Rebecca Miano is a woman to watch in 2021
What you need to know:
- Rebecca Miano is first female Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), the largest power production firm in East Africa.
- Ms Miano, a lawyer with an undergraduate degree from the University of Nairobi and a Master of Laws in Comparative Law from the University of Australia, is at the helm of a crucial firm.
- She arms herself with principles of good corporate governance, converting her to a role model for all staff.
- She is also the founding patron of Pink Energy Initiative launched in 2016, a role she had to surrender when she became the MD and CEO.
She won the 2020 African Inspirational Business Leadership Award by African Leadership Magazine among other accolades, making her a woman to watch in 2021!
The 54-year-old is first female Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), the largest power production firm in East Africa.
Rebecca Miano, currently serving her three-year, second term, after the recent renewal of her contract, which expired in August last year, is not new in the energy sector. She has a 25-year stint during which she has won several awards.
African Energy Chamber has listed her among the top 25 energy sector Movers and Shakers in the 2021 watch list.
To her, this recognition is “a validation that we are in the right trajectory as a company, country and leader in implementing energy strategies.”
Ms Miano, a lawyer with an undergraduate degree from the University of Nairobi and a Master of Laws in Comparative Law from the University of Australia, is at the helm of a crucial firm.
A company at the epicentre of driving or slowing down Kenya’s economy- without power, macro manufacturing is impossible.
There is one project so dear to her; one that will raise Kenya’s global ranking in production of geothermal power. It is the completion of Olkaria I Unit 6, in mid-this year. Work on the project started in December 2018.
It will expand the national grid by 83.3 megawatts (MW), adding to 706MW currently installed, totalling 789.3 MW. This will inch it closer to flipping Italy’s seventh position as among the global giants in geothermal power production. By 2018, Italy’s geothermal energy capacity stood at 944MW according to NS Energy.
A total of 524 MW of geothermal power had been installed when she took over in 2017.The capacity has since increased to 706 MW. She attributes this to the completion of Olkaria V under her tenure, hence a 25 per cent jump.
“I look forward to that day Kenya will overtake Italy,” says Ms Miano whose work as MD provides linkage between the board of directors and management, in addition to ensuring the firm remains financially sound.
In 2019, for instance, the firm generated Sh479 million in other income against Sh211 million in 2018, a 127 per cent growth in other income.
To achieve this, Ms Miano pulled a diversification strategy that included securing two contracts to drill wells in Ethiopia- Aluto and Tulu Moye geothermal projects. Negotiation for a similar contract in Djibouti is ongoing, she says.
As the CEO, Ms Miano is the highest officer in the organisation and defines her role as primarily, “providing leadership, getting the team to work together towards a shared goal and purpose.”
She arms herself with principles of good corporate governance, converting her to a role model for all staff.
“My philosophy is to take care of the staff…creating a conducive work environment for them to deliver,” she reckons
Each day, she reads a publication on personal and leadership development, to further sharpen her skills.
“I am a strong believer in personal development,” reveals Ms Miano who is a member of a book club, which keeps her reading pace on toes. She is currently reading former US President Barack Obama’s book A Promised Land.
By 7.45am she is at her office desk highlighting the must-do-tasks of the day.
She explains: “I have a work schedule and I stick to it. My staff know that I am a very good planner.”
“I wake up at 5.30am, do my morning stretch, then prepare for the office. At my table, I have a to-do-list for the day. I identify tasks I must achieve for that day no matter what.”
With the clearly defined plan and ‘no excuse’ kind of determination, Ms Miano carries no work home.
“I have self-driven determination to finish my work for the day. I just go home to be at home,” she says.
“Even with the Covid-19 when I have had to work from home for some days, I stick to office working hours,” Ms Miano says, a revelation that demystifies the belief that busy people have no time for their families.
“I value my family very much and never want to bring competition between them and my job,” she emphasizes.
She is nevertheless committed to ensuring she leaves a legacy. She wants Kenyans to remember her for being at the centre of driving the country closer to achieving universal energy access. It is a target President Uhuru Kenyatta’s leadership seeks to achieve by 2022.
Covid-19 has, however, stood on the way of her upward trajectory.
“In 2015/2016, we were at 30 per cent; currently we are at 75 per cent and we will get to 100 per cent,” she says in reference to universal energy coverage.
“Was it not for Covid-19, the target would have been achieved comfortably.”
That there are Kenyans who cannot access green energy troubles her. And therefore, they are forced to use biomass, which emits high levels of global warming carbon gases.
She says “a lot has to be done” for women and girls to replace use of firewood with renewable, clean and sustainable energy.
Meanwhile, she is doing something for her female employees to excel.
Ms Miano is the founding patron of Pink Energy Initiative launched in 2016, a role she had to surrender when she became the MD and CEO. The initiative is a platform for mentoring the more than 500 female employees at the firm to grow in their capacities.
They are taken through quarterly activities involving talks on career growth, health and financial management among others.
The firm, whose work is primarily driven by science and technology skills, has made significant improvements in gender inclusiveness of its workforce.
Women currently constitute 23 per cent of the workforce against 2.2 per cent in 1990.
Seeing that number rise is what Ms Miano says is a must-accomplish task before end of her second term in 2023.
Another project she would be glad to see up and running is a Level 5 state-of-the-art hospital in Naivasha town, to serve an estimated 600 outpatients daily. This hospital, which she describes as a major corporate social responsibility project under her tenure, is scheduled for completion by mid-2021.
“It will have MRI services, a fully-fledged radiology and mother and child department,” she says.
In June, last year, the World Bank Group appointed her to the Advisory Council on Gender and Development to serve a-two-year-term as a participating member.
In her role, Ms Miano, says she will put forth proposals on closing gaps between the men and women. In the process, she will gather experiences that she intends to trickle down to Kenyans through her engagement with the State Department of Gender.
Already, World Bank is supporting KenGen with formulation of a gender strategy that could spur the firm’s progress in gender mainstreaming.
“We are (also) discussing a partnership with United Nations Population Fund to address gender issues for (KenGen) employees and women residing in environs where they work,” she says
Ms Miano rose to her position through hard work.
As a young girl born and brought up in Nyahururu, she had no imagination of becoming neither an MD nor CEO. Her ambition was to become a journalist - a television presenter. But fate had other plans for her.
Upon completing high school at Kapropita Girls High School in Baringo County, she joined University of Nairobi, Law school. The alumni of Eldama Ravine Primary boarding school was rather disappointed because her dream was to be a journalist.
“I was told I could have gone to Kenya Mass Communication College if I wanted to be a journalist. But I was also eager to study law,” says Ms Miano who draws her motivation from Prof Margaret Kobia CS for Public Service and Gender and Kristalina Georgieva IMF Managing Director.
She finally dropped her ambition for journalism when her family put across some words of advice.
Upon graduation, she practised law briefly after which she joined Kenya Power and Lighting as an assistant legal officer.
In 1998, she joined KenGen as a senior legal officer before being promoted to principal legal officer, then assistant company secretary.
Later, she became the company secretary. In 2008, the firm conferred her the merged role of company secretary, legal and corporate affairs director until August 2017, when she rose to her current position.
Of recognition is that in 2015, she also served as an acting human resources and administration director albeit briefly.
Away from work, the trailblazer married to an environmental expert, raises a family of three grown-up children, two biological and a niece.
She loves “knitting because it is quite therapeutic and gardening because it draws me closer to nature.”
Her love for theatre plays is also unbreakable.
“Before Covid-19, I could watch new plays at French Cultural Centre or Kenya National Theatre. But the pandemic has snatched that from me,” she says.
Her family fun time now involves either watching virtual music concerts, which her son identifies, or cheer on her daughter showcasing guitar playing skills, she is learning.
To girls and fresh female graduates, she has a message: “Be hardworking. Be good at what you do. Be patient, resilient and open to immeasurable possibilities.”