Top CFOs explore the tech revolution at CFO East Africa’s Man vs Machine Summit

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Leading CFOs from across East Africa came together at the Movenpick Hotel in Nairobi for the much-anticipated 2024 CFO East Africa Man vs Machine Summit, to discuss all things tech, including the rise of GenAI.

Close to 100 CFOs from across East Africa came together at the Movenpick Hotel in Nairobi, on 8 February 2024, for the much-anticipated 2024 CFO East Africa Man vs Machine Summit, to discuss all things tech, including the rise of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI).

An absolute highlight of the event was the brainstorm session, which gave finance leaders the opportunity to discuss the results of a technological survey conducted over the past three months.

Over 100 CFOs took part in the study, which yielded interesting results, including the fact that CFOs are not using AI tools in their professional lives but believe that AI will be a gamechanger for their roles and organisations.

The conversations were led by David Ngata (FD of Equity Bank Group), Moses Aman (Hima Lafarge Uganda), James Nyutu (CFO of Unga Group), Eugene Antera (CFO of Bamburi Cement), Flora Makule (CFO of Reliance Insurance Tanzania) and Andrew Makumbi (CFO of Jubilee Allianz Uganda).

The event kicked off with a welcome from co-founder and community manager KC Rottok Chesaina, who provided an overview of the survey results. He thanked the CFOs for their enthusiastic participation in the survey and for turning up in large numbers for the summit, during a traditionally busy reporting period for finance teams.

Change agents

South African CDO of the year Esther Wanjiru Munyi took to the podium as the night’s keynote speaker to deliver a well received address titled From calculators to colleagues: the rise of GenAI.

“A reputable study found that 85 percent of CFOs report inefficiencies in their financial processes. This means that there is a significant opportunity for CFOs to harness the power of technological advancements such as GenAI to become change agents in their finance teams and organisations,” she said. The Kenyan-born speaker is the chief Data and Analytics officer at Sasfin Bank in South Africa.

This was followed by a panel discussion with Catherine Mwololo (CFO of Westcon-Comptor, Middle East and Africa), Lawrence Kimathi (CFO of KCB Bank Group) and Urvi Patel (Risk and Advisory leader, Deloitte).

“The responses are interesting, but not surprising. Everyone is talking about AI and the use of emerging technology within functions such as finance but, from the responses, the uptake is generally quite low. There is probably the fear of the unknown and a lack of data and process maturity and relevant skills within organisations to quickly adopt and adapt to these trends,” Urvi said.

Lawrence admitted that he is not personally invested in GenAI but recognised that he needs to familiarise himself more with such new technological fads, to be comfortable in supporting such investments in his role. Among many other insights, Catherine narrated how her organisation has gone about crafting an AI policy.

After roundtables conducted in three groups, the formal programme ended on an upbeat note and East Africa’s leading finance executives took the opportunity to network, catch up with their peers and meet new members of the finance fraternity.

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