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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chris Kirubi Kenyan Billionaire - Kenya Richest people

Meet Kenyan Billionaire, Chris Kirubi

Meet one of Kenya's richest men is Mr. Christopher Kirubi. He is worth over $120million (close to Ksh10 billion).

Chris Kirubi is your playboy billionaire. He is something of a Donald Trump and Hugh Hefner rolled into one.

Some of Chris Kirubi's holdings in Kenya include the International House Building in Nairobi- a Nairobi landmark which houses many of Kenya's largest corporate organizations. He is also the largest individual shareholder in Centum Investments, DHL Kenya and Tiger Brands, South-Africa. On the side, he is a Disc jockey with his radio station, Capital Fm.
He drives a Range-Rover and Mercedes s600.

Last time we interviewed you, you were Chairman of KAM. What are today your areas of interest ?

I spend a lot of time doing public work. I am trying to become more or less an activist, and get the Government to change or improve policies, in order to create an inductive business environment. But even since I am an investor, I am still doing the same either directly or through our association. Having made a very familiar name in the country, I am constantly involved in meetings, interviews, press, radio and TV. I am also focusing on developing governance ethics.
The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) is trying to promote corporate governance as a major player. We also have another organisation that is looking after business governance promotion in companies, especially public quoted companies, and encourage them to become transparent. Hopefully, this kind of practices will eventually filter also to the government.

I am also involved in Global Coalition for Africa. I have just come back from Canada where I participated in meetings aimed at organising the conference of Presidents in Botswana later this year. In the Corporate Council for Africa, the Presidents meet every 5 years in order to discuss and develop issues and policies.

How would you characterize the level of entrepreneurship and competence among the Kenyan business community ?

A lot of people need more training. Finding good managers is fairly easy but finding quality entrepreneurs and investors is more difficult. You can be a very good manager but not a good investor. So far, our people have not had a chance to be exposed to high-level investment, partnering with international companies, and creating businesses across the borders. I think they lack the know-how, the research on what they can do. I hope that sometimes I can act as a model for people to learn through; I hope they learn through what I do, but we do need to empower our people. When I say our people, I mean Kenyans- the indigenous Kenyans - because no nation can strive if the investment is only a foreign one. So, we need to transit them from being farmers, shopkeepers and small restaurants to investing in high technology for instance.

What should be the role of government in that process ?

I think government must create an enabling environment, and also make sure that their Research Centres supporting these people are adjoined. It’s not a one-way support.

How do you perceive the collaboration between private institutions, and the government in the economic field ?

We are still struggling to better understand each other. We need to get more exposure of the civil servants into what is the impact of business. I believe it is coming, but it’s coming in a negative way because government is retrenching a lot of workers. Therefore, these workers are now looking for jobs in the private sector, but the private sector is going through a recession. People have now come to realise that the need for alternative employment centres is important. I am sure that people who remain in the government will do their best to create the right environment for the private sector, which can be an engine for economic growth.

What could be the impact of the Small and Medium sized Enterprises in fostering job creation ?

It’s nice that you ask that because I am involved in that sector. I am the Finance Chairman for the “Jua-Kali” sector; it gathers the small micro and medium operators. It is the base of a growing economy. I believe government can do more to support these people.

These people need revenue, access to funding and technical support. They need advisory services in marketing and product designing, and these are not coming forward. The government itself, being totally ignorant about business, doesn’t know how to advise them. What we are trying to do now, through other institutions like the World Bank, is to empower this sector because it is the only alternative source of creating jobs and livelihood for the people. Indeed, farming which was the alternative source is now choked with too much population. The agricultural sector is not doing very well; coffee is facing pricing problems - and costs when managing a coffee farm are high. Moreover, not everybody can have a piece of land to grow vegetables.
That sector also needs to develop to become more organised in their means of production. Anyone doing business should be trained at how to keep records, how to keep Books of Accounts, whether they are making money or losses. Some people just work but they don’t know they are not making money. So they need training on that level to understand what business is all about - and I do hope we can work together in partnership with the government to support this small sector.

I am personally appealing to big corporations to support the small industries. I am trying to create linkages between small people and big corporations. The big corporations can use what small people produce, and can also help them to open window-shops to sell the goods produced by these big corporations. A very successive example is the partnership with Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola is a very responsible corporate company. They are supporting these people; they are helping them to build up their ‘kiosks’; they are teaching them on how to run their businesses; they have a training school, and they have also assisted in giving funds. The Bank can also lend them money, and in doing so as a local initiative, it is possible to get additional international support to come in. I believe it is very important to cast some local initiatives undertaken by big corporations.

How crucial are the current negotiations between the government and the international financial community, World Bank and IMF in particular ?

To me, this is presently our life-blood. If government cannot come to an agreement with the IMF and the World Bank, it will cause a disaster in this nation. Right now, the government knows they cannot manage the economy without external support. They seriously need support, so they must do all that is required to become compliant and to open the doors to these Bretton Woods institutions, to other bilateral donors, the European Union and others who are waiting on the side to come back to support Kenya. So, we must address the issues of corruption and governance. We should downsize the size of the Government. Transparency and personal interests for these leaders who are in charge of various sectors must be addressed very quickly.

How can the private sector help in these negotiations ?

We help by pushing the government to achieve and do what they promise to do, because sometimes they promise certain things they don’t deliver. If they collapse, we also collapse as well. It is survival for all of us together. The monetary policies could collapse, so the interest rates and the inflation must be kept under check. This cannot happen if the government has got enough funds to run their responsibilities.

To your opinion, which reforms should Kenya implement in order to improve the East African economy ?

Actually, we need to check the inflation; we also need to make sure that we address the issue of national security. We need the government to be more efficient in the utilization of their resources. One aspect is to get certain resources, another one is how to use these resources, and how to achieve efficiency with the money spent. This comes back to the issue of governance transparency. I have also been advocating the issue of quality management. For many years, we have appointed people on jobs on the basis of tribalism and on “whom you know”. I think government must end up that policy. Right now we need the best captains in every sector to be able to drive the country forward in the right way. If you keep posted people who don’t understand what their role and their jobs are - the business and the country will just collapse. We know that in the private sector you cannot have a managing director who is not capable to run a business. The number of business plans put in place does not matter. So, it is time for the government to put the right people in the right jobs. The human factor is very important..

How optimistic are you for the future ?

I think the future for Kenya is here. I only feel sorry that we have lost a lot of opportunities. We lost time and we now have to face many challenges. The issue of the AIDS endemic; it is an issue which is going to give a new challenge to this nation. 20% of our people are in bed and want medical support. It is a very big challenge, not only for the government but for the families who are looking after this people; those who suffer the most are all the orphans, the children, the mothers who have nobody to support them. So there are major challenges ahead, and the only way to overcome them is to:
- Focus on the economy,

- Reform the government to a position that it can meet with these challenges

- Have the right people in the right place

- Stick to the right planning and reduce wastage (there is a lot of wastage).

We must also privatise all these means of production that the Government has been running inefficiently. Most parastatals must be transferred from public to private sector.

It is one of the issues that should be implemented because we must improve our supply of power, supply of telecommunications, supply of water. They can be run by the private sector in a more efficient manner.

To what extent can COMESA solve some of these issues ?

The most important thing is to harmonise our investment planning, to open markets for each other, so that we have bigger markets. We also need to market the region internationally because big investors don’t want to go to a small village; they want to operate in a big market size. Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania together will attract investors with more money.
Another important point is to trade among one another, buying from each other. Your best partner is your neighbour. So we must build this relationship and support each other so that all the economies can grow in the region.

At which stage are you as far as regional cooperation is concerned ?

We have only reached the talking phase. There is still a lot of suspicion. There is still a lot of resistance, wanting to keep the old ways of doing things; there is still a lot of jealousy. Nationalism needs to go beyond small interests and that must come from the leaders. The Presidents in the region must guide and move the process forward, otherwise there is no future. We must open the movement of labour, people must move from one region to the other; the European Union's way shows that it can be achieved. The Americans are doing it, so are Canada and Mexico. Who are we not to embrace this same movement?.

What would you say are the most interesting niche markets for grab ?

I think Tourism is marketing Kenya and Uganda altogether well. We need investors in the infrastructure sector, which is huge and untouched. The roads, telecommunications, water and even Health Services, the Hospitals supply of drugs and medicines. All these infrastructure are still untapped.

What final message would you address to our readers ?

I would tell your readers to focus and visit the region; there is a good potential for growth, and plenty of opportunities. The cost of entry to the market is very low compared to other countries. There are good people who would like to find work opportunities. Unlike South Africa where labour is very militant, very labour-unionised, our labour force here is very good, very co-operating and that is very important for anybody investing in the region. There are a lot of opportunities. Kenya is a sleeping giant. One needs to be an adventurer and come and see where they can make their marks. So I do encourage people to come. Personally, I am investing here and I see nothing but opportunities; so I am investing more and my business is doing well. I do hope that I can help. You have my address, anybody wanting any enquiry, any support, I am here to support them.

Chris Kirubi – We separate the man from the myths

Drum May 2011
This man Mr Kirubi!
When it comes to Chris Kirubi, there is as much man as there is myth and it is difficult to separate the two. That does not mean we won’t try.
Let us start with the basics. Chris Kirubi does not live in a penthouse on the top floor of International Life House. He
drives a sporty car, not an out and out convertible sports car – two are parked under a canopy in his wide driveway. He works way harder than he allegedly plays.   Many myths envelop this man who for all his media savvy, is very media-averse. He does not give interviews, and he certainly does not ever conduct them in his home. We are aware that we are a privileged lot.
If you are wondering in what ways Kirubi could possibly be a part of your life, think many – that could easily translate into millions of hundreds. Haco Tiger Industries give you cocoa butter in its many applicable glories. You write with Bic, use his bleach on your fabrics, rinse your clothes in his fabric softener before hanging them out to dry – using his pegs.
You must have eaten his company’s rice, taken a mouthful of his oats, and shaved using his razors if you live in South Africa because, well, he is part of a company that is listed on the Jo’burg Stock Exchange that manufactures razors.
Kirubi is on the Forbes online list of 20 most influential men in Africa and apart from being the Haco chairman, he is the CEO of Capital Group and owns shareholding interest in Centum, an investment firm that is listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange. When we arrive at his home, we are ushered into a waiting area, through another waiting area with a security TV and intercom, and into a living room. BBC is on air and one of the 3 visible large, flat screen television sets that we will see today, is on. All three are tuned to CNBC.
We sink into a sofa that faces a U-shaped sunken pit docked inches away from the screen. To our far left and almost inconspicuous in the expanse of a cleanly-manicured green that is similar to a mini golf course, is a piano. It, like everything else in the home, is mirror-like in its clean reflection.
Kirubi descends the second flight of stairs that leads to a landing between the floor we are at, and the upper rooms and whose walls are adorned with pictures of family, friends and his travels. He is in a pinstriped charcoal coloured suit and the first thing we see as he descends, are his feet shod in fluffy slippers. Several similar slippers are lined up at the foot of the stairs. “I cannot believe you are here, in my house,” he greets us. “No one has ever interviewed me in my home, except once, many years ago and it was a favour to a personal friend.”
The thing about Kirubi, is not just how he speaks, but what he says in a slow, almost hesitant drawl. The best way to describe his innate honesty would be that he speaks like a man without an internal filter, answerable only to himself, which has earned him the reputation of an eccentric. “Don’t tell me to go and change,” he declares, and we are hard-pressed to understand whether he is serious or not.
Practically every single item in Kirubi’s home is a potential conversation starter. Next to the dining room is a three-tier fountain surrounded by sculptures and above it, a chandelier that casts a remarkably natural light into the setting.
Kirubi is without a doubt a collector. On the in-house bar, for instance, a vintage cash register sits pretty, light bouncing off its golden exterior. The most interesting sculpture has got to be the one of a well-built man who is folded and crumpled in a cross-legged position, his large hands and long fingers hiding his face in what could be anything from agony, shame or pain.
Where, I ask does this extensive art collection come from? His response is flirtatious. “Why don’t you stay behind then I can make you part of my art collection?” When asked if he entertains a lot he take his time before offering, “Sometimes.”
The in-house bar faces a locked cellar that he later opens, after surprising us by changing into a casual shirt – losing the jacket and pair of gold bracelets that earlier peeked from beneath his cuffs.
The cellar holds a collection of drinks and he tells us as he picks up a bottle of Courvoisier, “this is not a house of beer.”
He gamely pours for the photographer’s shot, and when he strikes a match we all wait with bated breath for the flames. It does not light up so he pours it out. There is enough wine in the cellar to declare it a winery and the contents include a sprinkling of mixers. Behind us is an eclectic mix of drinking glasses and surprisingly, a heavy and very clean, gleaming charcoal iron box.
Isabel Le Roux’s poignant richly coloured and beautifully textured paintings are just part of the vast collection of paintings around his home. Roux is a South African contemporary expressionist whose work can fetch between Ksh90,000 to Ksh 1.5 million per piece. There are also several paintings around the home that have a distinct West African flavor. The arrangement in the ‘casual’ living room is similar to the one in the more ‘formal’ living room.
Both are airy, large and well lit. A pair of life-size elephant tusks with a gold band around each one frame another television set in a set-up that almost looks like a fireplace. A large portrait of our host rests on it, next to one of him with a woman in a wedding gown and him in a suit, and another of her alone. Another U – shaped sofa faces the television screen and behind us another sofa and a reclining area, all piled high with satin covered cushions.
All the tables in the house are glass topped and the glass sliding doors open to reveal a swimming pool. A small bridge closes the gap between the pool and lounging area. The shelf in the formal room holds books and crystal. He has books everywhere and the titles reveal that  his reading habits are very much those of a man’s man – Robert Ludlum, Mario Puzo, Jeffrey Archer: all in hardcover and as pristine as everything else. Other titles include a host of management and financial planning books. Everything is well cared for. What caught our attention were the armed guards wielding AK-47s.
Of the rest of the staff, we only saw one man, his uniformed chef who served his  breakfast.
All in all, Kirubi’s home is like one large art form where you have to tread carefully lest you knock down something valuable, such as one of the many delicate vases.
DRUM: You were recently named by a Forbes blog one of the top 20 most influential people in Africa. Did they have a chat with you personally?
C.K: No. They made contact through my assistant. Most of what we do is in the public domain as well so it was not that difficult for them. Also, what we do as Capital FM is streamed online and catches the attention of many. We interact with many parts of the world and I am not surprised that a magazine like Forbes would pick me. People are not appreciated much at their home base so it was a pleasant surprise. My work is not the only thing that I do. I am also on the Coca Cola International Advisory Board along with other key world business leaders. I am also involved in work to stop the spread of HIV and Aids. I feel that it is a threatening disease to the young people. They are very active and more likely to be infected and with no youth there is no future. The private sector has also been called upon to help the government and other than that, the youth are also my customers. They listen to my radio station and use my products.
DRUM: You are one of the few Kenyan CEOs who is Internet-savvy. You have a blog, two Facebook pages and a Twitter account. Is this a strategy?
C.K: I belong to this online community and have to be accessible to the youth. The beauty about the social network is that when they want to, they can reach you. I give them ideas and business advice. It is a useful medium of communication. We need to empower youth to succeed more than they have already done. I am a creation of society and I feel that I can share with them what I know. As for the Capital FM website, that has succeeded beyond expectation. It has 3 million hits and is a most powerful media. I do not have to build masts or own newspapers. We are in the new era of digital media that is quite underutilized. Reaching 3 million hits in a month means growing at a phenomenal rate. We should always look to making international comparisons, not just local ones.
DRUM: You work with a number of talented women. One could say you believe in women’s empowerment. How has the experience been for you as an employer and what would you say have been some of the challenges?
C.K: Women are basically half of the population. You ignore them and you are incapacitating half of the population. They are as good as men and sometimes even better at certain jobs. They are very committed. The only challenge is when they need to take four months off to have babies. I do not begrudge women that, but I find myself in the peculiar position of replacing her temporarily with someone who then comes in and does such a great job I am reluctant to let them go afterward and I have often ended up employing two people for one job. It can be very costly and frustrating.
We need to find a middle ground. I am not sure what that is yet though and I am still working on it. I also think that the Kibaki administration has done a lot for women in this country. We are on the right track. I do not believe that there is such a thing as a glass ceiling for women. Just like the youth, they must wake up and fight for what it is that they want.
DRUM: Having been named one of the most influential men in Africa, what would you say is your kind of influence?
C.K: I know that people say money is power. I am active in the economic world and the business world and share the platform with great people. I am taken seriously when I raise issues and would say I am an economic powerhouse. People with money should not sleep on money. They should allow it to be used, keep it active. Also, I make a lot of business decisions that empower people. I have employees that I personally know of who have spin-offs from my core businesses, and I have encouraged them to grow. I touch peoples’ hearts in many sectors be they traders, sub contractors, suppliers. They are all part of my chain of economic empowerment.
DRUM: What would you say makes partnerships, like the one you have with South Africa through Tiger Brands, work?
C.K: If you do not have a vision, it does not matter who you get in business with. It will be like water and oil. It will not mix. If you find people who share your vision, there will be no room for conflict. Haco and Tiger believe in the same things.
DRUM: You blogged once that everyone examines their failures but you examine your successes. How do you do that?
C.K: I set goals, once I achieve them, I review the next move. I do not sit on my success. I keep challenging myself. I don’t believe anything ever reaches its ultimate success. You must continue striving and must know the purpose of doing what it is that you want to do.
DRUM: What would you say is your greatest success and would you say that you have arrived?
C.K: Coming from my very poor background to getting to where I am now. I have created job opportunities and I employ many people and mentor others. I have a number of young people I have mentored who say they do not want to work with and for anyone else unless it is Chris Kirubi and I think I have achieved my vision of being successful.
DRUM: There are many rumours about you that you must have heard of. You obviously do not live in that penthouse for one!
C.K: May be it is the connotation of what a penthouse is and represents. All the penthouses on International Life House are rented out. They don’t belong to me. My lifestyle is very free and I do not do things behind the backs of people. If you are successful, people generate and create who you are according to their own imagination then again, we belong to the people. I would also be interested by someone who is like me – if at all I were the one they are referring to. A lot of people spend their lives asking themselves questions such as where am I going? Who am I? I am a very normal human being.
DRUM: Is there a woman in your life?
C.K: People do say that I am spotted with a lot of beautiful women around me all the time. I have many women admirers and you cannot blame them for focusing on what they think is interesting and as a man, I do not see anything wrong with appreciating beauty. My products are after all focused on women and I am very happy enjoying the company of beautiful women.
DRUM: Do you ever wonder if they are interested in only what they think you can give them?
C.K: I don’t question if they are interested in me. I think I am nice-looking, and interesting, not boring. I judge people by how they behave and it is good to give someone a chance.
DRUM: You seem averse to media yet you are actively in it. Is this deliberate?
C.K: I don’t talk about myself. I like people to focus on my achievements and what I have done. I feel it is not fair, and besides, I have had my share of attention and that there are many other great stories out there to focus on.
C.K: When I first started in radio I could not change it or the people in it. The only way to do it, I figured, was to be one of them and it grabbed their attention. I built a brand bigger than I thought I would. More than I expected. It is how I relax, it keeps my blood pressure low. I must admit though, that I had not thought of an exit strategy.
DRUM: What is your net worth? There have been plenty of estimates ranging from several hundred millions to billions in Kenyan shillings.
C.K: I honestly don’t know. I don’t think about it and in fact, do not consider the number to be important. It is what you do with your money, not how much of it you have, that counts.
DRUM: What, really, do you do for fun?
C.K: I play golf, love massages and I try and get one weekly. I entertain, sit with friends and share ideas. I also read a lot.
DRUM: What is your favourite holiday destination?
C.K: I don’t go on vacations. When I go for meetings out of the country, then I consider that a holiday. You cannot succeed when you are not on top of things. I am directly involved in my businesses and in most of my things. My ear is always to the ground. I am not sleeping on the job.
DRUM: Where do you shop?
C.K: I shop when I travel which is all over the world. Italy, Milan, London, New York, Dubai, and I always go to shops where they know me personally. I am very consistent with my brands and have tailors who make me what I need. I also prefer Italian suits. I have plenty of those.
DRUM: What kind of music do you listen to?
C.K: Rock, because it is the slot that I got and because I have come to love it. I also love jazz. Sunday is one of my favourite days.
At this point, Kirubi looks at his watch, leaps up in amazement and declares he must go change so he can be in his office in time for a telephone conference call. He jumps into his Mercedes Benz 4Matic parked next to a Range Rover of a similar shape, form and shade of black, and asks me to follow him, but all I get to see is the receding tail end of his car disappearing. This, I sigh, must be how his competitors feel.

For any ambitious business person the shift from being an entrepreneur to an industrialist is not always easy. Often in family-run operations it means injecting fresh blood into the business to move it to the next level. So when Chris Kirubi, the founder and chairman of HACO industries called in Polycarp Igathe's services, the move was strategic. Igathe is the managing director of the now re-branded HACO tiger brands, the Vice Chair of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and has frequently been profiled as one of Kenya's top ten CEO's under 40. Tonight on money and power I introduce you to the man responsible for changing a bright family idea into a pan African business worth billions of shillings.

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