A new crop of business leaders and executives are set to occupy various elective seats across Kenya following the conclusion of the 2022 General Elections. Business owners and executives among other professional figures were among candidates for seats in the Senate and National Assembly as well as Gubernatorial positions. Many failed to make the cut, such as former Equity Bank CFO Polycarp Igathe who was running for Governor of Nairobi.
Generally, they had promised to champion policies and initiatives to promote economic growth, manufacturing and job creation. They also prioritized plans to improve the ease of doing business.
Here, Business Today looks at notable figures in business who managed to win various elective seats in Kenya in 2022.
SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri was elected as the new Member of Parliament (MP) for Kasarani Constituency in Nairobi. He ran as an independent after failing to secure the Jubilee Party candidate.
Karauri floored both the Jubilee and United Democratic Alliance (UDA) candidates to clinch the seat. The pilot turned betting executive led SportPesa as it pioneered online sports betting in Kenya and became a multi-billion shilling business.
The firm had its fair share of battles with government agencies including regulators and the taxman amid a crackdown on the betting industry. Ownership of the SportPesa brand also remains the subject of a legal tussle pitting Karauri’s Milestone Games against investors in Pevans East Africa, the company that introduced SportPesa to the Kenyan market.
Karauri’s campaign in Kasarani was boosted by various community projects implemented in Kasarani by SportPesa. He also was heavily present on the ground and engaged various groups including small business owners and residents – promising to address their concerns.
Tabitha Karanja is the new Senator of Nakuru County, elected on a UDA ticket. She co-founded Kenya’s second largest alcoholic drinks manufacturer with her husband Joseph Karanja in 1997.
As CEO of Keroche Breweries, she has steered the company’s growth and emerged as one of Kenya’s most prominent figures in business. She also continues to grab headlines for her long-running battle with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) over alleged tax evasion.
Her business has become a poster-child for KRA’s alleged punitive measures against business owners in Kenya. As Karanja campaigned, for instance, Presidential rivals Raila Odinga and William Ruto spoke in a rare common voice as they both called for Keroche’s Naivasha plant to be reopened after it was shut down by KRA enforcement officials after Keroche defaulted on a payment plan agreed on by the two parties.
Karanja insists that the deal was struck under duress. In her successful Senate campaign, she promised to champion pro-business policies and to help deliver increased investment and economic growth in Nakuru.
Nairobi’s new Deputy Governor will be former Absa Bank Chief Operating Officer (COO) James Muchiri. He was selected by UDA’s successful Gubernatorial candidate in the capital, Johnson Sakaja, as his running mate in April. The move was perceived as a counterweight to the Azimio la Umoja coalition’s naming of seasoned corporate executive Polycarp Igathe as its candidate for the seat.
Sakaja trounced Igathe who ran on a Jubilee Party ticket. Sakaja has promised to make the city friendlier to businesses, particularly SMEs.
Muchiri served as Director, Operations and Technology at NIC Bank Kenya between 2006 and 2010. He was elevated to Managing Director for NIC Bank Tanzania – a position he held for three years between 2010 and 2013. He moved on to Barclays Bank, which in 2019 would transition to Absa as Barclays reduced its presence on the continent. Muchiri served as Barclays’ Director – Digital Banking for East Africa between November 2013 and October 2014.
He took on the role of Customer Service Director at Barclays in 2014 and served until 2016. Muchiri was promoted to Chief Commercial Officer at Barclays Bank Kenya and held the position for four years until February 2020. He retained the role of COO after the transition to Absa Bank Kenya.