Kenya is going through unparalleled growth, attracting significant investment in the region and creating opportunities for Kenyans to Come Home and position themselves at the forefront of the growth trajectory. Find out what these industry thought leaders have to say.
Sachen has a BSc in Chemistry and Management from Imperial College, London and has a breadth of international experience in manufacturing, banking, aviation and other service organizations. He is based in Nairobi, Kenya (Home) where he is currently the executive director of various companies and setting up philanthropic foundations in East Africa. In 2012, he was a panelist at the World Economic Forum where more than 700 leaders from business, government, civil society, academia, media and the arts from over 70 countries met in May 2012. Sachen spoke on the growth of manufacturing in Africa, which accounts for a mere 1% of global manufacturing and is losing ground in labour-intensive industries.
Joseph joined Google in 2007, and leads strategy, business planning and operations. He was previously CEO at Wananchi Online, which he co-founded in 1999. He attended The Stanford Executive Program and holds a BS in Economics & CS at City University London. “Google is committed to Africa and we continue to develop and release products that are locally relevant and useful for Africans,” says Mucheru. “African users will benefit from an open and more competitive access market with lower prices. We are also focusing on mobile technology and SMS to deliver information, products and internet affordably to the majority of people in the continent.”
Farzana brings extensive local and international experience in Marketing strategy, consumer insights, digital media, brand development and thought leadership. She believes in the potential for technology to transform everyday lives, particularly in Emerging Markets. Farzana holds an MBA from London Business School with a concentration in Marketing and a BA from Vassar College in New York with a major in International Studies. “I am energized by the potential of tech in Emerging Markets. Kenya to me represents the opportunity for innovative minds to come together and truly see a difference in everyday life. I feel incredibly rewarded in seeing how Google’s contributions to the market have opened up new solutions, changed mindsets and in the process changed my life and career path for the better.”
In 2009, Gachao Kiuna had a choice to make. Either he stayed on at McKinsey, where the 33-year old executive was on track for partnership, or he struck out on his own. Drawn by the growth potential offered by Kenya’s emerging economy, and the heady adventure of running a pan-African business from his home base in Nairobi, he chose to take the entrepreneurial route. “Markets like Kenya and Nigeria have huge amounts of growth potential and are developing,” said Kiuna, chief executive of Transcentury Group, the energy, transport, and infrastructure group. “In East Africa there are companies and people that no one has really heard of that are really growing and that will be here.” He added that he was particularly attracted the idea of being based in Nairobi and operating a pan-African business, saying that if it was solely a Kenyan proposition, he “probably would not have done it.”
In 2002, after graduating with a degree in Economics from the University of Warwick in the UK, Jamie Pujara spent the next few years of his life working in Tokyo and New York. After 6 years, he returned to Nairobi to work in the family business. In 2012, sensing that there was a gap in the property market, he founded and launched buyrentkenya.com.“I noticed that there is a need in the real estate market and decided to create a space where we could put all agents and developers’ properties online under one platform.” buyrentkenya.com is now the biggest website in terms of property listings, membership subscriptions, visitors and leads generated. After six months of operations it was nominated as one of the top 100 companies in the annual CIO awards. The company continues to grow and Jamie foresees that property market as something that still holds massive potential.
“The great thing about this part of the world, is that if you are a little bit creative then you can get on with things,” says chef and restaurateur Kiran Jethwa, on his experience as an entrepreneur in Kenya. Jethwa co-founded the Seven Seafood and Grill restaurants in 2010, with the launch of the first location at ABC Place in Nairobi in October of that year. A second location followed in March 2013 at the Village Market, along with a pre-packaged food company called The Good Food Company. Born and raised in Kenya, the 37-year old left Nairobi as a teenager to attend university abroad. He studied Hospitality Management, and trained as a chef, in England, and the US, before travelling the world as an itinerant chef. In 2009, he moved back home to help restructure the family business and to provide support to his ailing father. “I came back because I had to,” says Jethwa. “I was going to leave, but I saw that there were opportunities, and good opportunities, and that this was a good place to start stuff up. I decided to stay and just get on with things.”
When Camille Rebelo opted to base the African subsidiaries of her bamboo plantation business out of Kenya in mid-2012, her decision was premised on the country’s status as a travel hub for the region, its community of young entrepreneurs, and most significantly, her Kenyan roots. “I had a growing global business and Nairobi was a good base from which to grow our African subsidiaries,” explains Rebelo, who co-founded EcoPlanet Bamboo in 2010. “Kenya itself does not offer the right context for my business of sustainable bamboo plantations and associated processing, but it does provide a good base for Africa-wise operations.” Today, the US-based company is the largest owner and operator of commercial bamboo plantations outside of China. Rebelo relishes the independence of working for herself, and the freedom “to be able to be based from anywhere with no restrictions.” For the Yale graduate who had left Nairobi at the age of 18 to attend university abroad, the decision to move back to Kenya was straightforward: “It was an easy decision – it is ‘home’”.
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