By Angela Mutiso
Meet Jiji’s CFO, CPA Donald Obonyo—a self-made leader with a global outlook and extensive experience. He advocates for accountants to adapt to the global village reality, stressing the shift to remote computing as the way to go.
As he spoke to the Accountant Journal, CPA Obonyo who is in his forties, counseled anyone seeking to go far in life, to be bold, strong, and focused, and to always seek his savior. He has seen the companies he is associated with win prestigious awards and is quite encouraged by this. Some of these organizations include Tuko Media Ltd, Genesis Interactive Ltd, C45 Technology Ltd, Jiji Marketplace Ltd (Ug) among others. Jiji is a leading online marketplace in Africa.
As soon as this interview began, he explained that he needed to get into an emergency virtual audit meeting with someone from Ukraine. During this audit conference, he was able to sort out audit queries with the audit team in Poland and another in Ukraine. In 15 minutes, he was done.
It is a journey of having a paradigm shift in handling matters accounting. “Currently we do not need to have a physical file or documentation. You only need a Google file which has all the information. With a click of a button you have information that is needed like auditing, in any accounting financial year.”
How did Covid 19 affect this profession?
In the beginning of 2020, COVID happened and so many disciplines got surprised about how we work without physical files. It is a big lesson to all professionals to awaken to the reality that technology is changing very fast. And technology is the way to go even in decision making. We are seeing AI being embraced in several if not all sectors.
“Winning this award has been an interesting journey. I remember doing an article I shared with ICPAK. Many years before COVID came, I highlighted remote computing by professionals in the accounting space. COVID-19 comes and awakens people who never believed in working remotely.”
What made you join accounting?
It was a passion. When I grew up I wanted to be a medical doctor or an accountant. I wanted to do medicine, but due to unavailability of adequate funds to take me to my first choice, I found myself taking up my second option, which was accounting. I do not regret it.
How did you get into the digital world?
It happened while working with Mazars. Mazars had just bought Thomas & Daniel Associates (TDA) where I had worked for six months before the sale. I was listed among the staff to be laid off. But luckily one of our clients from the Netherlands based in Mumias western Kenya, had an organization which was using Quick Books Online (QBO). And it happened that there was no other employee well conversant with this QBO except Me. That is how I found myself absorbed in Mazars. Simply that is how my digital world journey began.
How did you start working with Tuko?
While working with Mazars as an outsourced services accountant, I was assigned Tuko Media Ltd among other organizations. While offering services to Tuko, I was approached by their MD, who gave me a good offer. So I resigned from Mazars and joined them. I found myself in a digital world where we do not deal with papers. Papers became a thing of the past. That was in June 2017. Immediately I got used to skype, telegram, and other digital spaces.
My deep faith has guided my life since I joined the digital world. Starting with Tuko 100% digital company. I became finance head for the two companies, Tuko and Jiji, in March 2020. These two companies are part of Genesis Tech Group of companies which is among the top 20 digital companies in the world with its headquarters in Kyiev, Ukraine.
Are Kenyans embracing technology fast enough?
We are getting there, but there is still a lot to be done. Where we are, we largely do online transactions. Most Kenyans still believe in having cheque books, where you draw a cheque, walk to the bank, cash your cheque or deposit it. Then you give it a few days to clear. I highly recommend that in this age, we should shift from that. In Tuko for the first time, I came into contact with the accounting software, Quick Books online – QBO. Where transactions are posted real time and reports are generated real time. There are times when more than 5 accountants from various parts of the world are hosted with the same software. When you are updating petty cash, someone else from Ukraine is updating the bank and those things are done concurrently and in real-time. That is the technology I am talking about.
What is your most recent award?
The most recent award that I won is KEOnline Digitally Fit Awards 2023 person of the year in the Accountant category, Gold Winner. This is an award meant to recognize Icons creating an impact online.
How did you win this award?
I received an email from KEonline informing me that I had been nominated for the digitally fit person of the year award on the accountant category. At first I thought it was just a spam email but it turned out to be legitimate. The requirements were 30 percent public participation, 20 percent Independent review and 50 percent was a test. I asked how they got my email, they told me they got it from my LinkedIn. I participated among many other accountants and emerged the winner. The event was held at Movenpick hotel in Westlands, Nairobi on the 18th August 2023.
How has your work Journey been? How did you start off?
My work journey for sure has been tough. After completing my CPAI, I set out to look for a job which became very elusive. While looking for an accounting job, I went for an interview in a security firm by the name Securicor. I was told before we offer you this position, you can be a guard, which I was, for six months. I passed the interview and I was taken as a standby guard. It entailed reporting every night and if someone did not show up you’d work for Ksh 150 a night, if the person showed up, you’d stay there overnight, without pay because there was nowhere to go at that time. Thereafter, I got a casual work in the construction (commonly known as mjengo). During this time, we constructed a water tank tower at Precious Blood Riruta along Naivasha Road. At some point I became a tout while managing my brother’s Nissan matatu plying route 46 in Nairobi.
After this, Interesting things happened when I set out to get an accounting job. First I was given an office messenger’s task in a law firm. After this, I worked as a court clerk, then I became a conveyance clerk. This meant attending lands registries and dealing with all land transactions. From there I was upgraded to become an accounts clerk. In order to keep up with the demands of life, I reached out to a friend who had a computer accessories’ shop along Moi Avenue, Nairobi CBD. I would buy safaricom scratch cards for Ksh 5000 give him to sell and make a little profit which kept me going as a side hustle.
At this point, I started attending CPA classes at Visions College, before moving to Pinnacle Business School, where I completed my CPA. From there, I joined Moi University, Nairobi campus, and graduated with a Bachelors in Business Management – BBM. After this, I was employed in an audit firm – Thomas and Daniel associates – TDA. Six months later, the firm was bought by mazars. At Thomas and Daniel Associates, I was taken in as a tax lead but I could do audit function at times.
What do you like doing in your free time?
Football, camping, gospel singing, playing the piano, swimming and nature walk. I mentor people in my profession and I belong to the SDA Church where I sing in the church choir. I am a Church elder, a qualified Master Guide, and an Adventist Men Ministry – (AMM) member.
I am married with one wife and three children.
What inspires you?
I am inspired spiritually. Up above, there is a standard which has been set. Your success as an accountant reflects your commitment to high standards. I have aspired to be one of the best accountants, and succeeded, even though there are still many heights to scale. I have aspired to be someone who can inspire colleagues and friends, including those whom we I haven’t met with physically.
I want to inspire before I expire. I am a trained Master Guide, in Church, I train children between 10-15 years. The motto is- aspire, inspire, before you expire. Before you die, leave a positive impact. I am always inspired by Luca Pacioli “father of accounting”, Civil Rights activist, Martin Luther King junior, former US President Barack Obama and Late former South Africa President, Nelson Mandela; all men of integrity who stood for what they knew was right.
Where did you grow up? Where did you start your early education?
I grew up in Bomoseri village, Sengera Location, Ogembo division, Kisii County. I went to several schools during my childhood, eventually doing my KCPE at Kineni Primary School in Kisii. I then joined Pe-hill High School in Migori County, where I did my O levels before joining Kenya Polytechnic to take up accountancy.
CPA Obonyo serves in various leadership roles, and brings a wealth of knowledge to the organizations he works for. He is a qualified CPA (K) currently the Director at Jiji Marketplace Ltd (Ug), Director at C45 Technology Ltd and Chief Finance Officer (CFO) at Jiji Online Marketplace (K) Ltd, a position he has held from March 2020 to date. He was the Chief Accountant of Tuko Media Ltd/Genesis Interactive Ltd– Nairobi from July 2017 – 2022.
At Mazars Kenya – Nairobi
He was serving as an Out-Sourced Accounting Services (AOS) Accountant from Dec 2016 – Jun 2017
Some of the tasks he was involved included Accounting Services; Assisting external auditors; Drafting management accounts; Auditing & Assurance. He was also involved in Forensic Audit and offering Advisory services to clients. And any other task assigned from time to time by my supervisor.
At Thomas Daniel & Associates – Nairobi…
He was – Lead Tax & Advisory Officer Apr (2016 – Nov 2016), in charge of; Drafting management accounts; Auditing & Assurance; Filing tax returns; advising clients on matters of accounting, auditing and tax; and any other task assigned from time to time by his supervisor.
He is an expert in management accounting, business development, planning and forecasting, project management, financial reporting, audit & assurance.
He is also proficient in financial management, team management, risk management, balance sheet management as well as pricing & costing.
His personal skills comprise; analytical abilities, strong influencing skills, accuracy, and effective communication presentation.
He combines a strong business acumen with effective management skills, and has the experience of consolidations and reporting, a sound understanding of the month end process, and a talent to thrive within a fast-paced business environment organized with excellent attention to detail.
BA (Hons) Business Management, 2nd class upper
CPA (K) Pinnacle Business School-2012
CPA1, KATC I & II -Kenya Polytechnic-1996,
Award-KASNEB-Electronic Data Processing (EDP)-Best candidate
Email – [email protected]