What about Africa?

Africa is a continent of explicit contrasts, a bubbling cauldron of cultures and creeds, starkness between diverse beauty and devastating poverty, massive opportunities and even bigger challenges. There is a mixture of highly developed regions like Southern Africa, mature regions of Northern Africa and then everything in between, West, Central and East Africa, emerging slowly in the footsteps of their neighbors.

Sika’s headquarters are situated in Nairobi, Kenya in the heart of the East African region which consists of Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea also form part of East Africa and in time no doubt will form part of Sika’s global family.

Kenya is considered to be one of the more stable democracies in the region, becoming a republic in 1964 and celebrates Independence Day on December 12. In order to know more we visited Tom Power, the General Manager of Sika East Africa on site in Nairobi.

You recently moved from the green, but rainy Ireland to an ever-sunny and hot Kenya. Are you already well-suited to this change?

Yes it’s true; we do suffer from a lack of sunshine in Ireland. It’s really comforting to know that when you wake up in the morning, the likelihood is that the sky will be blue and the sun will be shining. I don’t miss the grey wet climate at all. However when it rains here in Kenya, it rains like I’ve never seen it rain before. It is torrential and flash flooding is normal, bringing with it a new set of problems.

Kenya has 2 rainy seasons. April-May bring the heavy rains leading us into the winter season when it absolutely buckets down with intense thunder and lightning storms. November brings the short rains and the pre-cursor to summer. Temperatures are in the mid to high 20’s rarely getting above 30 due mainly to the altitude. Nairobi is just a whisker south of the equator and is 1,770 meter above sea level. The biggest change for me was getting used to the altitude which surprisingly enough does take a bit of adjusting to.

What do you enjoy most about your new surrounding so far? Have you become a safari fan?

I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t yet immersed myself fully in the safari experience. I have taken in a 1-day visit to Lake Nakuru National Park, about a 3 hour drive West of Nairobi in the Rift Valley. There I encountered 4 of the big 5, rhino, lion, giraffe and buffalo, but the most spectacular species there are the hundreds of thousands of pink flamingo that come to breed on the lake. It’s a magnificent sight to see. The last of the big 5 – Elephants will only be found in the much larger parks as they tend to be too destructive for the smaller parks.

Closer to home in Nairobi environs, I regularly visit the David Sheldrick elephant sanctuary where baby elephants are taken and cared for having been rescued from the various National Parks after poachers have killed the mother and sometimes the entire heard. Poaching today in Africa is still a huge problem. I am now the proud foster parent for 2 baby elephants rescued after both their mothers were killed for their ivory - Kithaka and Barsalinga.

Another place that I visit regularly is Giraffe Manor where the endangered Rothschild species of giraffe are protected and nurtured. Here you can interact up close with the giraffe and feed nuts from your hand.

Kenya has more than 60 languages and dialects – so it is time to communicate with hands and feet! How do you experience the community with the people and the different cultures?

You know, the Kenyan people are a very proud people, made up of many tribes throughout the country. Their culture is extremely important to them and they are very welcoming to visitors. They are so proud of what their country has to offer tourists, visitors and business people.

This is also true for the rest of East Africa and each country has such a diverse and different experience to offer. Ethiopia is so different to Uganda which in turn is completely different to Tanzania, Rwanda and South Sudan; each has a uniqueness that is beautiful in a completely different way.

Speaking about economics… Kenya and all the African regions around offer a very versatile and demanding surrounding for multinational companies. Where do you see the chances and difficulties in general?

The African continent is a huge emerging market. In most areas (there are of course exceptions, but in general) the economic uplift that is happening is bringing a new wealth and with it comes a growth in demand for urbanization and housing, infrastructure such as airports, ports, railroads, roads, electricity generation and waterworks etc. The future potential over the next 30 years is extremely exciting. However, this has to be tempered with the need for improved governance and political stability in the East African Community. The future is definitely bright…

How about the construction market?

The construction market is typical for any developing region; it is more reactive than proactive and is driven mainly by severe resource shortages, socio-economic stresses and political instability.

There is a huge movement at the minute to improve capacity and effectiveness of the construction industry to meet demand for building and infrastructure projects. There is also an awakening to the responsibilities of environmental responsibility in the delivery of these projects and the support for sustained economic and social development with increased value for money to clients, viability and competitiveness of domestic construction enterprises.

Before leading the Sika organization of Ireland you are now responsible as General Manager for the East African Region. What are the current steps to go?

Taking on the role of General Manager is a big responsibility. For me it means a much wider focus on the business at hand. The main responsibility is to manage and supervise all aspects of the company as a whole, from planning and production, strategies and sales, training and tactics, finance and resources etc. You become a conduit, an instrument for the implementation of strategies, goals and objectives in order to successfully grow the Sika footprint on the global stage.

Any surprise you have been experiencing?

Apart from the shock of the volume of traffic and the shortage of quality roads, the biggest surprise to me is how fragile these countries are. Almost everything is imported and there is a huge reliance on foreign aid in order to survive. They are dependent on the developed world for their mere existence. Despite the vast land areas, there is a huge underutilization in agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

Last Question: When is your next vacation? Adventurous Africa or irresistible Ireland?

I have no immediate plans, but I have several ambitions such as climbing Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya and also to see the Rwandan mountain gorillas.

Get more informations about Sika East Africa