INTERVIEW WITH MR. RORY HARRINGTON, DKT ETHIOPIA COUNTRY DIRECTOR
Rory Harrington is a management professional with extensive experience in private healthcare and medical services. He has more than 25 years of business experience, the last 12 of which have been spent internationally in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Asia, and Africa, working in both the private and public sectors. In his most recent positions, he recruited and managed multicultural teams of professional sales consultants, and established and managed new country operations with full P&L responsibility.
Mr. Harrington joined DKT Ethiopia in June 2014 after working for International SOS and Abermed, global medical service providers, as well as completing assignments for DKT International in Sudan and Northern India.
Mr. Harrington sat down with DKT Ethiopia’s Public Relations Officer, Fitih Tola, for an interview about his stay in Ethiopia and his future plans for DKT Ethiopia.
DKT: How do you find Ethiopia? How does it compare to other places you have worked? Rory: [Ethiopia] is unlike any other African country I’ve ever worked in before. As I say, it has first of all, a documented culture that goes back thousands upon thousands of years. That alone makes it unique within the African context and lends a richness to Ethiopian society that I haven’t seen anywhere in Africa and in most of the other countries that I have travelled to.
How is it different? Those are some of the differences. The cultural richness is a big difference.
There are also some similarities, though, because Ethiopia belongs to the developing world. It’s facing the same challenges that much of the developing world is facing. Rampant urbanization, the march towards middle income status, being able to control that, being able to make sure that there is an even distribution of wealth among its populous as it becomes wealthier, as it attains middle-income status.
There are manifest challenges in terms of regulation or regulatory restrictions on the private sector that sooner or later I hope the government will relax, because I do believe – and this is just my personal opinion. I’m not speaking for DKT here - but I do believe that no developing country will ever fully realize its potential unless the potential of the private sector is unlocked, and completely unlocked…
DKT: What do you see as the major opportunities in Ethiopia? Rory: The major opportunity is to take advantage of all the socio-demographic changes that are taking place. We can all see that Ethiopia is moving towards middle-income status, that people are becoming wealthier. Per capita GDP over the last 4 - 5 years has gone from about $250 per person to over $650 per person, so people are getting wealthier.
That creates tremendous opportunities for a company like ours that sells their products, that builds brands, that creates a consumer desire for the best products around or the best products available. So, there is a wonderful opportunity for us to capture even more of the market share that we have leveraging off that increasing wealth that the average Ethiopian is experiencing and will continue to experience.
Other opportunities. Of course, the donor environment is changing significantly. The old donor model of giving aid to poor African countries. That’s dead. And donors understand that. So the opportunity for us is now to transition from a donor-dependent entity, just like Ethiopia was a donor-dependent country. The opportunity we have now is to transition along with Ethiopia to become a financially independent, self-sustaining entity. We have to make sure that we do that in lockstep with Ethiopia itself.
But that’s a tremendous opportunity, a tremendous opportunity, for DKT to build our own revenue base, to become more efficient, to become more commercially minded, to create more wealth. And this is absolutely vital to create more wealth for the people who work for DKT, in that way contribute to Ethiopia because the more wealth you create, the more income you can pay your people, the more salaries, the more incentives, the more tax they can pay, which goes directly to the development of the country.
DKT: What is your strategic vision for the organization for the coming five years? Rory: I’ve referred to it already in some of my past answers, but the big strategic challenges that we face now. Firstly, we need to grow CYP (couple years’ protection) and revenue. We must grow CYPs and revenue. For the last four years, our CYPs have been stagnant. They’ve gone up a little bit, down a little bit, but they haven’t grown. So that’s challenge number one. CYPs is how we measure our health impact, the affect we have on the Ethiopian populous.
The second thing we have to do is grow our revenue. We must grow our revenue. That’s the only way that we become financially self-sufficient, financially independent. So that’s another strategic goal that we have. We have to at least triple our revenue, hopefully quadruple our revenue base at the moment.
All of that feeds into one sort of overarching, primary strategic objective, which is to move from a wholly, a completely donor-dependent entity to a partially donor-dependent entity in five years time. What that’s going to look like, no one knows. I don’t know what the future holds. But I do know that we must move from where we are now, which is 100% dependent on donors, to being dependent on donors to a far lesser extent. And the next five years beyond that, so 10 years from now, I would like to see and I believe that we have to do this, we must become fully financially independent.
DKT: Have you seen anything unique in Ethiopia? Rory: Every day is different. Every day brings something new, something exciting, from casual interactions with Ethiopians in the street to high level negotiations with suppliers and government officials - my day is never boring in Ethiopia! Every day brings something new, something exciting, something I haven’t seen or encountered before…
DKT: What do you think of injera? Tire siga? Rory: Well, if you’re asking me what I think of Ethiopian food, I love Ethiopian food. I have eaten tire siga a few times now and, yes, I am westerner, a European that loves eating raw meat. I have no issues with it. I do not, like many of my counterparts, find it disgusting or offensive. I actually find it very delicious. But you must remember I’m South African and South Africans love meat. Even when I order a steak, I order it very, very rare, so it’s bloody and pink in the middle. So tire siga is just one step before that. And especially in Ethiopia, you get to dip it in awaze and all kinds of good spices. I love it – what’s not to like?
As any of my colleagues will attest, kitfo is one of my favorite meals, which is once again, just another version of raw meat.
Injera? I love injera. In fact, I love it too much. I have to be careful, disciplined about not eating too much.
DKT: Anything to add? Rory: Just that it is a pleasure and a privilege for me to be part of the DKT Ethiopia team. Never have I had the pleasure of working with such a dedicated and fine group of professionals. And although the challenges that are facing us in the future are many and significant, I absolutely believe that we as a team have the talent and the commitment and the perseverance to meet and exceed all of the challenges, all of the objectives that we set ourselves for the next five years. So, bring it on. 2015 is going to be a great year, challenging, exciting. No one is going to be bored - it will be rewarding ! What more is there to say ?