He oozes influence and affluence. Even Kenya’s wealthy call him rich!
He has been praised as a business mogul, a bold and vast entrepreneur, an exceptionally fearless risk-taker and much more. Surprisingly, Chris Kirubi does not buy into the labels people use.
“Labels are for cans, not people. It doesn’t matter what your parent, teacher, relative, leader, competitor, ex-lover has labeled you. You need to understand that you are more than that label and reach out for your greatness,” states Kirubi.
Speaking about greatness, did he ever know how great he would grow up to be?
“While growing up, I may have feared for ‘tomorrow’ but I never doubted that I would succeed,” he is quoted as saying in Capital FM’s Ask Kirubi segment.
True to his words, his is a rags-to-riches tale. Kirubi was raised in hopeless dearth and he even slept on the streets.
“I was raised in abject poverty. The sole definition of poverty was me, and honestly I didn’t feel as though I was anything more than that. I was educated by well-wishers whom I never got to meet and thank. I would attend school without shoes. I mean, shoes were a luxury I simply could not afford,” he told.
So when did the pauper-turned-multimillionaire get his first pair of shoes?
“During one of the holidays, my well-wishers bought me a pair of shoes which I was afraid to wear for fear of destroying them. When schools closed, I would never look forward to going home because of my status because my friends would invite me to share in their festivities with their families,” Kirubi recounted.
Despite the hospitality and warmth he was shown by his friends’ families, little Chris envied the life of his age mates.
“Several times, I would watch my friends and their families, and desire some of the things they had. I vowed that I would not be bound by the shackles of poverty. I knew that one day my education and knowledge would be my means to success,” recounts Kirubi.
Education is the key to success they say, and Chris Kirubi completely buys into this adage.
“At that time, success for me was the ability to complete my education, earn money and cater to my basic needs (and that of my siblings) as well as seeing to it that my younger brother completes his education.”
While other children were enjoying their school holidays, little Kirubi was busy trying to make ends meet.
“Eventually, I began working over the holidays and I’d wear the only pair of shoes I had to move around so that I’d look presentable. I would use my earnings to support my brother’s education (now a professor at USIU) and whatever was left would cater to our basic needs.”
Since then, Kirubi has never looked back to lament – but has used his experience to motivate, inspire and give a gleam of hope to the hapless in society.
“One thing is for sure: my difficult background did not deter me from having a vision. You see, poverty motivates those who have tasted its impact. And since I was lucky to have received support and advice from others, I had all the wealth I needed.”
Today, the tycoon says he is a reason to believe you can achieve your dream.
“I am a reason because I believed the unbelievable. I am a reason because I did not give up. Success does not automatically qualify for riches. It means that you have achieved what you set out to achieve,” said Kirubi.
Kirubi is the current Chairman of Centum Investment Company Limited, a business conglomerate, in which he is the largest individual shareholder.
His investments include approximately 29% shareholding in Centum, a 49% shareholding in Haco Tiger Industries Limited, 100% ownership of 98.4 Capital FM, a 9.58% ownership in UAP Insurance and minor interests in a number of listed firms, including Kenya Commercial Bank Group, Nation Media Group and Standard Chartered Kenya.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, Kirubi worked as an Administrator at Kenatco, a government-owned transportation company.
Starting around 1971, he began buying run-down buildings in Nairobi and Mombasa, renovating them and either selling the refurbished structures or renting them out.
He also began acquiring strategic pieces of land in and around Nairobi, and proceeded to erect rental residential and commercial properties on them, using loans from Kenyan financial institutions.