2020: A Review: The executive corner in Africa’s food industry gains new talent in 2020

By Catherine Wanjiku

As the saying goes, “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” The food industry in Africa understands this too well as companies recruited the crème de la crème to join their organizations in 2020, especially at the senior most levels to exude their leadership prowess during these uncertain times characterized by multiple disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the notable appointments that made headlines in 2020 include:

South African food manufacturing giant Tiger Brands, announced the stepping down of Khotso Mokhele as Chairman of the board as of December 31 and appointed Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, a lead independent director at mining firm Exxaro, to take over the position. Fraser-Moleketi has served in various cabinet roles from 1996 to 2008, including as Minister of Public Service and Administration and Minister for Welfare and Population Development. Further, the packaged food processor appointed its then Chief Financial Officer, Noel Doyle to be company CEO with effect from February 1, 2020. Doyle took over from Lawrence MacDougall, who retired after having reached the company’s mandatory retirement age of 63.

Unilever, the multinational consumer goods company named Carl Cruz as its new Managing Director for its West Africa operations to oversee business at Unilever Nigeria and Unilever Ghana. Cruz took over the helm on 1st February 2020 from Adesola Sobande-Peters who was appointed interim director following the resignation of Yaw Nsarkoh in November 2019. Prior to his appointment, Cruz was the Chairman and Managing Director of Unilever Sri Lanka.

Paper and Packaging product manufacturer Nampak, appointed Erik Smuts as the new group CEO following the resignation of Andre de Ruyter who took over the position

of Chief Executive Officer of embattled power utility Eskom. Smuts has worked at Nampak for over a decade and was Group Executive of the company’s beverage canning biz prior to his appointment.

Champion Breweries Plc, the producer and marketer of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in Nigeria appointed Mr Georgios I. Polymenakos as its new Managing Director effective January 6, 2020. The appointment followed the resignation of Mr Patrick Ejidoh who had reached retirement age. Mr Polymenakos was until October 2019 the Managing Director of the Nigerian Bottling Company Limited (NBC), bottlers of Coca-Cola products in the country and a subsidiary of the Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (CCHBC).

Eddy Njoroge, former KenGen Managing Director started his tenure as the President of the Geneva-based global standard’s body, International Organization for Standardisation (ISO), becoming the first African to hold the position. Njoroge took over the leadership of the 73-year-old agency from Canadian John Walker to serve for two years between January 2020 and December 2022.

The New York headquartered food and beverage giant PepsiCo strengthened its operational effectiveness with the appointment of its newly acquired Pioneer Foods’ CEO Tertius Carstens as its sub-Saharan Africa Chief Executive. The company’s sub-Saharan Africa headquarters are based in South Africa, from where it plans to leverage to expand and drive profitable growth across the region, an integral part of fulfilling PepsiCo’s ambition to become Africa’s leading food and beverage company.

The multinational confectionery firm Mondelez International appointed Nigel Parsons as the president of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) operations, a newly created leadership aimed at strengthening its focus in the region. Parsons is directly supported by Alisdair Sinclair as Managing Director South Africa, who prior to the appointment was the CEO of Vamara Group, a Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (“FMCG”) company in Africa. Parsons is a long-term employee of Mondelez who was serving as country director of Mondelez Australia before the appointment.

West Africa’s snack manufacturing giant, Cadbury Nigeria Plc appointed Mr. Adedotun Sulaiman, as the new Chairman of its Board of Directors, to replace Mr Atedo Peterside who stepped down as Board Chairman on June 2020. The renowned management and strategy consultant was first appointed into the Board of Cadbury Nigeria as a Non-Executive Director in August 2009.

The Coca-Cola Export Corporation reflected the company’s desire to promote Moroccan talent in order to support the development of its activities in the kingdom with the appointment of Mehdi Alami as the new Managing Director of Coca-Cola Morocco franchise in March 2020.

Namibia Dairies, a subsidiary of the Ohlthaver & List (O&L) Group, promoted its Head of Marketing, Leonie Prinsloo to the position of Managing Director (MD) as of 1 July 2020. She replaced Gunther Ling who took the helm at Hartlief, a supplier of meat products and sister company of Namibia Dairies.

Global food and beverage company Nestlé shifted Mauricio Alarcon from leading Nestle Nigeria to become Chief Executive Officer of Nestlé Central and West Africa Ltd, effective September 1, 2020. Wassim Elhussein replaced Mauricio in his previous post. Prior to his appointment, Wassim was the country manager and sales director of Nestle Middle East and North Africa.

Seed Co Zimbabwe, a leading producer and marketer of certified seeds in the region promoted its Deputy MD to the position of Managing Director with effect from October 1, 2020. He took over from Denias Zaranyika who retired from the company.

Africa’s leading retailer Shoprite named Wendy Elizabeth Lucas-Bull as the first female Chair; ending Christo Wiese’s four decades reign at the helm. Wiese, had been Shoprite’s chairperson since 1979 and retired from his position in November 2020. Lucas-Bull is also the chairperson of leading financial services company Absa Group.

South Africa based fast–food chains operator, Spur Corporation named Val Nichas as the new executive director and group Chief Executive Officer, taking over from the company’s long-serving CEO, Pierre van Tonder, who retired from the group on 31 December 2020 after 38 years of service.

Nestle Ghana appointed Georgios Badaro as its new Managing Director in October 2020, to be in charge of businesses in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone under the Central and West Africa Region of the company. He took the helm of the company after completing his stint as Business Executive Officer – Dairy, Health & Nutrition Solutions, Nestlé Philippines.

Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited, the subsidiary of Diageo Plc announced the appointment of Ms. Hélène Elizabeth Antoinette Weesie as an Executive Director on the Board and Managing Director of the company effective 7th of September 2020. Prior to her appointment she was the Managing Director of Diageo’s Central Europe Cluster of countries. She replaced Gavin Pike who was appointed as Managing Director of Diageo South Africa.

Africa Improved Foods, the Rwanda based local manufacturer of fortified foods named Edouard Spicher as the company’s new CEO taking over from Amar Ali, who had been at the helm since 2016. Spicher has worked with organizations such as Fan Milk International as CEO and Nestle in different capacities, across different markets.

Dangote Sugar Refinery (DSR) Plc elevated its acting Managing Director Mr. Ravindra Singhvi to substantive Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer. He was appointed acting MD of the refinery in 2019, after serving the company as Chief Operating Officer.

Kenyan fresh food producer and exporter Kakuzi Plc named Nicholas Ng’ang’a as Chairman of the Board replacing Graham Mclean, Managing Director for Agriculture at Camellia Plc. Ng’ang’a served as Chairman of giant telecommunication company Safaricom’s board from 2007 until his retirement in July 2020.

East Africa’s leading alcoholic drinks company East African Breweries Limited passed the baton of Managing Director of the group to Jane Karuku, who was serving as CEO of its subsidiary Kenya Breweries Limited. With the appointment Jane becomes the first female to hold the position in the group replacing Andrew Cowan, who was appointed Managing Director of Diageo’s Africa regional markets, which comprise of Diageo’s operations in Ghana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, the Indian Ocean islands and Angola. Jane will be replaced by John Musunga, who will join EABL from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Flour Mills of Nigeria (FMN) Plc, Nigeria’s leading integrated food and agro-allied group appointed Omoboyede Oyebolanle Olusanya as the company’s new Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer taking over from Paul Gbededo who retired from the helm of the company end of December, but will remain on the Board serving as the company’s new Vice Chairman. Prior to his appointment Omoboyede was the group’s Chief Operating Officer.

The Coca-Cola Company appointed Alfred Olajide as the new Vice President and Managing Director for its Nigeria operations following the global reorganization of the company’s leadership structure. Prior to his appointment, he was Franchise Director, South Region (Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe) of Coca-Cola Africa. He replaced Yebeltal Getachew whose tenure ended December 31st, 2020 after being at the helm barely two years.

This feature appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of Food Business Africa. You can read this and the entire magazine HERE

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