Kennedy Chinganya, Altron Nexus FD, says education has been a game changer in his life.
As a chartered accountant (CA) and member of The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA UK) Kennedy Chinganya says the academic training of becoming a CA has widened and deepened his view of business. “It extends beyond the narrow confines of finance and entails related aspects such as governance, measuring risk and being able to have a long-term view of how all the individual elements fit together. If you look broadly at the mechanics of the world, you will know that finance is crucial, but is still a subset of the business.”
Kennedy says his qualifications have given him the technical ability to meet the daily challenges of working under pressure and still get desired results. He stumbled into finance, but says even though a career in the field wasn't a deliberate choice it has worked out. “I came from humble beginnings, and as a youngster, I knew education was important. I looked up to my older brother who has been my professional role model. I saw how through education, he was able to transform his life.” He initially had his heart set on getting a bachelor’s degree in education, but when an opportunity to study accounts arose, he grabbed it with both hands. “I only developed a passion for accounting in third year and even though it wasn’t a chosen path, I made the most of it and never looked back.”
He says the combination of his ACCA qualification coupled with exposure to different businesses and the challenges which arose in each have allowed him to think more like an entrepreneur. “I don’t consider myself a bean counter, so my approach is not on signing off approvals, but looking at the substance of the matter and determining if it makes business sense and makes decisions based on my reading of the entire situation.”
Not afraid of a challenge, Kennedy had just taken up his role as FD of Altron Nexus when the first wave of the Covid-19 crisis hit in March. He notes that one of the biggest challenges with this crisis has been that the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns have created material uncertainty. “We don’t know how long it will last and the full scope of the damage.” These questions make it hard to predict the future and therefore the best decisions to make at every turn.
For him, what has been important has been adapting quickly and rapidly finding ways to differentiate yourself in the market and stay relevant. “We have already seen some business face serious losses and in such a fast moving environment, the failure to adapt and differentiate can spell demise,” he points out.
From a leadership perspective, he says enabling people to continue to deliver from the onset was essential. “Fortunately, communication and collaboration are part of Altron’s operations, as a global company with a worldwide footprint. Transitioning to working remotely wasn’t particularly challenging, since most enablers were in place.”
However, making the shift for the entire team on a full time basis brought its own demands. “We knew that not everyone has a work-ready environment at home,” he explains. “Keeping this in mind in addition to making sure the technology setup was solid, we assisted employees who needed a comfortable working station from a sitting perspective with chairs so they could create a conducive environment at home. It is by considering the seemingly small, yet practical realities that could compromise productivity that you ensure that your team can still operate at a high level, even when out of the office.”
Kenedy’s qualifications have allowed him to excel not just in this, but also in his previous roles as managing director of MTN Business, where he was based in Kenya for three years, IBM sub-Saharan Africa for nine years and Microsoft for four years. Prior to his current role, he was finance director at Altron, overseeing the rest of Africa. In 2019 he was approached to take up an acting role in Altron Nexus, and was FD for the two businesses until February 2020. His responsibilities entail overseeing an over R1 billion business with responsibility for portfolios including finance, procurement, logistics and customer enablement departments, financial governance and ethics, corporate finance and supply chain, it is a big complex portfolio. “The scope of stakeholders demands wearing a business hat more than a finance hat,” he says.
Altron Nexus provides a variety of converged telecommunication services, turnkey broadband network implementations, and smart city solutions.
Altron Nexus has built and maintains a number of key broadband networks in the South African public sector such as the Gauteng Broadband Network, Limpopo Broadband Network, and it has also implemented bespoke mission-critical radio networks including SAPS and Western Cape Municipality TETRA networks. It also operates the largest trunked radio network in South Africa, and distributes professional mobile radio products and systems across sub-Saharan Africa.
Looking ahead to the rest of the year, Kennedy reflects that a lot has happened during this period. “Our habits and how we run the day-to-day business has shifted. As people reflect on the saved commute time, realise that they can be productive from home, and see a lot of improved relations with family, people bonded we will have to figure out how to bridge these new realities. It is important to sustain that element of team cohesion and community that we create with face to face interaction at work, we will have to see how we navigate with a hybrid of the two.”