Magazine article New African

Chris Kirubi: The Billionaire on Wealth Creation

Magazine article New African

Chris Kirubi: The Billionaire on Wealth Creation

Article excerpt

Chris Kirubi, the envy of many entrepreneurs, is a celebrated household name in East Africa. In an exclusive interview with our Nairobi Senior Correspondent, Wanjohi Kabukuru, the Kenyan billionaire discusses business from a continental perspective.

In his usual impeccably well-tailored attire, Kirubi can be all smiles with catwalk queens, gracing society magazine or newspaper pages, or entertaining listeners on his music show under the moniker "DJ CK". Never mind that he does this radio show on his own radio station. Away from the entertainment scene, Kirubi will appear dapperly dressed in double-breasted suits with presidents and diplomats, discussing economic policies. But behind the smile is a perceptive mind that has weathered the storms of East Africa's bullish stock markets and mastered the intricate art of corporate boardroom negotiations, whose scale is almost always dizzying multi-billion-dollar deals.

Kirubi has been among the key faces known as Kenya's "Mr Money Bags" for five decades and counting, with vast interests in energy generation, fast-moving consumer goods, media, health care, hospitality, financial services, processing, retailing, real estate and even manufacturing. And just when one begins to think that he is considering letting his astute ideas rest, Kirubi says he is still dreaming of new investment ventures.

"I dream of how to create wealth," Kirubi begins in our interview. "I know I haven't achieved all I want and I am still working on doing more. We are not theoreticians, we are practical and know how to do business in Africa."

Creating wealth

To give credence to his dreams to "create wealth", Kirubi articulates his roll-out of two mammoth mega-bucks power projects and East Africa's largest shopping mall simultaneously.

"You cannot be competitive in the world if your cost of energy is high. For Kenya to supply the world we must make our energy competitive. At the moment our costs are a hindrance," Kirubi says and cites Ethiopia, which has become East Africa's leading exporter of electricity.

"Ethiopia is very competitive. If the Ethiopian economy was open they would be very competitive with us," he adds.

On the one hand Kirubi has marshalled a constellation of local and international investors to realise the $2bn Amu coal-fired power plant in the Kenyan coastal county of Lamu.

This fossil fuel power plant, which is expected to generate an additional 981MW into the national grid, has in the recent past generated controversy among the Lamu Island residents and environmentalists keen on the heritage status of the region. The billionaire businessman does not fret about the answers he gives.

"Coal power is what is used in many developed countries with few complaints but it becomes a sensitive subject when developing countries want to use it. Their plans are our task as African countries is to plant trees so that our forests can clean the air which the developed nations have made dirty, thereby slowing our progress," he contends adding:

"We cannot hold back development. We have lots of young people graduating and they don't have jobs. We will be installing modern technologies in our coal Plant to reduce pollution. We must Have progress and at the same time safeguard the environment."

A known pan-Africanist, Kirubi says there is great and limitless potential on the continent but believes more can be done:

"Our young people need jobs. Without jobs they are lured easily to drugs, crime and even extremist groups. But a guy with a job thinks of a home, a wife and investments. He has little time for mischief." On the other hand he has advanced plans for the $300m Akiira geothermal power plant in the Rift Valley county of Nakuru, a 2-hour drive north-west of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, which is expected to generate 140MW.

In between is his $161.2m Two Rivers shopping mall right at the heart of Nairobi's diplomatic hotspot. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.