Newsroom > Blog

Browse more

A Globetrotter Who Found Her Way Back to Uganda

By Diana Njuguna | Tue Feb 08 2022
I recently celebrated my one-year anniversary at RENEW. The journey has been a rollercoaster, in a positive way. 
A few months before joining RENEW, I completed my MBA at Warwick Business School. Going back to business school full-time was challenging initially, as I had spent years working in the SME investing field and developed a passion and increased desire for investing and transforming businesses to achieve their long-time vision, and I took a break to embark on an educational adventure. The reason I say it was an adventure is because for the last thirteen years, my life had been a series of adventures, where I called different places home and had a lot of introspection and exposure to different cultures. 
I was born and raised in Kenya, and I would classify myself as someone that is really patriotic and proud of my roots. After seventeen years growing up in Kenya, I moved to Canada for my final year of high school and that is when my journey of being a global citizen began. It was here that I was initially exposed to an environment that was incredibly diverse with students from Canada, Kazakhstan, China, Nigeria, to mention but a few. As a naturally curious person, I was fascinated by the divergence in values, perceptions of the world and desires of different individuals. However, one thing that was clear was despite our differences there was a general understanding as to what makes us human and the priorities of different nations, including economic empowerment. Soon after completing high school, I moved to Rutgers University in New Jersey, U.S.A. to pursue a bachelors of science in finance. While at Rutgers, which again was an incredibly diverse environment, I gained key tools that have formed the foundation of who I am. It was during this adventure that I believe I began to find my purpose. Upon graduating from Rutgers, I was itching to put into practice what I had learned. It was clear to me that my desire was to play a significant role in the development impact and economic empowerment of Kenya. The question was, how could I play a significant role, at the time when there was a wave of economic and social change. It is this passionate desire and indebtedness to my homeland that led me to move back home to Kenya, after living abroad for five years.
After a challenging but active job search, the opportunity to join Pearl Capital Partners (PCP) presented itself and it seemed like the perfect fit because it focused on African emerging markets, Kenya included, and they were attracting a great degree of private equity and venture capital funding. Additionally, it tied into my long-term goal as the firm’s investment thesis was to invest in businesses that would generate social and environmental impact alongside a healthy financial return. Thus, getting a foot in the door at my age would open vast opportunities. While at PCP, I was immersed into substantial work from the beginning and was exposed to investment opportunities across eastern and southern Africa. I was fortunate enough to not only be involved on the investment side, but also got to represent the fund on different boards and be part of a team that was driving companies to become robust businesses that could scale. 
In February 2017, I moved to the Uganda office after being promoted to senior investment analyst and transitioned to the role of investment team lead. The general assumption is that Uganda and Kenya, given that they share a border, have cultures that are more or less similar. However, I was shocked to realize that while our cultures have similarities, there are certain cultural nuances that differentiate Kenyans. I soon realized that I had to tame my initial “aggression” or zeal to close investments in Uganda and had to initially take some time to appreciate and learn the country. As I flashback to July 2018, when I closed my first investment as a deal lead, I recall the feeling of euphoria and sense of self-actualisation that was awakened. The due diligence process and approval process was tough as the fund’s investment committee scrutinized the investment to detail. This accomplishment validated my long-term vision and inspired me to pursue my long-term goal of obtaining my MBA.
In 2018, I began the long and grueling process to go back to business school. While it was tough, I was focused on the fact that my long-term career goal was to be a senior leader in the SME investing field and to have the ability to invest in businesses that could catalyze growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. To achieve this goal, it was essential that I develop strong soft skills such as managerial and leadership skills and to widen my network. My MBA experience at Warwick was a transformative and amazing experience. The challenging, yet scintillating, multicultural learning experience, provided the ideal environment to broaden my perspectives, whilst providing the perfect platform to share insights. Further, the expected differences of the students in the cohort were a hallmark of my experience and provided the opportunity (despite the COVID-19 pandemic) to unify the student cohort through thoughtful, honest and genuine intellectual forums.
Fast forward to the end of the MBA program, I wasn’t sure where my career would take me - London, Nairobi, Paris or Kampala. As fate would have it, the opportunity to join RENEW presented itself, and it was clear that there was a reason that I needed to move back to Kampala. During the onboarding process in Addis, I felt at home knowing that I was part of a team that shared the same values. That is the desire to address the missing middle and support SMEs in Africa in order to scale and be regional champions. The multi-faceted approach that RENEW takes from the Exchange, to the Asset Management Division and finally the Shared Growth Services team fascinated me and I knew that I was part of a team that had a compelling vision and took a pragmatic approach in investing. 
People ask me what I’m most proud of on this journey. The answer is simple: my constant evolution and growth as an individual while staying true to my long-term vision and values. While the journey has led me back to Kampala, I can say with confidence that I’m excited about the adventure ahead, wherever it will lead me.  
Renew Capital is an Africa-focused impact investment firm that backs innovative companies with high-growth potential. Renew Capital manages investments made on behalf of the Renew Capital Angels, a global network of angel investors, foundations and family offices who seek financial returns and sustainable social impact. For the latest on investing in Africa, subscribe and follow us at our social links below.

Related Posts