CFO David Wanjala is focused on sustainable finance

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Over the last 14 years in Rwanda, Wafula David Wanjala, CFO for the African operations of ContourGlobal, has been a witness to the country's remarkable evolution in the accounting landscape.

Born in western Kenya, Wafula David Wanjala’s educational journey began at Friends School Kamusinga, where he spent two years before completing his high school education at Mother of Apostles Seminary in Eldoret. The next chapter of his life unfolded at the University of Nairobi, where he graduated in 2008 with a BCom Accounting. He has since added to his academic credentials: an MBA from the Africa Leadership University School of Business and an MSc in Finance from the University of Aberdeen.

The pivotal moment in David's career came when he joined PwC in Nairobi, setting the stage for his entry into the dynamic world of finance. Working in the audit division, he gained invaluable experience by engaging with a diverse array of clients from both the private and public sectors.

“The firm kept assigning me to public sector audits, which I didn’t enjoy as much as private sector engagements,” David says. “In 2010, when an invitation came to join the pioneer team, who would set up the PwC Rwanda office, as a senior associate, I felt like it would be a good opportunity to explore a career path in the private sector. The pros of the move outweighed the cons and I am glad that it worked out for the best; I doubt I would have had the same career growth in Kenya that I have experienced here [in Rwanda].”

Over the last 14 years in Rwanda, David has been a witness to the country's remarkable evolution in the accounting landscape. His arrival in 2010 coincided with a time when recruiting qualified accountants posed challenges, but concerted efforts by the local institute and partnerships with regional bodies, such as ICPAK Kenya, have significantly improved the situation. While there’s still some way to go, the number of certified accountants in Rwanda has increased, reflecting the growing demand in tandem with the country's expanding economy.

Reasonable returns

David is currently serving as the CFO for the African operations of ContourGlobal, a role he has held for six years. Prior to that he was CFO of the Rwandan operations for two years. In Africa, ContourGlobal operates in four countries — Rwanda, Togo, Senegal, and Nigeria — generating power and supplying electricity to national grids and to Coca-Cola in Nigeria. The company employs various fuel types and capacities, contributing to Africa's energy landscape.

Of his current concerns as CFO, David notes, “I think, given the current context especially the geo-political dynamics in Europe and the Middle East and the impact that has, such as the global crude prices and the trickle-down effect on governments within the region, most of our governments have had to struggle with issues like inflation and, to a large extent, the cost of goods going up. This is reflected in electricity bills, with the cost of energy prices that rose although we are now seeing a decline.”

He adds, “In some instances, since this cost cannot be passed on to the general populace, it becomes a problem that has to be dealt with in the sector between the national utilities and governments.”

David believes that it is unlikely that Africa will develop to levels seen elsewhere globally without exploiting the fossil fuel options available on the continent. That means thermal power will still continue to be an important driver. The focus is therefore on how to structure business deals and finance to drive growth while transitioning to net zero, fully appreciating the harmful effects that fossil fuel portends to the planet, in other words, a Just Transition.

“These are the things that we, as energy developers, are thinking of on a day-to-day basis. At the end of the day, our intention is to support the governments we work with since electricity is a public good. We have to keep seeing how we can partner with governments to generate electricity in a manner that’s environmentally sustainable and at a cost that is efficient. It is a delicate balance to structure sustainable electricity deals that make a reasonable return while keeping costs low for end users,” he explains.

David's work ethic and sense of responsibility can be traced back to his upbringing, marked by periods of financial challenges. Education served as a beacon, guiding him away from the spectre of poverty. His commitment to taking ownership of tasks and ensuring their completion has been a driving force behind his success. For David, the intersection of passion and responsibility is crucial, and he encourages aspiring finance professionals to strike a balance that aligns with their individual goals.

Beyond his professional endeavours, David is an avid cyclist and, more recently, a burgeoning golf enthusiast. He emphasises the importance of maintaining a diverse set of interests to keep the mind engaged and challenged.

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