Jumia CEO Betty Mwangi is a rare breed in a world where scientific careers are dominated by men. From messing up household electronics at her parents’ house out of sheer curiosity, Betty has turned out to be a reputable electrical engineer.
In fact, she has worked for leading companies including Safaricom and is now heading Africa’s leading online retail market, Jumia.
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“Technology has the potential to transform everyday life in Africa for the better,” says Betty Mwangi, who led M-Pesa from nine years from its inception. “Jumia, for example, helps consumers access millions of goods and services conveniently and at the best prices while opening up a new way for sellers to reach consumers and grow their businesses.”
Betty has literally risen through the ranks and broken the glass ceiling. “I was very focused on becoming an engineer from a very early age because I loved to tinker with electronics much to the shock of my parents who would often find some important household electronics totally dismantled and not reusable,” she says.
Betty opens up on her career life, lessons from Alliance Girls and the biggest mistakes she’s made as a business leader.
BUSINESS TODAY: Briefly tell us about yourself.
BETTY: I am Betty Mwangi, the CEO of Jumia Kenya. I am an electrical/ electronic engineer by profession, a chartered marketer with the Chartered Institute of Marketing and also hold an MBA. I was awarded a Moran of the Burning Spear by the late President Mwai Kibaki for my contribution to financial inclusion while at Safaricom where I led the M-Pesa business from its year of launch for over nine years.
What does it take to be in your position? How has the journey been?
Currently, I am leading an intelligent, innovative, energetic team of young tech-savvy people and together we continue to position Jumia as an everyday shopping experience for our customers with goods that are relevant to them.
We also have a wide network of vendors who benefit from developing their business through access to our three million plus customer base. I am motivated by involvement in solutions that provide a positive impact to the common person and therefore feel I am in the right space at Jumia.
I see SMEs come onto the Jumia ecommerce platform and grow their businesses from wherever they are in Kenya by connecting them with Kenyans who want to purchase these items from the convenience of wherever they might be.
Did you at some point feel like you made a wrong choice?
My headmistress, the late Mrs Joan Waithaka from Alliance Girls High School always said, “Never say ‘I should have…’ Just get on with it!” This is one lesson that I have carried with me all my career.
Just to give you an example. We once launched a product without consulting our customers, we lost so much money. We ended up being the only people using it – the 10 of us. But we picked ourselves up, dusted our failure, and tried to bring something good from it. I believe out of every failure there is something positive that comes out of it. The aim is to recover quickly, move on and take key learnings from every failure.
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Do you believe in mentorship? What role has it played in your career?
Mentorship is critical to absolutely everyone and anyone no matter what stage one is in career or business. Mentorship must be sought and supported and this is what I aim to do with the team at Jumia. I also mentor young women in my own network. I too have my mentors that I engage with often. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by smart advisors. There are so many awesome Kenyan female leaders. I would love to connect more with this world and learn more from them.
Who are some of the people you look up to?
So many people have had a great impact on my life both from a local and international perspective. Closer to home for a change I remain truly inspired by my parents the late Charles Mwangi and My mother Charity Mwangi, who founded the Mount Kenya Academy schools in Nyeri out of a desire to make a positive impact on Kenyans through education! Others are Michael Joseph, Dr Benson Wairegi, Salim Suleman – truly inspirational people that I have had the opportunity to work with.
There are young women who look forward to being in your career level in the future. What should they conceive in mind early enough?
They need to believe that they are capable of achieving their dreams. They must be brave and work hard to ensure they progress.
What are your strengths and biggest achievements so far?
I am a self-driven leader with proven experience in developing businesses. I am also passionate about customer-centricity. I also thrive in strategy leadership in digital financial services, innovation thought leadership and strategic partnership development.
I think we got it right with M-PESA, and we impacted millions of lives not just in Kenya but globally. I worked with Safaricom PLC for nine years, holding several roles including innovation and new product development. I successfully led the strategy, business development, and innovation of the world-renowned M-PESA from its inception.
What’s your parting shot?
I believe we will get it right with Jumia too. Our deep understanding of economic, technical, geographic, and cultural complexities across Africa enables Jumia to offer a solution that addresses the vast needs and preferences of both sellers and consumers. We have a deep knowledge of the logistics and payment landscapes and use this to navigate the unique challenges of operating an e-commerce business in African markets.
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