Twiga Foods appoints Peter Njonjo as its Chief Executive Officer.
Peter Njonjo, the most senior Kenyan and African manager at soft drinks multinational Coca-Cola, has left the company after 21 years to take up the position of CEO at Twiga Foods, fresh produce and fast-moving consumer goods distributor.
Mr Njonjo was until Wednesday the president of Coca-Cola’s West and Central Africa business running the operations from Abuja, the Nigerian capital. He was previously general manager for the Coca-Cola East Africa franchise, overseeing 13 bottling companies that directly employed more than 7,500 people.
He is now set to take up the role of chief executive of the Kenyan start-up, of which he is also a key shareholder.
He takes over from co-founder Grant Brooke, who is set to retain an executive role in the business. Founded five years ago, Twiga Foods uses technology to distribute fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables.
The firm has signed up over 17,000 farmers spread out in 20 counties to supply produce that the mobile-based start-up then resells to a network of 2,500 retailers. All the firm’s transactions are mobile-based.
The company is banking on major investments in technology — including the use of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence — to increase efficiency in the distribution of fresh produce, starting with the Nairobi market before branching out to other towns in the region.
Having worked in 33 countries in Africa, overseeing Coca-Cola’s sophisticated distribution systems, Mr Njonjo is expected to change the way Twiga Foods distributes farm supplies to a growing urban middle class, while seeking to make the products affordable and readily-available using the kiosk model.
Through the Twiga Foods mobile platform, a vendor can order stock for delivery within 24 hours. The firm runs a logistics infrastructure that includes trucks, refrigerated warehouses, depots and sales teams.
Mr Njonjo, 42, disclosed that his vision is to create “more efficient food markets in Africa and improved food security”.
Neeraj Garg, who has worked at Coca-Cola for 25 years, was picked to succeed Mr Njonjo.
“We support Peter’s decision to use his leadership skills in solving a significant social issue that cripples the economies of many African countries,” said Mr Nikos Koumettis, the Coca-Cola Group President for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Twiga Foods counts Private Equity Funds such as 1777, AHL Venture Partners among its investors. Forbes Magazine last year reported that the company had inked a $10 million (about Sh1 billion) investment deal with the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), private equity firm TLcom and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme.
“Twiga has an aggressive growth plan,” Mr Brooke said, adding the succession was part of a strategy to achieve that plan.
The company’s expansion, expected under Mr Njonjo’s stewardship, will be determined by how it responds to competition from entrenched supermarkets and malls that have invested heavily in the sale of fresh farm produce. It will also face competition from smaller mobile-based logistics companies that deliver fresh supplies directly to customers’ homes.