Fiona Makaka, 31

Data Protection Officer

Safaricom
My Story

Fiona has found herself in the right place at the right time. Privacy and protection of personal information are some of the leading discourses globally and, at 31, her career could not be more relevant.

When she joined the region’s largest telco in 2019, she effectively became the first data protection professional in Kenya.

On what fuels her passion, she notes: ‘‘Privacy of personal information is an inherent right. You don’t earn it. That’s why the government must guard the privacy of its citizens.’’

That her background is in law could not have anchored her better.

"Privacy of personal information is an inherent right. You don’t earn it. That’s why the government must guard the privacy of its citizens."

‘‘I started law practice in risk management in 2014, working at TripleOKlaw. Later I went to fintech (financial technology) when it was still new.’’

Being the first person to hold the role of a data protection officer in the region when it was a fairly new space did come with anxieties for Fiona.

‘‘I doubted myself in the beginning because I had come from a small organisation to a mammoth institution where I was entrusted with a lot of personal data.’’

‘‘Data protection transcends legal and regulatory environments. It involves risk as well. When I came on board, no one understood the space completely. There was no one for me to ask for guidance from. I had to learn the ropes on my own.’’

The Master of Law student at Liverpool John Moores University adds that professionals handling data at the time were majorly auditors. ‘‘I had to be intentional about gaining skills and an in-depth comprehension of the subject to be able to deliver.’’

Fiona prides herself on contributing to the development of the country’s data ecosystem through training and awareness creation.

‘‘There’s a big skill gap around data in Kenya. I’m involved in training for professionals and helping organisations to implement their data frameworks and policies.’’ Some of these trainings are done in partnerships with the Kenya School of Law.

With a Data Commissioner in place, Fiona believes Kenya is moving in the right direction in its management of information. ‘‘Today, data protection is driven by consumers. There’s, therefore, need to continue educating them on their data rights.’’

Her ultimate vision is to inspire confidence among consumers and “to create an environment where everyone enjoys financial services without fearing that their personal information is being secretly collected or abused.”

James Kahongeh