No private company in the ICT sector in East Africa has had such a long, rich and vibrant history
Wilken was founded in 1958 as an air charter business based in Nairobi, Kenya. It later opened up a telecommunications division in 1962. Wilken continued to operate as an air charter and telecommunications company until the 1970’s when the then shareholders, Mr Bruce McKenzie, a prominent figure in Government of Kenya and Mr Keith Savage, divided the company into two. They sold Wilken Air to Cooper Motors Limited (CMC Aviation), now DAC Aviation. They retained the other part of the business, known as Wilken Telecommunications, which operated as a licensed supplier of telecommunications equipment.
Wilken thrived in a sector monopolised by Kenya Post and Telecommunications Limited (KP&T) providing the first satellite earth station into Kenya. During this period, Wilken was the leading and supplier of choice for telecommunications equipment into the sector. Wilken continued to focus on its core telecommunications business, which had by this time established agencies in a wide range of products selling telecommunications equipment into the East African market. Wilken Telecommunications introduced into the market global brands such as Alcatel Lucent, Thompson, Hughes Networks.
Wilken has been in the Alternative Energy sector for over 30 years.
In 1982, Wilken formed a new company, Wilken Solar to take advantage of the emerging opportunities in the alternative energy sector.Wilken Solar introduced into the market global brands such as Solahart, Kyocera, Trace Engineering and Southwest Wind Power.
In 1991, Lords Valentine and Michael Cecil acquired majority shareholding in Wilken with the intention of building up a strategic position in the vital areas of Telecommunications, Satellite and Internet Services, and Security.
In 1992 the directors introduced a broader strategy into the region by removing the risk of operating in one country, Kenya. It was agreed that Wilken would expand into Tanzania and Uganda with fully operating businesses managed independently from Nairobi. Wilken today has a presence in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Ghana.
It was during this period that Wilken also changed its corporate strategy. The strategy was to move towards introducing telecommunications services with its predictable revenues, rather than rely on the traditional sale of equipment in an increasing liberal market and acting as distributors for the large equipment suppliers such as Alcatel Lucent, Harris, Rockwell, Philips, Motorola to name a few.
Liberalisation of the telecom sector between 1995 and 2003, the impact of competition and reducing margins required considerable investment and change to Wilkens strategy. The company looked at markets outside the region and strategically invested into telecom licences in Uganda and Tanzania to become a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) and Internet service provider. The offshoot of this was AFSAT.
AFSAT was set up in 1994 to provide reliable and affordable data communication using VSATtechnology, which transmits data, by satellite. There are currently 600 terminals installed and maintained by AFSAT. The Modern Africa Growth Fund (MAFM) purchased shareholding into AFSAT with a view to expanding the company, not just in East Africa but in other African markets as well. AFSAT now operates in 26 countries in Africa with over 3,000 corporate networks operating VPN and HSSIA solutions. MAFM sold their stakes in Afsat in 2007 to MWEB an Internet company wholly owned by Multichoice Holding International.
Going back to our aviation roots
On its 50th anniversary, Wilken went full circle by venturing back into the aviation business. Wilken Aviation and Westwind Aviation were setup as business entities in the aviation sector. We provide air charter and cargo services to our esteemed clients in the larger East African region.
Wilken Flight Path to 100…..through Africa
Wilken has been in existence for 50 years. For any private company, moreso in Africa, this is a remarkable achievement and indeed a key milestone. The environment that we operate in has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. Significant changes have occurred in the political, economic, social, technology and geographical front. With these changes, opportunities and challenges have arisen in equal measure. Wilken has no option but to change and adapt to take advantage of the opportunities and manage the challenges that exist and lie ahead.
In recognition of the many successes achieved and key learnings over the past 50 years, and to continue to remain relevant in the ever changing market place, the Wilken Flight Path has been developed. The Wilken Flight Path will guide Wilken for the next 50 years leading to the 100 year milestone.
Wilken will continue to partner with global brands to enable us achieve our mission. Africa is the next growth frontier with enormous potential, vast resources and growing economies. It is with this is mind that our Flight Path is destined for Africa, Wilken Flight Path to 100 …..through Africa.