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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:
Check out personal stories of these Kenyans that have "made it" by moving back:
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.”
As a Kenyan, Kiuna said that one forgives many of the negatives of living here, including the poor infrastructure, the cost of living, and the inadequate security, which are outweighed by the lifestyle and support that are beneficial to his young family.
The entrepreneur left Kenya at the age of 13, bound on a scholarship for school in England. He did his undergraduate degree at Imperial College in London, before graduating with a PhD from Cambridge University at the age of 24. He shunned the academic world for the corporate one, and went to work for McKinsey in its Johannesburg office. Among the projects he worked on there, was to advise the Government of Kenya on the development of the Vision 2030 project.
Executive Chef and Owner
“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. “A bit of ingenuity is what you need.”
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. The exposure whet his appetite for opportunities in Kenya, and instead of returning to his former life, as planned, Jethwa decided to stay on and try his luck on home turf.
“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.”
He adds: “From a business point of view, this is the right place to be. The opportunities I have uncovered here, I would never have found elsewhere.”
Partner and Co-Founder
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, with over 500 employees split between Nicaragua and South Africa. The goal of the company, which is equally focused on its social and environmental impact, as well as financial growth, is to transform bamboo into the timber of the 21st Century.
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’”.
CEO & Founder
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:
“Property has a universal appeal, from the fresh graduate, to the 70 year old pensioner, to the middle aged investor. Everyone is interested in property. Making property searching easier, transparent and accessible to everyone is what we strive to do.
“There is so much that can be done here [Kenya] ! I feel the future of Kenya and in the larger context Africa, is very exciting. We have a growing middle class, have made real progress in infrastructure and have a growing population of internet users. This, along with other factors opens a whole new spectrum of opportunities that didn’t exist ten years ago. With specific regard to the real estate market, the fact that year on year the demand for housing exceeds supply tells you something about how much there still can be done. I also feel that at the country level, there great opportunities that are yet to be explored.
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