Kepson’s story: From village boy to CEO

Kepson Pupita’s father Pupoita Mu’u.
Kepson Pupita’s mother Puname Undi.

AS a boy brought up in a village, Kepson Pupita is very down-to-earth and community-oriented.
The boy who used to collect firewood and water, and looked after the pigs at Porane village, Kagua-Erave district in Southern Highlands, Kepson is now the chief executive officer of the PNG Oil Palm Industry Corporation (OPIC).
Kepson, 50, dedicates his success to his upbringing in the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
“I thank the SDA church in Kagua-Erave district for elevating me to be where I am today. I was raised up in the SDA church which is part of my life.”
His parents Pupita Mu’u and Kuame Undi still live in the village. Kepson is the eldest in a family of six – four boys and two girls.
His late wife Matalina Soga passed away early this year. She was from Mu’u village in the Sinasina-Yongumugl district of Chimbu.
He is now looking after their four sons and four daughters who are in primary and secondary schools.
Kepson attended Kagua Primary School from 1978 to 1983 and the Kagua High School from 1984 to 1987. He was then picked to attend the Sogeri National High School completing grades 11 and 12 in 1988 and 1989.
In 1990, he enrolled at the University of Technology pursuing the Bachelor in Business Accounting degree course. But a student strike in 1991 forced him to leave.

“ When I die, I will be buried in my village. They will not weep in English over my dead body. My people will cry in my own language. The funeral ceremony will be done according to my culture.”
Kepson Pupita (right) with colleagues. – Pictures courtesy of PEPSON PUPITA

He came to Port Moresby to look for work and was hired by a company as a filing clerk with a fortnight pay of K42.
He returned to Unitech in 1994, to complete the degree course. He graduated in 1996.
On Jan 18, 1997, he was employed as an auditor with the Auditor-General’s Office auditing the books of statutory bodies.
In April 1998, he joined a company in Lae as its financial controller. From 2000 to 2003, he joined another company in Lae as its factory administration manager.
In 2004, he returned to Unitech as the finance administration manager of the Department Of Distant Open Learning. He worked for another company in 2009 and 2010 before moving to Biala in East New Britain from 2011 to 2015 to work in the oil palm industry.
“That’s where I got interested in the oil palm industry.”
He joined OPIC as financial controller in 2018 and became the acting chief executive officer in January this year.
“There is a huge potential to develop more oil palm blocks in Transgogol, Ramu Valley, the Sepik Plains, Purari Delta, the wet and swamp lands of Western, Jimi Valley, Waghi Valley, Markham valley and Simbirigi Valley.
“We are looking at six million to ten million hectares to plant oil palm. PNG has the potential to bring in K100 billion to K130 billion.”
He suggests that the Oil Palm Act 1992 is old and needs to be amended.
“Technology is fast changing and we need to make changes to the current legislation to suit the current business trend. Legislative changes are needed to also make land available.”
Sitting in his CEO office, Kepson has not forgotten his humble beginnings.
“I am a typical village man coming from an area where there is no cash crop or mineral resource developments.” He wants to see villagers coming out of poverty and lifting their living standards.
“That is why I work really hard to help them. I grew out of poverty. I lived as a poor child and went through it. I worked in the private sector with white men and learnt their work ethics and culture. Now that I am working in the agriculture sector. I want to help people raise their living standard and alleviate poverty
“We must not wear a neck tie and pretend. We have to stay with our people and help them develop. When I die I will be buried in my village. I will not be buried in Australia with my neck tie. They will not weep in English over my dead body. My people will cry in my own language. The funeral ceremony will be done according to my culture. When I sit in this chair as CEO, it’s another humble beginning.”