NAIROBI : UCHUMI chief executive says he will put the retail chain back on its feet in a year and the strategic plan includes use of technology to entice young shoppers. Julius Kipng’etich said the once household name retailer will then re-enter the markets it has pulled out from.

“In a minimum of one year, Kenya will have recovered to be the springboard to the rest of Africa. In five years, Uchumi will be Africa’s Walmart,” he said on Friday.

“We are looking at changing the retail model. Once we change the model, the number of people we will require will be less but the way the customer is served will change. Its a labour intensive game,” he said.

He spoke on the sidelines of the Insurance Institute of Kenya’s annual conference in Nairobi. In July, Uchumi suspended its expansion strategy after sacking the previous CEO Jonathan Ciano, and kicked off cost cutting measures that included closing of nonperforming branches and laying off staff.

It has since pulled out of the Uganda and Tanzania, closed down its Syokimau and Maua branches in Kenya and put on sale its Ngong Road and Langata properties.

“We have already decided how we are going to renter those markets and we have assured employees who used to work in the stores that they will be the first ones to be taken in,” he said.

However, he said the re-entry strategy will depend on how Kenya recovers because its the base for Uchumi. Kipng’etich said investigations are underway to establish any case of financial fraud given that the supermarket had done a rights issue.

“We are investigating why the proceeds were not used to pay suppliers and we will tell shareholders what happened,” he said.