Connect with us

Business

An engineer at Kakuzi’s helm

Published

on


Profiles

An engineer at Kakuzi’s helm


lip4
jacksonbiko_img

Summary

  • There are only three known Flowers in Nairobi. One of them is Chris Flowers, the managing director for Kakuzi Plc.
  • A Master’s degree holder in agriculture and engineering, Mr Flowers has for the past 25 years lived off the soil, working in Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, and now Kenya.
  • He has previously been involved in the tea trade and research.

There are only three known Flowers in Nairobi. One of them is Chris Flowers, the managing director for Kakuzi Plc.

A Master’s degree holder in agriculture and engineering, Mr Flowers has for the past 25 years lived off the soil, working in Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, and now Kenya. He has previously been involved in the tea trade and research.

He is a published writer on tea technical and agronomic matters. [OK, he contributed a chapter in a book his professor was writing on advances in Tea Agronomy.”] It has not been a smooth ride for the company which early this year paid off a settlement of Sh700 million in a case of alleged human rights violation. 

At heart, Mr Flowers is an engineer and a keen photographer, designing harvesting machines, and entering the world of the wild through the lens of his camera. He met JACKSON BIKO at his office in Nairobi’s Westlands. 

Are you by any chance related to Robert Flowers, the owner of East African Canvas?

I know him, but we are not related. But it’s unusual because there’s a Flowers in Uganda as well, and maybe about two other Flowers in Kenya.

Your name must be a good icebreaker in bars and social events.

[Chuckles] It’s my father’s name, my mother is Lebanese. If you look on the internet we were iron-makers in the south of England many centuries ago. The name is derived from people who made bows and arrows in medieval times. It was a very difficult name when you are a child. Imagine being called Flowers. [Chuckling] 

My career started as an engineer, then I got into growing tea, and ended up in agriculture for the last 27 years. So yeah, what better name could you have! Yes, it is also a good conversation starter, ‘Hi, my name is Flowers, I’m an arrow maker.’ It also gets you out of buying flowers on Valentine’s Day because you can always say, ‘why do you want a flower when you already have one?” [Laughter].

Until recently, agriculture has always been the province of old men wearing ratty hats in the village. The question is how do you make it appealing to the new generation?

We’ve got 50,000 graduates in a year in Kenya alone, and how many of those graduates are going into agriculture? Very few. That’s where technology comes in. Kenya is moving into legislating the use of drones. We have to use this sort of technology in agriculture. Most young people who consider themselves as geeks would love to have a thing flying around with a little camera on it identifying pests. Then you can put something else up in the air that can block that pest with a spray. So instead of spraying the whole field, you’ve managed to do some form of sensing and realise I’ve got a hotspot here, a hotspot there. 

That appeals to people who like environmental issues, people who like technological issues, people who like biology, you can bring all these together. 

Does leadership come easy for you?

No. I’m an engineer. [Laughter] I think that’s a real challenge, leading in a way that develops people. Anybody can say ‘I’m a manager.’ But if you can’t develop people and get people to grow along with you then that is not leadership. Some people love my leadership style, others don’t. But I always try my best to lead rather than dictate. And I fail daily as a leader. There is always something you could have done better when you reflect.

The elephant in the room; how does something like an alleged human rights abuse by a company you run, change how you lead? 

Such allegations are extremely humbling on a leader. I have been faced with allegations dating back years before I joined the organisation. As a leader, you have to carefully consider the situation and act to resolve it.

I took a position that we needed to be more open and not be afraid to ask difficult questions or probe into every aspect of our business to analyse working practices, policies, procedures that could be improved. 

Do you find yourself carrying the burden of this scandal on a personal level? Or do you compartmentalise?

Such an experience does change how you look at leadership in that now more than ever you have to be very clear that the path you are taking the company on is correct both in the short and long-term. 

Anyone who hears that employees of a company they run are alleged to have been involved in criminal behaviour will be personally affected. It makes it even worse when the claims are made anonymously against unnamed employees. Anyone who is proven to have committed such criminal offenses should be put in jail. We do not condone any criminal act and we remain bound by the laws of the country.

Have things turned out the way you expected them to be at your age of 48?

Oh no! [Laughter] I wanted to be retired and sitting on a desert island at 48. [Laughs]. But there’s absolutely no regret I have. 

Why do you take pictures?

My two extravagances right now are probably whisky and photography. I think I like buying good second-hand cameras, and there is only so much you can buy. The waiting for that shot gives me adrenaline. Tranquillity is very therapeutic. The ability to just sit there in the middle of nowhere and just listen, that sense of peace you get by not having to rush around is fantastic. I get a kick out of getting a unique shot. 

It’s not something I’ve shared with others until quite recently when somebody said, ‘why don’t you put them on Instagram?’ So I started doing that. But you know just looking at the photos on my computer screen makes me quite happy. My best photo? An elephant giving themselves a dust bath. 

How long have you been married for and how many children do you have?

I met my wife at a party in Dar es Salaam. She was new in town and I heard she was going to be there. We got talking and we found out that our lives had intertwined and it seemed like I was following her my whole life. Serendipity. 

At the party, we talked a lot about agriculture [Chuckles]. She has a Doctorate in Forestry. The person who had brought her to the party had had too much to drink so I said, ‘let me drive you, he won’t be able to drive you home.’ I told her I had enough space in my house. The car wouldn’t start. I’m an engineer, so I whacked the battery terminals with a hammer and it started. 

The next day my grandmother died, before I left for the UK for the funeral I told her, ‘would you please stay here and look after my two dogs when I’m gone?’ When I came back from the funeral I said, ‘look, why don’t you move in with me? Besides, my dogs also really like you.’ [Laughter]. That was in 2008. We don’t have children, we decided not to. 

Fascinating. Do you sometimes have a longing to have children?

First, we found each other when we were much older. We were also living in the middle of nowhere in Tanzania, which would present a different challenge when it came to schools to send them to. I also just think there are enough children in the world. Is there a longing? No. And not that I don’t like children [Chuckles]. They’re fantastic, but would I have patience for children? I’m not sure I would. There’s going to be a time when we will have to start thinking as a world about population growth. 

What do you fear now?

Being unwell and being trapped in a hospital. Ending your days with some disease. [Pause] That and going blind. Of all the disabilities, I think, not being able to see is particularly scary for me. 



Source link

Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Business

KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months

Published

on

By


Companies

KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months


kq-Dreamliner0504FA

A Kenya Airways aircraft at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG

bonface_img

Summary

  • Kenya Airways will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.
  • The airline in a notice to its customers yesterday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.

The airline in a notice to its customers Monday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

The airline will then resume full operations on the route on September 20, flying three times per week on the Indian route, which is one of the most lucrative destinations on its network.

Passengers on the route will part with Sh46,000 ($419) for one-way air ticket on economy class seats from Nairobi to Mumbai- prices that are relatively the same compared to what it was charging before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Welcome back onboard! Fly from Nairobi to Mumbai starting Thursday 16th September with normal schedules resuming from Monday 20th September 2021,” said the airline in a notice to its customers yesterday.

KQ Suspended passenger flights to and from Mumbai on April 30 until further notice, following a government directive on travel between India and Kenya due to a Covid-19 crisis in that country.

The airline said on Friday that passengers who had booked tickets after May 1, the date of the last flight from Mumbai to Nairobi, will have to change their plans.

Affected passengers, KQ said, could also take vouchers for the value of their fare for future travel within 12 months.

India has seen soaring infection rates in the recent days, since the discovery of a new virus variant. Last month, India put on lockdown one of the states following a spike in cases of Covid-19.

Other countries that have banned flights to India include France, the UK Bangladesh, Oman and Hong Kong that have banned travel to and from India or asked their nationals coming from the Asian country to isolate themselves in government-approved hotels.

India has so far detected 33,264,175 corona virus cases with the number of deaths hitting 442,874 as at September 13.

A large number of patients from Kenya also travel to India every year for specialised medical treatment, especially cancer care, helping to drive medical tourism in the densely populated country that boasts affordable and easily accessible healthcare.



Source link

Continue Reading

Business

Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs

Published

on

By


Economy

Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs


mitumba

Man pulls a cart loaded with second-hand clothes at Gikomba Market in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

BDgeneric_logo

Summary

  • Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.
  • Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.
  • Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

The average price of a tonne of second-hand clothing items imported into the country crossed the Sh100,000 mark for the first time last year on reduced volumes in the wake of safety protocols and guidelines to curb spread of coronavirus.

Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.

Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

Last year’s drop was the first dip since 2011 when 76,533 tonnes were shipped in compared with 80,423 tonnes the previous year, the official data collated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.

The import bill for the merchandise amounted to Sh12.24 billion, a drop of 31.11 percent, or Sh5.53 billion, year-on-year.

TIn imposing the temporary ban on used clothes, Kebs had applied a standard which prohibits buying second-hand clothes from countries experiencing epidemics to ensure disease-causing microorganisms are not imported into Kenya.

Higher quality and relatively lower prices for mitumba has continued to drive demand for used clothes at expense of locally-made products amid higher margins enjoyed by traders largely operating in informal markets.

The lucrative second-hand clothing market has seen traders from China —a key source market for the merchandise —open shops in Gikomba, Kenya’s largest informal market for mitumba, in recent years to cash in rising demand.

Earnings from exports of articles of apparel and clothing accessories fell 5.32 percent to Sh32.92 billion last year compared with 2019, data indicates.



Source link

Continue Reading

Business

Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud

Published

on

By


Economy

Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud


Cotu boss Francis Atwoli

Cotu boss Francis Atwoli. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.
  • Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.

Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

Mr Atwoli is the secretary-general of KPAWU. The rival union claimed KPAWU had encroached on its area of workers’ representation.

Justice James Rika, however, dismissed the claim and ruled that the dispute should have been taken through conciliation, and was therefore presented in court prematurely.

He also stated that Kefhau must go beyond its registration and recruit sufficient members from the employers, to be granted recognition and organisational rights.

“Registration on its own, does not afford the claimant (Kefhau) recognition. Until there is proof that Kefhau has satisfied Section 54 of the Labour Relations Act, the status quo must be maintained,” said the judge.

“Kefhau must recruit at least 50 percent plus one, of the unionisable employees in the floriculture and horticulture industry, members of the Agricultural Employers Association to be considered for recognition,” he stated.

He noted that there is a Recognition Agreement and CBA, binding Mr Atwoli’s union and Agricultural Employers Association, affecting 73 Flower Growers Group of employers, and over 60,000 employees.

“It is objectionable for Kefhau to be allowed organisational rights, and the legitimacy to receive trade union dues and agency fees, from over 60,000 employees, just on the strength of registration as a trade union,” said the judge.

Kefhau wanted the court to declare that it is the sole trade union, which is allowed by its constitution to carry out activities in the export floriculture and vegetable industry, and an order restraining Mr Atwoli’s from representing workers in that area.



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2020 PRUMETRICS