Headquartered in Kigali, Rwanda, EPC Africa Group aims to build sustainable industries in Africa, and it’s a vision that the company’s Founder and CEO Ferdy Turasenga says starts with the local communities. “We break down the daily needs of our nearby communities and focus on them one by one, from housing and schooling to economic activity that supports them,” explains Ferdy.
From procurement to construction to the hydro-electric industry, the Rwandan group of companies is mindful of local needs when expanding to new areas. “We need long-term investment, but this does not only mean financial. We also need to understand the local context,” Ferdy says. “We invest resources and share the value with the local community. We are not seen as just a company who comes in to trade, but as one who is here to stay, sharing the liabilities, assets and opportunities.”
Involving youth and embracing technology are the company’s first steps in long-term engagement. “The younger generation has access to technology, which is catching up with everybody. In order to stay longer in the environment, we need to make sure the youth are involved and part of the change. We educate young people and ensure technology is always part of it. We involve the youth in our workshops, and we give them on-the-job training to make sure we boost their confidence and give them hands-on experience,” he explains. “With this strategy, we can have a sustainable, long-term, environmentally friendly framework. This is the only strategy that can keep renewable resources sustainable. Otherwise, they will also become non-renewable.”
And when it comes to running a company, Ferdy keeps people who share his ideals close to him. “I learned that if you want to achieve a lot in a short time, you don’t need to work alone,” he says. “You need to select the right people, who have similar dreams and are heading in the same direction.” Ferdy also surrounds himself with tech-savvy people he calls “digital minds” to keep ahead of changing trends. “I make sure I keep people like this around me and learn from what is going on because I cannot master everything. By synergy, networking and partnerships, it’s possible to achieve this.”
Loyalty, respect and open communication are values Ferdy holds close, especially when it comes to building business relationships with suppliers and partners. “You have to work closely with them, keep close communication, exchange ideas and experiences, and honour your agreements,” he says. “And make sure you don’t focus only on your own interests, but also consider the other party’s.
Ferdy doesn’t look past these values when it comes to working with colleagues, either. “Be honest and direct with each other, be respectful and intentionally care for each other,” he says. “Always give people time; listen to them and see what you can learn from them, no matter what level they are at and where they come from.”
For Ferdy, the biggest challenge in business has been proving himself as a young CEO. “My dreams are big, my company targets are high, but sometimes the biggest challenge is when somebody looks at me and questions how old I am and how long the company has been around. They forget that we are in a new era with a new generation where everything’s changing,” he says. “People judge me based on my experience, but we haven’t had a chance to create a long track record. People might not give you a chance because they want to see a 10-year balance sheet, and 10 or 20 similar projects completed by you. But, maybe some of us were still at primary school then. Being a young CEO who is leading a new company, I’m always coming up against these roadblocks.”
Still, this hasn’t stopped Ferdy from creating his dream, and he doesn’t look past the people who have helped him. “People are amazing. My philosophy is to empower people aiming to build infrastructure on the African continent, and the result is the beautiful story we have today,” he says. “My greatest contribution was to achieve my dream and convince the partners and staff. My real job today is to sharpen that dream, to make sure everyone keeps looking forward to where we are going.”
And at the end of the day, he adds, “I always say to my staff, ‘I know that you are giving your best, so just go home and relax, and have a good night’. I believe in doing the best I can to maximise my efforts, my resources and my time, and then when I go home, I rest.”