Will Laura Chite really last in her new role as CEO at CIO East Africa?


Laura Chite left Microsoft in October last year. She had been with the software vendor for almost 16 years, having joined the firm in January 2001 as the Database and Telesales Manager from where she moved to the Events and PR department where she seems to have discovered her other talents as she stuck there till her departure when she was the Marketing and Communications Manager.

A month after leaving Microsoft, she founded Afrofinity, which she describes as “an e-commerce store that specialises in Hair and Beard maintenance products, that are natural and organic.”

(TOP: Laura Chite, then Microsoft’s Head of Marketing & PR in Kenya – right – receives the Best Channel Initiatives of the Year Award won by Microsoft from Vivek Sharma, Publisher & CEO of VAR Magazine. This was during the integrator East Africa awards, Kenya Edition, in 2014. On the left Bryan Wesonga, then Microsoft’s PR & Communication Lead for East & Southern Africa).

However, it seems that either Laura’s new business venture is taking time to pick and gain clients – like all new businesses do – or she just has sufficient free time on her hands, even when running Afrofinity, leading her to come back and seek employment.

This is because Kommunication Ultimate, the publisher of CIO East Africa magazine, has announced the appointment of Laura as the new CEO, with the release adding – curiously – that she “succeeds Harry Hare, who will become board Chairman of CIO East Africa.”

“I am extremely excited to give this opportunity to one of our own Tech marketing gurus from the corporate space. I also believe this is a great opportunity not just for Laura, but also for CIO EA to leverage off her strengths and experience to help grow the business faster in line with our aspirations,” said Harry Hare, the ‘outgoing CEO of CIO East Africa.

We’ll explain later why we’ve decided to have outgoing in quotes.

Added Harry: “I have personally known Laura for over a decade and believe that she has what it takes to move this business to the next level.”

On her side, Laura said: “I am super excited to have the opportunity to work with CIO EA as a company that I have admired and partnered with throughout my years of Tech marketing. We are a strong brand in the East African market and I look forward to us growing bigger and better.”

Now that we are done with the release highlights, let’s go back to why we find the word ‘outgoing’ curious (and even misleading, to put it bluntly).

In mid 2014, the Kommunication Ultimate directors (that is Harry Hare and Andrew Karanja) brought on board Ali Hussein, the former CEO at 3Mice Interactive, and introduced him to the staff as the new CEO of CIO East Africa. Ali held the position for sometime, and during his short stint managed to work with the marketing team to bring in new clients through his networks, among these being Vodafone Business, Equity Bank and Mastercard.

Apart from assisting with new leads and to seal deals, Ali could also share ideas with the editorial team on how to come up with improved content.

However, looked at keenly, Ali Hussein used to act more as the Head of Marketing (or Business Development Manager) than the overall CEO as such duties were still being handled by Harry (and Andrew in his absence). Towards the end of February 2015 however, Ali suddenly stopped coming to the office and no explanation was offered to staff on his whereabouts.

Exit Ali Hussein, enter Njambi Waruhiu.

Njambi joined CIO East Africa from iLanga Systems as the Business Development Manager (BDM) in the third quarter of 2015. In this role, she basically tries to coordinate all marketing functions for CIO East Africa – print and online – as well as events organized by the firm in partnership with clients.

Whether she’s been effective in this position however depends on who you ask. Though she’s access to the directors, Njambi is not the most popular person among colleagues. The fact that she’s been known to grab clients and accounts from other members of her team has alienated her from colleagues even further.

Njambi yields a lot of influence at the company, and is arguably the third most powerful individual at CIO East Africa – that is behind Harry Hare and Karanja – according to sources. There are even rumours – from both within and outside the firm – that she seems to have more than a professional relationship with one of the directors, with some adding that this maybe the source of her influence and power.

So here is a case where we already have Njambi Waruhiu using her influence to informally call the shots then you bring in Laura Chite as the new CEO, with the expectation that from now on, Njambi will be reporting to Laura. Tough luck.

We strongly believe – and we have our reasons – that this will prove tricky as Njambi has been at CIO East Africa for much longer and knows her away around the company and expecting her to report to (and possibly take orders) from a new entrant (and a fellow woman) will be a herculean task. There is set to be competing egos at play here and we’re sure the directors will from time to time have to be called in to quell fires between the BDM and the CEO.

Others strongly believe that the priority would have been the identification and appointment of an Editor for CIO East Africa instead of a CEO. The publication is currently without an Editor following departure of Robert Hough. Robert, who took over from Davies Weddi in January this year, is said to have quit in a very unusual manner – he never wrote any resignation letter, only left a letter at the hotel (or apartment) where he had been accommodated complaining about his employer. The property manager then had to come with the letter to CIO East Africa offices to sort out issues to do with outstanding payment.

Rough’s departure is however surprising because he was among the best paid staff at CIO East Africa, earning double the combined salaries of the three Staff Writers under him. After the two directors, he was reportedly the third in salary scale. On top of this, he had the company car picking him up in the morning then taking him back in the evening.

Apparently, he got furious after being ordered to stop using the company car to pick him up in the morning and drop him back in the house in the evening, claiming that he still doesn’t know his way around Nairobi.

Going back to Laura, we are yet to understand what exactly she’ll be handling at CIO East Africa with Njambi coordinating marketing with assistance from Harry and Andrew.

Maybe the expectation is that she’ll leverage on her previous relationship with Microsoft to bring additional revenues – via partnerships – to CIO East Africa. However, one can confidently say that CIO East Africa already has deep relationships at Microsoft as the two firms always partner in various projects – examples here being the customised client events, with the most recent being the Cloud Summit, CIO100 Symposium and Awards (where Microsoft always comes in as a major sponsor) as well as Demo Africa.

Anyway, for now it maybe too early in the day to judge what value Laura will eventually bring to her new work station. All we can do is wish her well as we wait to see if at all Harry Hare is prepared to absolutely cede the CEO role to a new party and stay in the background.