Up-close with Eng. J.M. Riungu,incoming IEK Chairman
Engineer Riungu is acknowledged as one of the best electrical engineers in Kenya today. At the age of 62 this engineer has 39 years of engineering experience in which he has participated in major projects. He will therefore bring in immense experience and ideas as the new chairman of the IEK. Eng. Riungu is the current CEO of Tsavo Power and has held this position since April 2008.
Educational Background and Work Experience
He graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical & Electronics Engineering from University College London in 1973. In that same year, he underwent a Graduate Apprenticeship Training with General Electric Company Ltd. (GEC) of UK in Manchester, Stafford and Rugby.
When he returned to Kenya, he continued his graduate apprenticeship with the then East African Power & Lighting Company Limited which was later renamed Kenya Power & Lighting Company. He was appointed a 4th Assistant Engineer in Customer Service in July 1975. He rose through the ranks and was appointed Deputy Managing Director in 2001.
He was involved in the creation of companies such as GDC, Transcom and Ketraco. In 1996, he played a major role in the introduction of Independent Power Producers (IPPs). While in the Ministry of Energy, he was largely involved in the preparation of the Ministry’s Strategic Plan and in developing the Ministry’s performance indicators. He also left a mark in Kenya Power & Lighting Company after initiating reforms in the respective departments. He took charge of GDC in 1989 as the acting Geothermal Development Coordinator, where he managed the drilling of Olkaria II and III wells.
Strategy for IEK
As the incoming chairman of the IEK, the engineer has a vision to better the institution. He seeks to increase what he terms as the fellowship between the engineers by creating more forums where they can meet more often and discuss national matters that touch on engineering.
He believes that if the engineers meet more often they will be able to point out problems and discuss their solutions as well as come up with new ideas.
Preach engineering in learning institutions. Most people have a wrong understanding of the profession and it’s only wise to diagnose this problem from the root. He plans to come up with programmes that will see already established engineers meet with secondary and university students. This will help to inspire them to grow and practice engineering.
Besides taking care of the engineers’ welfare, he seeks to mobilize engineers into evaluating Vision 2030 and see what they can do to deliver it. This will be done by getting the engineers into the counties where the developments are expected to start for the Vision 2030. ‘Make a move’ is how he summarizes his intentions as the incoming chairman of IEK.
His thoughts on Engineering in Kenya
According to Eng. Riungu engineering as a profession is yet to be fully established in Kenya; however this is not to say that there is no progress. The engineer acknowledges that the profession has made commendable strides. He advises that for any significant development in Kenya the profession should be recognized and appreciated both within government and private sector. Riungu believes that the way things are done changes every day and engineering is meant to help the society adapt to that.
Riungu strongly recommends appropriate postgraduate training system for the upcoming engineers in the country. The first step being the setting up of new training institutions and equipping them with the right machinery and equipment needed for training. This would then be followed by getting the right personnel to train the students and give them industrial exposure.
His biggest challenge as an engineer came when overseeing the mapping and drilling of some of the geothermal wells at Olkaria. He had never worked in the geothermal discipline before since his area of specialization was in Electrical Engineering. He had to learn about geothermal power and understand the language used just like in any other discipline. It took him some time to be accepted as a professional within this sector.
He however conquered that and after two years as the acting manager, KPLC in consultation with World Bank (the chief financier) appointed him to be in charge of the whole project.
Riungu is quite keen on details and almost nothing will escape his eye. He loves playing squash and jogging during his free time.