Money Inc

Pesa Otas: What some of Kenya’s rich… think about money!

No matter how much money you make, there will always be someone with more dough than you

Money never sleeps: ‘Ambition is what makes life,’ said Chris Kirubi. ‘The day you have no ambition you die inside. Anybody who says they’re successful, they’re satisfied, will not live long, they will get in a coma, metaphorically. So, ambition is part of living. You have to continue being ambitious. There is always another hill to climb and you don’t see the end. Success is a mirage. But I’m very proud that people think I’m a billionaire. It comes with perks, people answer my calls.’

By GW Ngari



You must have spent many sleepless nights wondering, scheming, planning, plotting, musing and dreaming how to become Mr Moneybags, a financial Kahuna.

The knack for making money though, manifests itself in various guises disguised as luck, timing, genius, ruthlessness, insight, as opportunism or stubbornness, but at the end of the day, the First Law of Millions states that “every millionaire creates wealth at somebody else’s expense.” But no matter how much money you make, there will always be someone with more than you. Even if you become Kenya’s richest, there will be America’s Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest dude to deal with. Have you, therefore, ever wondered what the loaded, those to whom cash is no problem, think about money? Here goes…

Rina Karina-Hicks, Operations Director and shareholder, Faida Investment Bank

Being wealthy is when you have sufficient money for two things; purpose and expenses. I’m not yet there, I’m still on the journey to create personal income streams that will be sufficient for those two things….

Shilling wise: ‘There are principles that are applicable when you make Sh1 million or Sh2 billion,’ says the author of Money Wise. On what she struggles with in relation to money, Rina said: ‘I’m a dreamer and that’s not a very good thing. My husband is a planner, which has helped me see that dreaming is not a great thing when it comes to money. You know I have put a deposit for a house without telling my husband, and committed both of us without really thinking through to the end because I’m a dreamer. So, my relationship with money is ah! money can be found.’

Success is lonely…you have a very small circle of friends

Benson Wairegi: Group Managing Director, Britam

Benson Wairegi earns Sh85 million in annual salary minus bonuses. His four percent stake at Britam is worth Sh715 million- part of his Sh3 billion of known investments at the Nairobi Securities Exchange. Wairegi stopped worrying about money “when the media started talking about Benson Wairegi the billionaire. I started asking myself, so what? What’s this? Money is just another commodity.”

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Big shot: The biggest extravagance for Benson Wairegi, father of three, is suits. “I have a lot of suits which I don’t wear. And ties.” He has three cars: A Land Cruiser V8, a 15 year old Pajero KBE and a company owned Mercedes.
Many seek success, but not many achieve it. They are thus oblivious to its hazards. For Wairegi, success is lonely since “you have a very small circle of friends because at this stage people do not want to engage with you too closely.” Why does he, at 67, still work? “Because work gives you dignity.”

 I am not obsessed with money as suchI’m not yet successful

Chris Kirubi: Billionaire industrialist

Chris Kirubi is worth around Sh30 billion, according to Forbes, but said “I never set out to make lots of money. I grew up poor. So I always dreamt from very early on that one day I’d make it. I believed in myself. I was disciplined. But I’m not yet successful. I have a dream. I still have more hills to climb….Jesus Christ followed a very narrow path. The narrow path has its own challenges, but as long as you believe in yourself, you win. I don’t follow crowds. I only believe in one person; Chris Kirubi.”

Smartest guy in the room: On why Chris Kirubi still works despite the billions: “I work for achievement. I am not obsessed with money as such. I’m only interested in doing things that make sense. If I’m doing activities that bring me wealth, well and good. We give many scholarships to poor students; we just don’t make noise about it.”
Free as a bird: Guy Brenna is the founder of Nairobi Distillers EPZ Ltd. He is also one of the founders of private equity fund, Ascent Capital Africa. f the meaning of money he said: ‘I think often the more money people have the less happier they become, especially when they get to extreme levels. It’s very hard for money to be your driving force. Money is a means to an end not a driving force. I suspect that it can be difficult to be happy when you feel everyone is always coming for your money and pretty hard to feel you have genuine relationships.’

Money gets value when you share to lift somebody

Bharat Thakrar, billionaire CEO, WPP Scangroup

He earns Sh78 million annually besides his Sh1 billions stake in integrated communications giant, WPP Scangroup.

“For me, wealth is not something you hold on to. But it is good to have money so you can buy stuff you want and have a comfortable life. I’m not just dwelling on making money because the value of money is to be shared to lift everybody,” said Thakrar who preferred driving himself in small, old but well maintained cars.

“Look there’s a guy who used to carry my golf bag, Kamau. I paid for his daughter’s education from primary to university, she now works for us. I feel good about that. I pay for people’s education, medical expenses…In Hinduism, there are four areas whenever you give money, you do really good; education, medicine, food and giving your daughter in marriage.”

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Billionaire Boys Club: Bharat Thakrar pegs success on ambition — ‘tireless ambition. Everything requires hard work. You need to break a sweat for success to happen. Most people don’t want to run the extra mile…so in my book, it is gold or nothing… many people have PhDs but they are not successful in life because they aren’t ambitious enough, they are lazy, and don’t want to make the extra mile.’
On his extravagances, Thakrar said, ‘I dress well. I spend a lot of money on clothes. If there is one thing I love doing is shopping for myself…shoes, clothes. I’m trying to stay in tune with what people are wearing.’

Everybody leaves their money behind…the more you make, the more you leave

Kariuki Ngari, CEO, Stanchart

Many Kenyans dream of hitting the Jackpot. They plan for money about to be made in a deal, a tender still ‘cooking’. But Ngari, whose predecessor earned Sh100 million in annual salary reckons “it’s not your money unless it’s in your account.”

Many Kenyans also worship money and would even con or kill for it. But Ngari says “one has to be careful about worshiping money. Use it to build yourself and people around you because you’ll leave it. Everybody leaves their money behind. The more you make, the more you leave in bank accounts, assets and people fights will start over it. Lastly, money shouldn’t make you what you shouldn’t be.”

Moneyball: We all have examples of people who did wonders on the back of little income and others who amounted to nothing despite eye-watering six figure salaries. Kariuki Ngari argues that, how much money is enough is thus ‘very personal.’

It was easy to let go of my principles because the pursuit of money was more important than anything else

Nizar Juma, Chair, Jubilee Holdings

“When you are young you think money is success because we are judged by it and you fall into that track. But drug dealers also have money. Are they successful? Yes, they get to control a lot of power, but what kind of power? It brings us back to integrity. Money is important to be comfortable, but ask people who have it if they can hold their heads high if they think of how they made it? I started having different money conversations with myself at 46. I changed my perception of pursuing it for success,” says Juma, now 77.

Trading places: The road to success can make one do things they’re not proud of reckons Nizar Juma, who was born in Uganda where “my father wasn’t a rich man.” He recalls initially lacking character and sense of direction in earlier years. ‘I lacked integrity which develops over time. It was easy to let go of my principles because the pursuit of money was more important than anything else…I lacked patience, I had anger, and I had a huge ego. It takes time to conquer ego because it feels good to be able to say, ‘Do you know who I am?’ But I think it takes more to be able to be judged by what you achieve.”
On why he still works-he sits on 70 boards- despite financial success, Juma says “different things make different people tick. This (working) makes me tick.”

Some individuals are almost by disposition gluttonous

Dr Frank Njenga, psychiatrist

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The eminent psychiatrist was asked whether he thought “greed, this need to grab, acquire and steal is a mental affliction, some sort of sickness?”

Dr Njenga piped that greed is both “individual and almost constitutional. Some individuals are almost by disposition gluttonous. Whether that’s because of how their parents brought them up, or whether it’s in their genes, I don’t know. But the one that bothers me is the greed that seems to be cultural. We have socialised ourselves into systems of acquisition that lack merit… we reward gluttons. We do not punish them for it. We elect them to Parliament. We make them leaders.”

Boiler Room: Of some patients who acquired wealth as an end in itself, Dr Frank Njenga warns ‘I see them here (his clinic) after their time in office, suffering from depression, confessing that they went for leadership to enrich themselves.’

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