My ties with Kakuzi go beyond shares deal


As a shareholder of Kakuzi PLC, I have noted the content of the article in the Business Daily of August 6, 2018, headlined “UK firm fights for Kakuzi with Kenyan billionaire”.

I see myself and other Kakuzi shareholders as joint partners pursuing a common objective.

In obtaining exemption from the need to declare a takeover, I am committing myself to a company in which I have deep historical roots. While doing so, I have followed the due process as specified in Clause 4 of the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) Regulations 2002. I obtained approval of exemption on December 24, 2014.

The Kakuzi 2014 Annual Report recorded my stake at 24.989 per cent as at December 31 of that year, indicating it was within the 25 per cent threshold. The allegation by the Kakuzi MD that I had no approval to buy more shares is therefore false.

I started buying Kakuzi shares when the original colonial settlers were the majority shareholders. Since then, I have consistently built the stake to the current level.

My association with Kakuzi transcends being a shareholder. I was born in Kakuzi and so were my parents. Kakuzi is the only place I can call home as I grew up there. As a young boy, I worked in the company’s coffee and sisal plantations. Inevitably, Kakuzi influenced my education as well as career orientation.

In the period between 1968 and 1985, I worked with various national institutions: Ministry of Agriculture (training smallholder farmers); National Irrigation Board (developing and managing rice and horticultural irrigation schemes); and Tana and Athi River Development Authority (TARDA) (planning water and land resources). After 1985, I embarked on full-time consultancy in agriculture and rural development, covering such countries as Kenya, Malawi, amibia and South Sudan. I have consulted for international agencies such as the EU, JICA, GIZ, NORAD, DANIDA and the World Bank.

Camellia Plc Group has drawn upon my technical expertise and local insight on several occasions.

When Camellia acquired a controlling interest in the 1990s, they engaged John Atkins PLC, a consulting firm from the UK. The latter teamed up with East African Consulting Engineers of Kenya in formulating a strategic development plan for Kakuzi. I was part of the Kenyan consultancy team.

Around 2012, the then MD and current Kakuzi board chairman requested that I prepare a draft paper on the “Possible Impact of Devolution on Kakuzi”. In 2016, I drafted another paper on “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)” for possible use in the Company’s CSR strategy.

Other productive engagements with the company included the relocation of the timber sales yard from the former site some 15km from the highway, to its present location next to the main road. Another engagement relates to the use of M-Pesa rather than cash, on the company’s entire local sale transactions. In 2017, I wrote requesting for consideration for a board seat now that my stake was nearing 30 per cent. What I received was a one-liner: “There is no vacancy in the board”.

As an investor in Kakuzi, I would be happy if the firm focuses on a profitable and sustainable path to benefit all shareholders equally while have positive impact on the host community.

During the Kakuzi AGM of May 2018, I commended the directors for the good work they were doing. I also affirmed my commitment to the future wellbeing of Kakuzi and its broader shareholders.

At the same time, I outlined my vision for Kakuzi as, among other things, becoming a centre of biotechnology, creating positive economic impact on about 20 surrounding counties and a top contributor to two of Kenya Government’s Big Four priority areas - food security and manufacturing.

Furthermore, I observed that a company, whose main asset is land, could not exist as an isolated enclave. On the contrary, it ought to relate to other actors within its operation ecosystem.

In conclusion, I would like to state that the purported letter by the MD to the CMA came as a surprise. This is because all along, the Kakuzi board was aware about my intention.

Nevertheless, I would like to give reassurance that I and other minority shareholders are not at war with Camellia. All we want is a governance structure and practice that is inclusive and fair to all the shareholders. I therefore look forward to a constructive engagement regarding how we can create long-term and sustainable shareholder value.

John Kibunga Kimani, Kakuzi shareholder