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How this 30-year old former CEO of Uber Kenya is changing the face of logistics as we know it

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By Steve Umidha

Who runs the world? Well, still, by and large, men. But gradually and tenaciously – women are changing the status-quo, if you pay attention to statistics and the current state of affairs in boardrooms.

In Kenya for instance, over the last decade, the number of women-owned businesses and female CEOs in corporations has grown exponentially with those numbers now expected to swell owing to increased lobbying for women’s rights in the workplace.

Ms. Kagure Wamunyu is one such young female executive who is fast becoming an acquainted face in the country’s corporate market and chiefly in the logistics and transportation industry, her fairly young age, notwithstanding.

The journey

As a frequent traveler, the 30 year-old academic overachiever, an alumni of Alliance Girls – a national girls’ boarding school, Wamunyu often found that the mode of transportation and the hustle that comes with it was time-consuming and frustrating, and admissibly, having been born and brought up in Rongai, she has experienced the distress firsthand.

“I was born and raised in Nairobi. I grew up in Ongata Rongai and I went to Olerai Primary School and later Alliance Girls and I think growing up there somehow got me interested in transport and my parents were very supportive,” opens up dame wa Ronga, a slang word loosely translated to mean, a lady from Ongata Rongai, during our candid tête-à-tête at Lava Latte, a neighborhood café on Statehouse Road, a select coffee shop on which she is a co-owner.

And on this day she was liberal enough to pay my coffee, by the way.

Rongai – is undoubtedly one of the busiest roads in the city today, a familiar torturous route for commuters who constantly experience one of the worst infamous traffic cramming. A typical Rongai resident who works in Nairobi spends up to four hours or more a day in traffic.

It was this nightmare that initially drew her devotion into everything transport.

And so, she applied for Zawadi Africa, an education fund ran by Dr. Susan Mboya (the daughter of former Kenyan Cabinet minister, trade unionist and educationist Tom Mboya), while at Alliance Girls, “and it is there that I got a scholarship to go and study in the United States in 2008, and I remember I wanted to study transport, if you grew up in Rongai you would imagine the kind of trouble it is commuting between Town and Ongata Rongai,” she says.

“I remember those days, I would be forced to leave work (Town) at 4pm so as to get home in time which would be 8pm,” says Wamunyu, who was a recipient of an exchange program (a presidential scholarship) in the US on which she was selected to pursue Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Meredith College.

It was at Meredith College that her ‘vision’ literally opened throughout her stay and interaction with the country, a rare opportunity she savored and admits fascinated her discerning to want to return back home and make a difference.

“For me I always knew I wanted to come back home. While I was there in my second year, I got a global award in women in transport and I remember meeting the US secretary of transport this was the time they were injecting capital in the sector and they were using infrastructure as a way of reviving the economy that had been hampered by the global stagnation,” says the serious-minded and assertive Kagure who is currently pursuing a part-time PhD at the University of Oxford.

She also holds a Masters in City Planning with a focus on transportation from UC Berkeley, a BSC in Civil Engineering with a focus on Transport Engineering from North Carolina State.

She is passionate about transport, which she believes will be an important factor in the economic development of Africa – a responsibility she is willing to make a contribution towards with her new role at Kobo360 as the startup’s CEO – a Nigerian-based tech logistics platform (e-logistics), which formally launched Kenyan operations in March 2019 with a wider target for East and Southern African markets. Presently the tech company commands about 40 per cent of all e-logistics businesses in the country.

Her previous work experiences and ongoing industry evolution, are some of the two key ingredients Ms. Wamunyu believes will contribute to her success at Kobo360.

“I think I believed in the vision of Kobo360. I could see the vision, the team, and the energy and drive and I think it was something my country needed and I was driven by that impact-based vision,” says Kagure, who previously served as the Chief executive of hail-riding online transportation network, Uber for a short stint before leaving her role as country manager for Uber Kenya.

Working with Uber was a big opportunity for her, she says, but admits it was an easy decision for her to leave nonetheless.

“For me it was an easy decision, because I had seen the vision having met the team,” she says.

Launched in 2017, the e-platform which aggregates end-to-end haulage operations to help cargo owners, truck owners and drivers, as well as cargo recipients last year raised a total of US$7.2 million and has already expanded to Togo and Ghana and has been tasting Kenyan waters silently.

E-logistics is basically automating the logistic process. Logistics plans, implements and controls the efficient, effective flow and storage of goods, services, and related information from the point-of-origin to the point-of-consumption in order to meet customers’ needs and expectations.

In 2018 the startup raised a separate US$30 million debt and equity funding through Goldman Sachs to for its expansion drive across the continent.

With the impact being felt already since the March launch, Wamunyu is now betting big on the positive market response to replicate the model in other markets while taking advantage of regional infrastructure projects like LAPSSET – Eastern Africa’s largest and most ambitious infrastructure project bringing together Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan.

“The market has been really warm to us, and our strategy has been to listen to our customers,” she says.

In the short – to – long term ambitions by the startup, she believes Kobo360 will be not only a regional logistics company but also a global brand.

Kobo, according to her, is fast mastering the art in e-logistics business, a unique concept in this market and one that is yet to be fully comprehended, owing to how it has simplified the transportation and logistics of getting the product from the farm the table.

The company is developing an all-in-one logistics ecosystem, and leverages data and technology to enable unprecedented efficiency and cost reduction in the supply chain, providing 360-visibility while delivering products of all sizes safely, on time and in full.

“Kobo360 mission is to build the Global Logistics Operating System that will power trade and commerce across Africa and emerging markets, as well as create a network of intra-African trade throughout the continent,” she concludes.

 

What you didn’t know about Kagure Wamunyu

She loves to walk, and often in the company of her dog.

-She however doesn’t like to swim – she didn’t elaborate why, but your guess is as good as mine.

-Kagure believes that she is a ‘kawaida’ next door kind-of a girl.

-She occasionally goes out, with Westlands being her favorite neighborhood for hangout.

-She is a healthy eater. She is not a meat-lover, “I eat it just kidogo.”

-She’s a morning person. Her typical day starts at 4:50am.

-A Netflix lover.

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