Discover the working career of a Chief Executive Officer within the NGO sector, East Africa

CA Global learns what its like to be a Chief Executive Officer

What industry do you work in and what exactly are your skills?

I currently work in the rehabilitation health sector specifically working with people who have physical disabilities. I lead an organization that seeks to empower such people with disabilities through medical, economic, livelihoods, social and political empowerment programs and initiatives. My skills are in organization development, cross-functional executive management, strategy formulation, and implementation, fundraising and resource mobilization, analytic and innovative thinking.

What inspired you to get into this sort of industry?

I was inspired to join the non-profit development sector after spending some time with the for-profit commercial sector in ICT and FMCG where I was mainly in marketing, sales, and business development. Initially, because I wanted a work environment that was not as fast-paced and energy-draining as the for-profit sector was at the time. But later as I settled in the developing world, I got so touched by the sheer level of impact development programs make in the lives of the poor, marginalized and most underserved communities in sub-Saharan Africa.I was happy to be part of the impact and it made me humbled each time communities were transformed through services, products, and initiatives we implemented. 

What qualifications and experience did you have to gain In order to establish yourself and therefore become a professional within your industry?

I gained masters qualifications in organization development and strategic management which I found to be useful in appreciating the complexities and demands of executive leadership in my organizations. In house training in external relations, donor compliance, project design and reporting proved equally useful. Over 10 years of hands-on experience designing development projects and leading teams has equally been useful. Invaluable was the opportunity granted to me to solely establish a country operation in Swaziland for Marie Stopes International – from registrations to setting up offices to recruiting staff to training and orienting staff.

How do you manage and overcome these challenges?

I have recently started engaging with central and county governments to integrate some of my organization’s activities into their annual operational plans and budgets. This has borne fruit through additional skilled manpower, resources, and commitment to continued service provision, though still at an infant scale. Also, I have initiated discussions with on nontraditional traditional funding sources and now am talking to local corporations, foundations, foreign missions, and embassies. Some organizations have been sending me interns to help curb staffing capacity challenges for defined periods.

What has been the highlight of your career?

Setting up and establishing a full fledged country operation with clinical (static)  and mobile outreach service delivery channels in Swaziland has been the highlight of my career.

If somebody starts as a trainee / beginner within your line of work, what POSITION would they start off as and what could they expect to EARN at this stage?

A program / project officer is a more appropriate position to start off as and this kind of employee can expect the following with regards to salary: KShs 25,000 (USD 287) per month within organizations with national mandates. Kshs 8,000 (USD 90) per month within organizations with single community/ regional mandates.

What could somebody expect to earn after working within your field after 10 years?

Roughly USD 8,000 to USD 9,000 per month.  As National Director/ Country Director/ Chief Executive Officer of an organization with a national mandate roughly between USD 6, 000 to USD 8,000 per month would be suitable.

Who is your role model and why?

My role model remains Cyprian Otieno Awiti who was my immediate supervisor, boss, and mentor for 10 years. Working with Cyprian we were able to transform Marie Stopes Kenya from a fully donor-dependent NGO to a social business that was sustainable and delivering a 180% Income to Cost annually.

What motivates you to work this hard?

Making a difference in this world, impacting positively on people’s lives and seeing my ideas and strategies turn to act and therefore make a difference.

What is your outlook within your industry over the next 5 years?

The health sector will grow probably double in 5 years as devolved governments implement health care in the 47 counties, rehabilitation medicine will also double and production of mobility aid for persons with physical disability will be fourfold as new entrants enter the Kenyan market. Already Motivation UK and Whirlwind USA are keen to expand their presence in Kenya. USAID through APC has just upped a call for USD 9 million over the next 4 years.

As you know, numerous African countries are being invested in due to their rich minerals. Which country within Africa do you think will be the next hot spot and why?

Kenya. Kenya is strategically located, relatively calm and the business hub of East and Central Africa.

You can view Walter Odhiambo’s professional profile on LinkedIn:

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