‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series where we pose the same ten questions to business leaders across the continent.
Chris Kirubi, businessman, Kenya
1. What was your first job?
I worked for a company called Shell, which taught me a lot of discipline that has been useful in my life. I used to sell gas; I went round to people’s homes and fixed their gas. I earned little pennies every month; it couldn’t have bought you dinner.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
I get inspired by successful people such as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. It makes me believe it is possible to be successful. I went to the same school as Bill Gates (Harvard University), although he did not finish university.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
What makes me wake up and stare at the ceiling at night is the fact that I am not growing as fast as I would like and my ambitions and dreams are not being fulfilled as they come. I wonder about whether I can get there and how many people I can uplift from poverty.
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?
Determination, focus, never giving up and believing in myself.
5. What are the best things about Kenya?
Kenya has got very bright young people. Kenya’s human resource is unequalled in Africa. I am sure, put together under proper leadership, which we are acquiring now, Kenya will achieve a lot.
6. And the worst?
Poverty. We have unacceptable poverty levels.
7. Your future career plans?
I would like to continue opening a new company every three months. Retiring is a story to tell another day.
8. How do you relax?
By working even harder.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
The youth should study hard and view themselves as job creators and not job hunters. They should be determined and stay focused.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
By focusing on educating our people, commercialising agriculture and opening up mineral resources. We should not allow our products to be commoditised and sold as raw materials. We should do the value addition ourselves.
Chris Kirubi is a leading entrepreneur and investor in East Africa. He first started in business by buying decayed properties in Nairobi, renovating the buildings, and then re-selling them for a profit. His property management company, International House Limited (IHL), owns and manages various residential and commercial buildings in Nairobi. Kirubi also controls, or has a stake in, a number of East African companies, including: consumer goods firm Haco Tiger Brands, investment company Centum, UAP Insurance and the DHL franchise in Kenya. In addition, Kirubi also owns popular Kenyan radio station Capital FM on which he is also a DJ. Kirubi is very active on the social media site Twitter and regularly posts comments via his handle @Ckirubi.