Fredrick Banja is an entrepreneur and currently the Director at AP Solutions Kenya Ltd (APS), the Finnish Company that specializes in the design and manufacturing of Communication cables for the telecommunication industry. He has been in entrepreneurship since he was a young boy and so when he graduated, he decided that business was the way to go and it was the only way he could contribute towards growing the country’s economy and creating employment to the vulnerable youths.
Capital Business had a one on one interview with the buddying entrepreneur to share his business success story.
- What was the path you took to get to where you are today?
As a young man who grew up in the village and only came to the city after completing my Form IV, I went through several challenges to get to where I am today just like any other ordinary Kenyan. I did a number of small businesses together with my sister while staying with her in Kibera. The businesses included selling chips, juice and Ice to school going children near Olympic Primary during the day and in the evening, I would be attending my college at Kenya College of Accountancy (Currently KCA University) along Thika road.
After graduation I left the country in search of greener pastures and the first country, I landed at was Botswana. I however did not get the right job for me and after a few years I used my little savings to register a business there. Unlike in Kenya, I was happy to be in country where corruption is punished, and skills are rewarded. I sold off the business after a few years and moved to South Africa where I got another opportunity to work for a pay TV Company.
It’s while in South Africa that I met my would-be partners from Finland that we held hands together and brought the first branch on the company into Africa and we made Nairobi our HQ for Africa. We have since incorporated APS in a number of African countries including, Nigeria, Botswana, Zambia, South Africa and Namibia.
All these have taken a lot of hard work, determination and forward looking.
2. Why did you start (or want to be CEO of) this company?
I have always believed in creating opportunities and it gives me satisfaction to be an employer than to be an employee. It motivates me to see that I am contributing to my country’s economic growth and to be an inspiration to the youths who look up to me for direction.
3. What do you feel is the biggest strength of your company right now?
Even though we have not started manufacturing our cables locally, we pride ourselves as the only international communication cables manufacturing company that is fully incorporated and operating in the country. We offer complete cabling and connectivity solutions for both copper and Fiber cables and our partners warranties of 25 years is second to none.
4. What goal do you have for the company?
Our long-term goal is to begin fiber and copper cable production within the country.
5. What more are you doing in your role to help achieve this (goal)?
We had a 10-year strategic plan to achieve this goal of setting up a production unit within the country. Currently we are into the 3rd year and I can say that we are ahead of schedule.
6. What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Unfair competition from the existing brand. It is very wrong for engineers to keep prescribing a specific brand names of cables in a tender document rather than giving only the technical specifications. This vice already limits the competition to one person and kills innovation and other businesses. It is also against the public procurement act. Despite the numerous complaints we have raised it doesn’t seem to be ending and it’s a war that I am determined to end through legal means.
7. What have you learnt about failure?
I have had several false starts and failures but over the years I have learnt that failures are always part of the success and never the opposite of it.
8. What advice do you give to the youth more so those seeking to get into tech space?
My advice is that we should always follow our passion and interests. It is not enough to say you lack capital. Ideas should come before capital. If you package your ideas well, you can easily sell it to another person who lacks ideas but has capital. In that way you make a joint venture.
9. How can policy makers shape the business environment to attract more people especially the unemployed youth?
Kenya as a country does not lack Policies that can make businesses thrive. In fact, we have some of the best policies in the world. Our problem is lack of implementation due to corruption. If the vice is not fought and won new businesses will not survive and unemployment will get worse. Negative ethnicity and nepotism are also major contributing factors to youth unemployment. The youths also should be involved during these policy formulations.
10. What are your outside interests?
Besides running APS, I also have interests in youth activities that bring social change to the society.
Determination and self-discipline are the key to success. Our background and social status shouldn’t determine our destiny. As youths we should have gradual growth and we should be able to account for everything that we have achieved. Having wealth that you are not able to account for on how you acquired it is very dangerous and its equivalent to theft.