Female managers, believed to be the unsung heroes of the ruthless business world, are breaking the glass ceiling of the corporate sector by heading into the highest management positions for long dominated by men.The ascension into these top posts represents a gradual shift whereby women are being taken away from playing minor roles and thrown into the deep end of managing the companies’ business strategies.
The year 2009, however, presents a much difficult terrain for Ugandan companies. The global economy is facing its biggest financial challenge in decades. Food prices are smashing records. And environmentalists are becoming tetchier about climate change.
However mild and foreign these trends might seem, they touch the core of many companies’ business synergies. And whichever way you look at it, these developments will continue into the year 2009, making it a huge test of these women’s’ strength. The Weekly Observer’s JEFF MBANGA takes a look at the lady managers that will be under the spotlight as 2009 gets underway.
Edigold Monday - Executive Director, Global Trust Bank
It is not every day in Uganda that a woman takes up one of the top positions at a financial institution. But Edigold Monday, with a Bachelor’s degree in Education, recently became the second lady after Barclays Bank’s Charity Jinya, to head a financial institution in Uganda.
Monday assumed one of the top position at Global Trust Bank after the bank bought Commercial Microfinance mid last year, where she served under the same job portfolio. CMF, however, operated under the second tier of Credit Institutions, and had only three competitors.
At Global Trust Bank, Monday, an old student of Israel’s Galilee College, an international management institution, finds new challenges. The bank will have to compete with 20 other players. Monday will have to lay out strategic plans in how the bank can become aggressive in a heavily competitive environment.
With Global Trust being a new player on the market, it is up to Monday to come with new products to lure clients. Whether she is willing to take the bait of lowering interest rates on credit to tap new customers remains to be seen.
However, as a member of the Institute of the Certified Public Accountants of Uganda, Monday, who also worked as Director of Finance and Administration at the Uganda Wildlife Authority, will have to design a strategy of how the bank hopes to expand its loan book without being exposed to huge risks.
Anne Aliker - Executive Director, Corporate and Investment Banking, Stanbic Bank
A rather quiet lady with a penchant for suits, Anne Aliker is often times seen at cocktails chatting up male colleagues with a glass of beer in one hand, and, once in a while, a fag in another. It is sort of a maverick’s confidence rarely seen in other female colleagues in Uganda’s financial sector.
Aliker, an accounting graduate of Ealing College in the UK, might have to use a lot of that confidence as 2009 gets underway with fears that the effects of the credit crunch on emerging economies like East Africa are far from over.
While she has been at Stanbic for the last couple of years, 2009 could be Aliker’s defining year.
Under Stanbic’s structure, corporate and investment banking targets regional companies, huge international companies, and the large corporate firms in Uganda. Some of these companies have closer ties with markets in Europe and the US that are being pounded by the financial crisis.
Besides, Aliker, the former head of corporate banking at Citi Bank Uganda, has the task of managing the risks that come with Stanbic’s derivatives, foreign exchange, equity trading, just to mention a few. Financial derivatives are instruments used to limit risks in the future. All these products have been victims of the credit crunch.
The 43 year old will have to come up with some of the most convincing proposals on which direction Stanbic’s investment banking should take.
Jenifer Musiime Bamuturaki, Commercial Director, Air Uganda
Many might not know her but Jenifer Musiime Bamuturaki has been around Uganda’s aviation industry since the late nineties. Musiime had a short stint as chief executive of the now defunct Uganda Airlines, which collapsed in May 2001.
Musiime was also the country manager of the East African Airlines, which also collapsed in 2005.
“Jennifer is a well known and highly respected personality in the aviation and tourism industry,” says Wolfgang Thome, a former president of the Uganda Tourism Board.
That respect now comes under the spotlight at Air Uganda. Uganda’s latest airline company has had a rough 2008 in which the high costs of operation saw it suspend the morning flight from Entebbe to Nairobi. The suspension raised fears that Air Uganda, which is wholly owned by the Aga Khan Group, might close shop.
Now Musiime, who is said to have left Air Uganda under unclear circumstances only for her to return, faces the challenge of attracting more customers to fly Air Uganda. At the moment, few can doubt the huge wealth of experience she has around her.
Patricia Ithau - Managing Director, Uganda Breweries Limited
By her own admission, Patricia Ithau “loves to travel, to cook but most of all enjoy spending quality time with her husband and two daughters.” With her rise to the highest position at Uganda’s giant beer company, Ithau might find it difficult to enjoy some of these hobbies.
For long regarded as an industry where only two companies locked horns, a third player, Parambot Limited, has entered the industry and made it even more competitive.
Then again, soft drink companies like Century Bottling Company Limited and Crown Beverages Limited are pumping huge amounts of money in promotions to attract customers.
Also, barley farmers could strike a hard bargain in the year 2009 due to the high rate of inflation, and increasing global demand for the crop.
Ithau, who had a 15-year stint at Uniliver before leaving for East African Breweries Limited in 2005 as marketing director, finds herself in a position where she has to undertake a business plan to stay at the top. She will, for example, have to find a way to position Bell lager – a beer that many relate with the company – in way that will bring in the kind of sales enjoyed by other brands. According to UBL officials, Senator lager – a hit in the rural areas - remains the best performing beer for the company, outcompeting Bell lager. Ithau also has a huge task of promoting its latest drink, Alvaro, to compete with the other soft drinks in the market.
Charity Jinya - Managing Director, Barclays Bank
When Charity Jinya took over at Barclays Uganda at the beginning of 2008, she found a bank that was on a massive expansion drive. Barclays had just completed the acquisition of Nile Bank at a price believed to be somewhere around $24 million.
The bank was also structuring its business strategies to target retail customers. It was also grappling with a huge bad loan book. That, therefore became one of the first things that Jinya had to clean up at the bank. A series of receiverships were seen as Jinya stamped her signature on Uganda’s financial market.
In May 2008, under Jinya’s stewardship, Barclays Bank declared a loss, making it the only institution among Uganda’s top five banks to do so. The numbers, however, had already dipped into the red before Jinya took over.
Now, 2009 presents Jinya the perfect opportunity to claim a bit of fame. With global financial markets in a tailspin, where foreign institutions are reluctant to lend funds to financial institutions in emerging economies like Uganda, it would be interesting to see whether Jinya can steer the bank through these hardships. Coming from Zimbabwe, where the value of the Zim Dollar changes per hour, at least one can say that Jinya has perhaps had the perfect experience in hedging against currency risks. That should make her work in Uganda easier.