The CFO catch-up: Eunice Waweru

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Eunice Waweru, Finance and Strategy director of Uganda Breweries Limited, recently engaged in a conversation with CFO East Africa, discussing her career journey, cultural differences across African countries, and the legacy she aspires to leave.

Eunice Waweru, Finance and Strategy director of Uganda Breweries Limited, recently engaged in a conversation with CFO East Africa, discussing her career journey, cultural differences across African countries, and the legacy she aspires to leave.

CFO EA: How long have you been in Uganda and what motivated you to take on this role?

Eunice: I am completing my third year as the Finance & Strategy director of Uganda Breweries Limited, a subsidiary of East African Breweries Limited (EABL). Five years ago, I held the position of group financial controller at EABL, overseeing Statutory Reporting, Treasury Operations, and Tax. Seeking a change and following my well-defined path to becoming a CFO, I accepted the role of head of Commercial Finance manager at Guinness Nigeria.

This move was a strategic step towards my goal of becoming a holistic CFO. While I had accumulated many skills as a financial controller, the Nigeria stint provided the specific experiences required for a comprehensive CFO role. When the CFO opportunity in Uganda arose, it aligned perfectly with my aspirations. Moreover, the location was closer to home (Kenya), being just a 50-minute flight from Kampala to Nairobi. I am driven to eventually hold a larger CFO role.

CFO EA: How did you find your path into accounting?

Eunice: My affinity for numbers started early in school, and I easily connected with them. Pursuing a career in accounting and finance felt natural to me. I recognised that numbers convey a story, offering valuable insights into situations — a concept I found exhilarating. We often say that numbers reveal the truth.

CFO EA: What concerns you as the CFO of Uganda Breweries?

Eunice: Over the past three years, Uganda Breweries has demonstrated strong performance, which leads me to contemplate our business's long-term sustainability. I worry about factors like top-line growth, margin expansion, market share growth, and the development of our workforce.

While we have robust controls and processes in place across many areas, I question whether individuals are genuinely adhering to established guidelines and adhering to the prescribed processes and controls. For instance, is our tax team meticulously ensuring compliance and accuracy?

CFO EA: Could you share your career's highlight and lowlight?

Eunice: My career's highlight has been the opportunity to nurture and uplift individuals along my journey, aligned with my purpose of inspiring and elevating others. Leaving people in a better position than I found them embodies my philosophy. This legacy persisted during my tenure as the group financial controller in Kenya and the head of Commercial Finance manager in Nigeria. Seeing people elevated, growing, brings so much joy and satisfaction to me.

On the flip side, I often feel that I could have done more than I did. I believe I could have made a greater impact on the communities we operated in. However, this might be my own inner drive pushing me to be even more impactful.

CFO EA: How do you compare your roles in Nigeria and Uganda?

Eunice: The roles in Nigeria and Uganda are starkly different. In Nigeria, we were ranked third in market share, contending with foreign currency scarcity and plummeting oil prices. Negative margins on some products arose due to larger players influencing prices thus inability for us to take price and protect margins. Socially, Nigerians are welcoming, warm, embrace life, and exhibit an assertive culture.

Uganda, in contrast, we are positioned as a market leader with nearly 60 percent market share. The economy, except for 10.7 percent inflation (Oct 2022), has maintained stability. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Uganda sustained double-digit sales growth, whereas in Nigeria, we saw a significant decline in sales.

CFO EA: How did you adjust to the cultural differences?

Eunice: Whenever I'm assigned to a new location, I approach it with an open mind. Listening to the local team provides insights into their operations, challenges, and market culture. Understanding where I can contribute and building trust with teams fosters collaboration. This approach has been met with receptivity and accommodation, forming valuable relationships worldwide. I am the type who has no issue rolling up my sleeves and getting into the trenches with the team as one to deliver a common KPI.

CFO EA: How did working abroad impact your family life?

Eunice: During my time in Nigeria, my two high school-aged children spent holidays with me, as I worked four weeks in Nigeria and returned home for one week. Now that they're older — my daughter is 22, my son is 19 — and my husband can work remotely as a businessman, family dynamics have adjusted accordingly.

CFO EA: What do you enjoy outside of work?

Eunice: I prioritise physical and mental well-being by visiting the gym thrice weekly. This practice not only keeps me fit but also mentally sharp, offering respite from my demanding role. Engaging in church activities nurtures my spiritual growth. Volunteering with the Rotary Club (Seven Lakes) in Uganda has become a fulfilling endeavour. Additionally, I attend various business-related events for networking, learning, and enjoyment.

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