• Huawei advocates an openly shared ICT talent ecosystem that benefits Kenya and the world.
• CEO Will Meng says the company's priority is to help Kenya grow its digital economy so it can create more jobs and thrive.
Huawei Kenya has collaborated closely with different actors to develop and implement innovative solutions in many areas and sectors. They include cooperation with Safaricom for the National Police Service, works on health with the telco and UNFPA for the Lamu county government, transport with Kenya Urban Roads Authority, financial inclusion for Safaricom and education for Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development.
The company employs 400 staffers and directly creates jobs for a further 2,200 staff through local subcontractors with whom Huawei spends more than Sh3.5 billion each year.
It's a major player in Kenya's technology space.
The Star's Frank Muchugu spoke to Huawei Kenya CEO Will Meng on the company's undertakings in the country and future developments.
What is Huawei Kenya's biggest strength?
Our biggest strength is our strong local roots in Kenya that we have built up over 21 years, with hundreds of local staff, many in senior positions who have been with us for over a decade, scores of local subcontractors and hundreds of partners providing training, service and integrated solutions. Our relationships with our local customers are also strong, based on our track record of high quality, leading innovation and exceptional commitment to customer service. These local roots stand us in good stead.
What key contributions has Huawei made and plans to make under your leadership?
Now that the government has got a clear blueprint (and soon a strategy) for the digital economy, we want to help Kenya achieve that. We will focus our contributions on some of the key pillars, especially infrastructure, digital government and digital business as this is where our leading technologies can make a big impact.
However, we also want to make a big impact on the pillar of digital skills and values. Huawei Kenya, especially myself, is very committed to supporting local ICT talent and building an ICT talent ecosystem. Our ICT Academy initiatives that partners with higher education institutions now has over 30 partners in Kenya, with hundreds of lecturers trained, and thousands of students.
We have also worked closely with the Ministry of ICT for a long time on the Presidential Digital Talent Programme Seeds for the Future. Since last year, we have begun to support Ajira as well, especially as we seek to reach more youth who may not be in higher education. All our programmes are geared towards harnessing digital talent, supporting ICT talent because it helps create jobs in the ICT industry and other industries as they digitise and bridge the digital divide to contribute to Kenya’s success.
What is your core focus here in Kenya?
We are very focused on increasing the benefits of technology to individual Kenyans as well as Kenyan companies and government more broadly. This year, of course, we have been focused on the efforts to combat Covid-19 by supporting the extra demands on the networks for home working, ensuring the stability for M-Pesa, etc. We strongly feel that the President’s Big Four Agenda and the economic recovery depend on ICT more than ever before.
So we will increase our efforts to extend connectivity to more areas to make sure no one is left behind, to more businesses and to more government buildings. We also want to help the government to digitise as much as possible to enhance access and quality of services to citizens. In this regard, key focus areas will include health, education, transport and finance sectors.
What are the biggest challenges?
My personal priorities will be around supporting our staff and customers, especially during this difficult time, so they can continue to grow, building digital skills amongst the general population and future ICT work force through our various training programs with our partners, and maintaining the high quality of our products and service for our customers.
During this pandemic, we supported some of the ministries in equipping them with video conferencing systems and our staff has been able to fully support our customers with the networks to keep the country connected. I am very proud of our staff for working so hard and being so dedicated. We know that we are 'essential workers'and must do everything we can despite the pandemic to maintain and enhance this essential infrastructure.
Why did you want to be CEO?
Before this job, I was the deputy CEO in charge of sales for Kenya, so I already have a strong understanding of the country’s current situation and needs for ICT. I am keen to be able to work more with our customers on their digital transformation. I have thoroughly enjoyed living in Kenya these past two years and I am delighted in knowing I will be here for the foreseeable future, with beautiful national parks, the great Rift Valley and the beaches of the Coast. It is such a beautiful country with such friendly people. I am glad I will have the opportunity to explore more.
What are Huawei's priorities going forward?
I have really enjoyed living in Kenya for the last two years and working closely with our Kenyan staff. Our priority will really be to help Kenya grow its digital economy so it can create more jobs and economic growth for this country. Kenya is at a really exciting time with a very strong base of ICT infrastructure, local talent and a local ICT ecosystem compared to many other countries, which can really help lift Kenya to the next level. I hope as CEO I can lead Huawei to help Kenya to bridge the digital divide to make it fully connected.