By ‘Fisayo Soyombo
“Owning north of 40 commercial and residential properties in Kenyan capital valued at $200 million and other assets worth $100 million, he occupies 31st place on the maiden Forbes’ list of Africa’s 40 richest people.”
VENTURES AFRICA — Passion. That is the only reason a millionaire, a prominent international figure, a septuagenarian, will submit himself to tutelage from media practitioners he is decades older than, all in return for a place on air — not as the caster of the primetime news or the host of a celebrity talk show with global following — as a disc jockey.
Passion. And it is with that uncommon passion that Kirubi (@ckirubi) has lived all his life, amassing, expectedly, a long list of successes from the avalanche that life heaps on men of the strength of his will.
For many years, Kirubi worked as an administrator at Kenatco, a transport company owned by the Kenyan government. Then in the early 70s, he began building what would go on to become an empire. And this he did in the most creative of ways.
He developed a reputation for purchasing ramshackle houses and commercial properties in Nairobi with loans he obtained from financial institutions, refurbished them, and sold them at a profit. The proceeds he ingeniously disbursed into the building of some of the city’s finest business and residential edifices. Not long after, he was counting the cash. And a time surely, came when the cash became uncountable!
Today, Kirubi, an icon of the Kenyan property industry, is one of Africa’s richest. His mercurial entrepreneurial imprints have spanned such industries as real estate, manufacturing and investments. He holds the largest individual stake in Centum Investments, a private equity firm listed on the Nairobi and Uganda stock exchanges. (Centum is itself one of East Africa’s most coveted investment portfolios, holding significant stakes in Safaricom, the country’s foremost communications company; Coca-cola; and Kenyan Commercial Bank.) He is equally the largest individual shareholder in UAP, East Africa’s third largest insurance company.
In 1998, he bought Capital FM, a flagging local radio station where he later learnt the ropes of disc jockeying. “I didn’t just want to acquire the station solely for the financial dividends it was eventually going to give me; I wanted to love the business,” he would later tell a Forbes magazine interviewer. “I wanted to understand the business from the very basics. So, I approached the managers and told them that I wanted to host a rock radio show. I asked them to teach me how to become a Disc Jockey.”
Like with nearly every other cause he has pursued, his hosting of a weekly rock show has increased the station’s public rating. A once-floundering station now has the largest listenership based — over three million people — in the country.
Owning north of 40 commercial and residential properties in the Kenyan capital valued at $200m and other assets worth $100m, he occupies 31st place on the maiden Forbes’ list of Africa’s 40 richest people.
And he is loved, too — anyone who derives joy from the happiness of others would certainly be. Hear him talk to Forbes: “People say I am one of the richest people in Kenya, but that’s not my concern. I mean, they say I am a god of sorts, but I don’t agree … When I look around at my companies and see the number of people we have employed, it gives me joy. It is more satisfying than having all the money in the world.”