya Commercial Bank. Alongside this, Mworia has led Centum into Nigeria and Mauritius to compete with the continent’s other big financial players.
The approach has paid off for shareholders – the company has delivered a 197% return since Mworia took charge – and the CEO is targeting a 35% annual return on shareholder funds and a five-fold increase in assets to $8bn by 2019.
With falling energy prices hitting hydrocarbon exporters, Kenya’s more diversified economy is perhaps better placed to weather the storm than others in sub-Saharan Africa, so Centum’s home base could throw up some interesting opportunities in 2015.
The company is understood to be assessing prospective deals in the beverages, agriculture, education and healthcare sectors for the coming year.