When Owen Silavwe first stepped into his role as Managing Director of AfricanFinancials member, Copperbelt Energy Corporation Plc (CEC), he had one big question on his mind: What difference can I make and what value can I bring?
“What I thought was important was for me to try and engage everybody in the company; just to understand what people’s expectations were,” Owen tells The CEO Magazine. “I had to go through that process of talking to various people in the organisation and for me that was quite insightful. It probably shaped some of the strategies that had to be improved.”
CEC is one of Zambia’s leading energy companies; owning and operating a network of transmission, distribution and power generation assets including high-voltage substations and transmission lines. The company accounts for 50% of Zambia’s energy consumption and supplies power to the country’s largest industry – copper mining.
Prior to his role as managing director, Owen served as CEC’s Commercial Director. He then rose to COO before becoming Managing Director of Operations. At the time (2013), CEC was undertaking a major acquisition in Nigeria through its then wholly owned subsidiary, CEC Africa Investments Limited (CEC Africa).
“The managing director at the time was then sent to run the new acquisition in Nigeria,” Owen says. “There was a lot of work to do in terms of the focus to turn around the business in Nigeria. At that time I was identified to pick up the position of managing director in an acting capacity.
“Entering the Nigerian market was going to introduce a new dimension to the company that had to be managed,” Owen explains, “and it was going to cause totally different risks. You believe that you understand these risks but when they begin to materialise, their magnitude becomes much clearer and it challenges all the systems you had in place back when those decisions were made.”
In December 2016, the two companies –CEC and CEC Africa – were demerged and now operate as separate entities. “CEC is growing and it continues to make profit,” says Owen. Owen reflects on how, when he became managing director in 2014, he saw the opportunity for CEC to thrive even more.
“I thought we had been looking quite narrowly in terms of what our market was and indeed who our suppliers were,” he says. “We needed to look at how we could expand both on the supply side, as well as on the demand side.”
This also meant taking the copper market into consideration. “The biggest sector of the business is linked to copper, which has cyclic patterns on the global market,” Owen says, adding there is always an associated risk to the copper industry. “The main issue here was how to outgrow this risk and begin to grow.”
“The biggest sector of the business is linked to copper.”
One of the methods Owen used to lead the company to further growth was by tapping into the resources available within the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP). “That was more of the focus for me; how can we begin to look at not just the Zambian market but at opportunities that the SAPP offers…”
View Copperbelt Energy Corporation’s website
View Owen Silavwe’s profile
Read the complete article: The CEO Magazine
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