Toshiba Opens Kenya Office in Move to Contribute to Regional Development and a Bright Future

Mr Shimada
Q.
Mr. Shimada Welcome to Kenya
Shimada:
Thank you very much
Q.
The last time you were here was on a family trip, and now you have come on business. Kindly take us through your experience in Kenya.
Shimada:
When my family and I lived in Dubai, we made our first trip to Kenya to visit the Maasai Mara. It left us with a very good impression of Kenya.

Subsequently, as managing director of Toshiba Africa in South Africa since 2016, I have had quite a few opportunities to visit Kenya on business, and I have always found the Kenyan people to be full of energy and very courteous, and open to new opportunities. These experiences made me feel there is strong potential to grow our business in Kenya. Toshiba’s involvement in the business scene in Kenya has been slow in recent years, therefore I felt the need to act on these positive attributes by focusing on our business in Kenya.
Q.
Talk to us about Toshiba’s business focus in Africa. What are you looking forward to in the years to come?
Shimada:
It’s over fifty years since we established an office in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1967. It has served as our corporate office, and from there we have done several energy and infrastructure projects in power generation, transmission and distribution, and providing locomotives for railways in Africa. Since 2000, we have expanded our business by supplying geothermal and hydropower equipment and air-conditioning systems in East Africa, which still has immense untapped potential. We therefore decided to open an office in Kenya in order to explore business opportunities in the region; not only in our current businesses in Africa, but also to pursue new business opportunities in areas like water treatment.
Olkaria Geothermal power station unit IV

Olkaria Geothermal power station unit IV

Q.
What relevance do your products have for the East African Market?
Shimada:
In Kenya, we have supplied more than 24,000 power distribution transformers to Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC). One problem Kenya faces is distribution loss. For example you produce 100 megawatts of electricity but lose 17 megawatts during power distribution. We have energy efficient products with technologies that help reduce this loss. This will help to improve the life of people in Kenya by delivering more electricity, and also help companies like KPLC to improve their profitability.
Q.
We know Toshiba is a Japanese company but you also have global partnerships. Tell us how you go about these partnerships.
Shimada:
Toshiba is mainly a manufacturer but we partner with other companies in offering solutions. For instance in East Africa we have concluded MOUs with French, Chinese and Kenyan companies in the energy sector in order to deliver the solutions the region requires. As Toshiba, we have our strengths, and we want to combine these with the strengths other companies have in different areas, in order to provide wholesale solutions that fit the areas we operate in. We are also very positive in partnering with local companies, as exchanging knowledge with them can be mutually beneficial.
Partnerships
Q.
You are coming into Kenya at a time when there is excitement about the government’s Big 4 Agenda set out by the president for his legacy term, focusing on four pillars, which are affordable housing, food and nutrition security, manufacturing and healthcare. How do you see Toshiba assisting in economic development in Kenya as far as the Big 4 is concerned?
Shimada:
We are glad to have set up an office at a time the government is dedicating its efforts to achieving the Big 4 Agenda. Our support will not necessarily be through working directly with the government, but through our solutions. Our renewable energy and efficient air-conditioning and water treatment systems can support work around the four main pillars of the Big 4 Agenda.
Q.
What is the importance of the establishment of the Kenya office?
Shimada:
We saw it necessary to establish a presence in East African office, because having an office here makes it easier for us to be in direct and constant communication with our clients, and also to collect necessary market information for developing tailor-made solutions for this region. For example, when we started our air-conditioning system business here twenty years ago, it was difficult to make inroads because we had no prior information about the market. But now, we have created networks through continuous communication with our customers, and the business is currently doing well.
Kenya Office
Q.
Do you foresee any challenges as you work to expand in the East African market?
Shimada:
One of the challenges we are facing in the East African Market is the fact that most people only know Toshiba for our consumer products, like laptops, and few people know that we offer other solutions in the energy and infrastructure sector. Our challenge is to make them aware of the business–to-business and business-to-government component of our work, where we supply solutions and services to businesses like KENGEN and KPLC. We are hoping that by expanding our presence in Kenya, the population will get to know more about us, our products and solutions.
Launch

Left: Mr. Shimada speaks at the opening ceremony on May 2nd 2019
Right: “Kagamiwari,”a Japanese traditional ceremony for good luck, in which a barrel of sake is opened with mallets and the contents shared

Q.
What are your expectations after this launch?
Shimada:
We are hoping to create meaningful relationships with our clients, partners in government and the private sector, as well as with interested investors, in order to win their trust and confidence. Through this approach we hope to secure business in Kenya and the wider East Africa. The opening of the Kenya office is part of our plan to expand our presence in Africa, and once we are fully established here, we intend to roll out plans for moving into West Africa.
Q.
Mr. Shimada thank you so much for your time.
Shimada:
Thank you too. Asante Sana.
Asante Sana.

Bio of interviewer Laban and Mr Shimada:

The Interviewer Laban-Cliff Onserio is a 2016 Wincott Fellow at the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford. He has also trained with the Bloomberg Media Initiative for Africa. His calling is in Business Journalism where he covers financial and macroeconomic news in East Africa. He has moderated and interviewed business leaders in the World Economic Forum, UNCTAD 14 and TICAD IV Global Events. He often writes for the Business Daily Newspaper, East Africa's authority in business. Laban-Cliff was named the Best TV Business News Reporter in the 2015 Media Council of Kenya Awards (MCKA). His passion is in telling Africa's Growth Story and his work mantra is to "Tell it fast, accurately and impassively"

Iwasuke Shimada joined Toshiba in April 1994. He initially worked in manufacturing, but most of his career has been dedicated to sales and marketing in international markets. His assignments have extended across Toshiba’s diverse product lines, from power systems to digital products, and to the markets of Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India and Southeast Asia. Most recently, since May 2016, he has served as Managing Director of Toshiba Africa (Pty) Ltd., where he greatly enjoys the challenges involved in promoting the growth of Toshiba’s presence in Africa’s key economies.