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Youthful Doctor Fixing Kenya’s Health Sector One Hospital at A Time



Dr. Maxwell at His Ruai office

“If you want something so bad the universe conspires to give it to you,”  says Dr.Maxwel Okoth.

While working as an intern at a public hospital located in Central Kenya Dr. Maxwell Okoth came face-to-face with challenges besetting the country’s chronically underfunded health system and decided to do something to ameliorate the forbidding situation.

This altruistic act inadvertently catapulted him into becoming the youngest social health entrepreneur to own a world-class referral hospital with a 100-bed capacity in Africa’s third-biggest economy in dollar terms.

“We would be in a delivery room with an expectant mother and the facility would intermittently suffer power outages while other times basic medical kits to perform an operation would lack and as a consequence patients would be shortchanged in service delivery,” says Dr.Okoth, a 2010 medical graduate of the University of Nairobi (UON), the country’s premier institution of learning.

He was 25 years old then.

It was while he was doing the rounds in the theater that Dr. Okoth met his epiphany, leading him to become a problem solver rather than a whiner. “While working as an intern I saw a gap in the area of access and provision of affordable health care and that’s when this dream started. There was a huge health need in the country that needed to be fixed especially in maternal and child health care, “says Dr. Okoth.

Kenya has a little more than 8,600 registered medical doctors – in a country that has more than 56 million people as of Jan 14 2023  – and as of 2020, the country had 12,792 registered medical doctors, resulting in a ratio of 26 physicians per 100,000.


Retrospectively, within a year of graduating from medical school Dr. Okoth’s destiny steered towards entrepreneurship.

And this should not have been surprising.

A sneak peeks into his past while at the university presciently shows the medic had a contagious urge for running a personal business. “While at the university I was involved in Kenya’s first e-commerce platform known as which I shut down when I got into my fifth year at the med school for I found it difficult to run a business and the same time concentrate on my education,” says Dr. Okoth.

Convinced that a lacuna existed in the local medical ecosystem that needed to be filled, Dr. Okoth began scouring for a location to set up his inchoate idea, settling for Ruai, a dusty peri-urban dormitory town disproportionally populated by the lower cadres of society located in the furthest eastern part of Nairobi, because “there were only a few professionally run facilities there” he says.

He began with an outpatient facility at the Ruai shopping center in one of those ubiquitous buildings dotting Africa’s land mass whose architecture is simply functional using a loan of Ksh 300, 000 (USD$ 3000) from his mother’s retirement benefits.


Verifiably, the 26- year -old medic was now moonlighting as an entrepreneur.

On 11th Sep 2011, the rubber met the road and he opened the doors of what he eponymously named Ruai Family Health Center (RFHC). It turns out Pamela, the mother to Dr. Okoth had been laid off from work at a local lender, courtesy of cost-cutting measures the bank was executing, that came with severance pay for those affected. Robert her husband had preceded her into retirement. 

In retrospect, Dr. Okoth did not expect to get a loan from his mother, who had proved to be a stern disciplinarian to her five children, with the fledgling entrepreneur being the eldest. She had a special liking for the term frugality

“ Growing up mum would give you anything you wanted in terms of books, shoes, and school fees but not money. She brought us up with tough love. Imagine if I topped in class and I walked into the house to inform her of my achievement, she would only say ‘ that’s good’ and the matter would end there,” says Dr. Okoth whose formative years were spent in Homa Bay County.

To date, Dr. Okoth still wonders what mellowed her mothers’ heart in handing him the wherewithal to kick-start his project.

“I do not know what made her weigh in on my project. But like I keep saying if you want something so bad the universe conspires to give it to you,” he says.


In Dr. Okoth’s telling, the mother has had a seminal effect on him.

 “ I recall one day when I was tempted to steal a thousand shillings (US$ 9) from my mums’ handbag for the purpose of going to the movies with my peers. When my mother discovered what I had tried to do, she whipped me thoroughly. And from that day I vowed never to involve myself with any form of impropriety,” says Dr. Okoth who began the clinic facility with basic equipment. He then hired a clinical officer and a lab technician while still attached to a District Hospital. And only when he got a chance to sneak in the evenings would he go to check how his inchoate business was evolving.

Sadly, the clinic was barely sustaining itself and at some point he gave up his rented house in Kiambu, opting to sleep in the clinic.

“I was paying both my employees including rent and buying clinic supplies from my pocket and as an intern, I was just paid Ksh 48,000 (US$436.64),” says Dr. Okoth who in April 2012 was transferred to Nyeri Provincial Hospital, which is 150 km NorthEast of Nairobi as a medical officer, a move that arguably worsened his business prospects.

Meanwhile in December 2012 while traveling to Nairobi to carry out a routine check at the clinic, he was involved in a grisly road accident that left his car written –off leading an insurance company to pay him Ksh 600000 (US$5,463) as compensation.


He agonized about buying another vehicle as a replacement but instead opted to approach a medical equipment provider.

After making a down payment of Ksh600, 000, the hospital was provided with X-ray and ultrasound machines as well as theater equipment.

“I do not know how they accepted my down payment but even in my shaky financial status they gave me equipment worth about Sh4 million (US$ 36,427),” he said, of the Dec 2012 transaction.

“I was then required to fork out Ksh 232, 000 (US$ 2112) monthly as loan repayment and I had no idea where I was going to get the money from. I only had faith that things would work out in my favor,” he says.

With new equipment installed, Dr. Okoth hoped to divert patients that visited public hospitals within the Ruai neighborhood into his medical boutique.


“I remember the theater was in some small room but it could save a life when the occasion called for it,” he says.

Unfortunately, the business failed to pick up as he had anticipated and he was forced to take another loan from a bank to make the first payment to the medical equipment suppliers.

When he eventually got an opportunity to spend time at the clinic he was surprised that within 12 hrs the books indicated Ksh 26, 000 ($ 237) had streamed in.

“ When I was in Nyeri the team I had employed was telling me no patients were showing up and when the going was good they were only able to record Ksh 2000 daily which was a rare occurrence. So I was routinely forced to pay them from my pocket. It’s then that I realized they had been stealing from me and I parted ways with them,” says Dr. Okoth.

He then hired a clinical officer whom he had supervised during his internship at the Nyeri Provincial Hospital to supervise the medical facility.


Then in Dec 2013, the country experienced a doctors’ strike and Dr. Okoth got time to camp at the clinic it was at this point that he realized the people he had employed were actually stealing from him.

They would under-report the clients they had served and many times he would go back to his pocket to get the clinic running to a point where he was about to give up. But on the first day, he camped there he saw 20 patients as opposed to the average six patients the clinic used to attend to daily. So I fired all of them,” he says.

 “ This was like a re-birth for  Ruai Family Hospital. It’s always dark before dawn,” he says.

RFH Health Care Hospital

RFH Health Care Hospital

In June 2014, a month before his internship in Nyeri ended he received a financial boost from a Government run Youth Development Enterprise Fund (YDEF) which loaned him Ksh 1.8 million (US $ 16374.06).

From his experience, Dr. Okoth says people interested in starting a business should not be afraid of taking bank loans if they possess a vision.

 “Don’t be scared of risks because the biggest risks have the biggest rewards,” he says.

A month later the clinic relocated to a bigger space within Ruai for verifiably the space he was operating from had become too small for the business.


“I spoke with the landlord of this premises and he was very kind to us. I also convinced my girlfriend to sell her car. We used the cash to clear our debts and also partition the new building,” he says.

Now the Ruai Family Hospital was occupying all three floors of an imposing building in Ruai Town and was the biggest private health facility in the town.

“It was a journey and we were now making ends meet,” says Dr. Okoth.

The hospital now had 40 beds, and 12 permanent employees and could afford to hire top doctors on a need basis.

“On average, we served 60 patients daily and we were now listed with all major insurance companies in Kenya including the government-run National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF),” he says.


In 2017 Dr. Okoth bought land within the same Ruai locale and began putting up a landmark building which in 2019 saw the emergence of the celebrated 100- bed RFH Specialist Hospital, the name change indicative of the ambition imbued in the D.N.A of the 36-year-old doctor who currently owns four hospitals, all fixated on serving what he calls the “lower mass market”

“I want RFH to be the next disrupter in healthcare. I see the brand becoming a Pan African Group. And the biggest challenge in Africa is getting access to health care and mostly not because of location but because of the cost and value of health care and that is the disruption we are working towards. I see a continental brand, ” says Dr. Okoth.

It turns out that after 12 years of running the hospital Dr. Okoth this January 8  announced he would be exiting the CEO perch. 

“I will therefore be handing over the day-to-day operations of this institution to a team of very able management,” he said.





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Tabitha Karanja’s 25-Year Reign as CEO of Keroche Breweries Ends



Keroche request for 18 month grace period to clear tax arrears

Tabitha Karanja, the Nakuru Senator and long-serving CEO of Keroche Breweries Ltd, has announced her resignation after leading the company for 25 years. During the company’s 25th-anniversary celebrations on June 13, Mrs. Karanja expressed her pride in passing the baton to a new generation of business leaders. She stated, “After 25 years at the helm, it is time for me, Tabitha Karanja, to step down as the CEO of Keroche Breweries and entrust the leadership to a deserving successor.”

Mrs. Karanja’s departure comes at a challenging time for the company, as it faces a liquidation suit and a protracted tax dispute with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). The tax dispute originated in 2006 when Keroche filed a judicial review application contesting the KRA’s classification of its fortified wine products, resulting in a tax assessment of Ksh1.1 billion. This assessment included significant amounts attributed to income tax, excise duty, withholding tax, and Value Added Tax.

Keroche has been engaged in legal battles against the tax demands, and on March 16, 2022, the brewer reached an agreement with the KRA on a payment plan. The agreement aimed to settle Sh957 million in undisputed tax arrears and led to the lifting of agency notices that had frozen the brewer’s bank accounts.

Keroche Breweries CEO Tabitha Karanja showing off her brands

In her resignation, Mrs. Karanja criticized the KRA’s enforcement actions and shared her perspective on the discussion surrounding the alcoholic beverages industry. She emphasized the industry’s economic significance and highlighted anticipated tax revenues exceeding Sh250 billion from the alcohol sector in the current year. Mrs. Karanja called for a balanced and progressive approach to industry regulation without undermining its existence.

With Mrs. Karanja stepping down, the new CEO will inherit the company’s challenges, including an insolvency petition related to a Sh233.7 million debt owed to a Nairobi law firm, Hamilton, Harrison & Mathews. Mrs. Karanja’s decision to resign will allow her to fully dedicate herself to her role as the Senator of Nakuru County and as the Deputy Leader of the Majority in the Senate, representing the nation with humility and gratitude for the trust placed in her by President Dr. William Ruto and the esteemed Leadership of the Kenya Kwanza Coalition.

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Market Capitalization Ranking of Kenyan Banks, not a metric that Bothers, CEO Standard Chartered Bank Kenya



Mr. Kariuki Ngari, CEO, Standard Chartered Bank Kenya

1.What is Standard Chartered Bank Kenya best known for? Out of the 42 registered banks in the country. Where does it have its economies of scale and where do you want to take it? 

We are known for our digital expertise and our innovation. Our underlying platform for serving our clients both on the corporate side and our retail clients is superior technology. That is how our clients describe us and they expect us to be on the cutting edge of technology. 

Our bank is on the phone. For instance, our retail clients, it has over 70 – 80 services that an individual can do on the phone. On the Corporate side, we have our platform called Straight to Bank.  When it comes to digitization and innovation, we are on the top. 

Second, we are also known as a connector bank. We are the only international bank operating in Europe, America, and Asia. The bank connects by bringing capital into Kenya to support clients who want to expand into Kenya or out of Kenya, in Africa or Asia, and also supporting governments. That’s our niche and that’s where we play. 

2. You took over the reins of leadership in 2019, since then, the bank has implemented strategies that have witnessed an increase in women’s representation in senior management positions. Gender parity on the board has improved from 23% in 2019 to 45% currently with women at the management level and across… and marginally 45% – 54% respectively. What triggered the move and what sort of impact has it had on the impressions of the bank?    


I believe we are a bank that believes very strongly in inclusion. Diversity and inclusion are part of our ethos. It’s part of our culture. It’s routinely said that 52% of our population is female. Kenya is half half, it’s 52:49 or 51:50 there. If you think about it from a business perspective then it doesn’t make sense to exclude such a big part of humanity in the organization. 

Today about 57% of our total population is female. But when you start going into the more senior ranks, women’s fingers start dropping. So we have to take very concerted efforts to ensure that women are represented equally well. Our ambition is to be at 50:50 whether it’s at the rank and file, senior management, the board, or the executive membership, our goal is to be at 50:50. We have work to do especially in senior management.

At the board level, we are OK, in fact, it’s 54% in terms of representation. So it’s very concerted and how has this helped? You see the best of our female colleagues bringing their best to work and then they stay on… so there is competition and you are not losing any talent because talent is not confined to the male gender alone.

Talent is in both genders so when you deliberately work to ensure both genders have equal opportunities and they can rise to the top of the organization then an organization such as Standard Chartered Bank Kenya is able to reap positive dividends. 

3. Standard Chartered has been in the local market since 1911. What has been its mission in Kenya? 


We have been part of the transformation of Kenya when you think of what Kenya was in 1911… There is a book I have been reading about Kenya in those days so you can imagine when you talk about the transformation, when you talk about facilitating trade, when you talk about commerce, that is what has been at the heart of Standard Chartered Bank of Kenya.

We are a bank that has been known for facilitating trade. Our purpose is to drive commerce and prosperity within our unique diversity. And this is something that makes us proud of our heritage. I meet clients who tell me they are grandparents. And that they opened their accounts in the 1930s, some in the 1950s, so we have been part of what has happened in Kenya in those years.

The transformation that you have been seeing, we are a big part of that. Finance is what moves an economy, it’s the oil that moves an economy, so for us to have been there for that long, and we continue to be there in different shapes and forms. It is something that we are really very proud of and we will continue to be here for a long time to come. 

4. Standard Chartered has been a signatory to the United Nations Compact since January 2019. How has the local unit benefitted from being a signatory? 

I see you did your research. Where did you dig that out from? That is the global compact…


I think when you look at the aspirations of the United Nations, and when I look at the SDGs, there are 23 of them. In terms of how the world can become a much better place for both men and womankind, it was imperative for us to have been a local signatory.

First of all, I serve on the board and I am the deputy chair, which helps especially when you are helping the younger SMEs, and the much smaller SMEs to really have a set of values that they can leverage on, allowing them to align themselves with international organizations such as ourselves.

These things are there because we will always go for the global cause, but when you come to the institutions in Kenya, the SMEs for instance, need somebody to help them in areas of say governance, or anti-corruption. 

So that is what the difference has been in our role as being in the global compact locally and also in my role as the deputy chair, it helped me help a lot of the local organizations in the local chapters who do not have that global scale so that they can be able to do some of the things they do.

There are a lot of companies that we have helped in matters of sustainability and now they are able to define what it means for them and this allows them to have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of how they can have very clear codes of conduct, how they can have clear KPIs they can measure to.


5. On 13th June 2022, The Lender launched its first Sustainability Impact report highlighting efforts made to accelerate stewardship towards the environment widening economic participation between and within communities and addressing the growing imbalances brought about by globalization. To date what milestones can you report as having been achieved as a result of this initiative?

Also, you indicated the bank would raise 10% of its revenue from sustainable resources. With the initiative pegged on the bank’s sustainable economic growth perspective, which has two client business segments, how are we doing on this front?

First of all, it was something that we are really proud of in terms of launching that sustainability report. It’s the first time that it has been done within the Standard Chartered group, so it’s something we are very proud of. My colleagues in corporate affairs, brand, and marketing are extremely proud of that milestone. 

Secondly, it helps you audit yourself. You see, these are goals you set for yourself and there is nothing important in life as you know as setting your own goals. And then you look back and say: did I manage to deliver or hit the goals that I set for myself? So that sustainability report helped us reflect and actually go through and see where we have fallen short and what we need to do, what more we need to do and that helps. Just to give you a couple of examples.

If I look at one of the areas that we worked very hard at since I became CEO it’s when we talk about our supplier base. We talk about women’s businesses, I mean women-owned businesses.


There are very few organizations that can actually tell you how many suppliers to their organizations are women-owned businesses. So we established a baseline. Let’s go through our database and see all suppliers, how many of those are singularly women-owned businesses. And when we talk about women-owned businesses we mean businesses owned by women with  51% and over ownership – not tokenism, not Mr. and Mrs.

They have to hold the company majorly. Previously it was very bad for it was rated at only 17% of our entire supplier base. So we spent most of 2019 to establish the baseline. 

The second line we looked at is, what is our spend in that 17%. It was a paltry 2% of our entire spending and you know we spend a lot of money. And then we set ourselves a target. We said we want to hit 30% of our suppliers by 2024 to be women and we need to increase our 10%. At least we move from 2 – 6 %  because we need to do a lot more to get to 10%.

So those are the kind of milestones with key deliverables that we set for ourselves and that we wanted to hit and be able to look back and say, when we hit this milestone, let’s set the bigger one. 

There are also some internal ones that we have done. When I look in terms of energy consumption, we have reduced our energy consumption by about 51% across the network. In this building ( headquarters) we recycle 99% – 100% of all the waste in this building. And that is something we are really proud of. And then when you look at water, in this building all our water is recycled, rainwater is harvested, when you go to our bathrooms, that is the water we use. 


So these are very specific actions we have taken for ourselves. 

And also we are single-use plastic-free. So you will not find a bottle of plastic in any of these buildings. And that has extended to 17 of our local branches. These are very clear milestones that we have put. We told ourselves that we know the damage plastic is causing to the environment and therefore we cannot on one hand be talking about the plastic scourge and then go ahead to using plastic. 

So these are some of the milestones we have delivered and we are very happy. And we see that the way we are going we should be carbon neutral by 2025. It’s very deliberate, very clear metrics, something we are tracking very closely. 

6. Prior to your current role you were global head of retail distribution for Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore and you were instrumental in formulating global strategies in building the future for retail branches and … through digitization as well as revision of branch models. How has this background helped you steer the local community here?

I think one of the things that really helped. There is a Kikuyu proverb that states that a child who does not leave the mother’s homestead thinks that the mother is the best cook. And that’s what this taught me. When I left here, I used to think I used to be world-class until the day I left Kenya and worked in Singapore for 3 years. Now I’m very circumspect in using that word.


World Class is really different. I mean just to give you an example, I watched Singapore Formula 1 and then you see, then you look back and remember those guys are driving cars at 300 kph on a street and they take corners, that’s world-class driving. I mean how do you drive a car at 300 kph for 2hrs? And you are able to navigate? Think about driving between Kenyatta Avenue, Koinange Street, Latema, just within Nairobi, and within the city center and you are moving at speeds of 300. 

So those kinds of things start making you reflect and say wow. World Class is a different thing again. But also it showed me how far we can go. There are some things we do very well in Kenya for instance Mpesa was a really good innovation.

But there are also a lot more things there to learn. It allowed me to see what scale is in terms of when you see how huge those economies are in that part of the world. It allowed me to explore Asia a lot more. So you learn a lot about Asia and the transformation taking place there and it allowed me to see what is possible not only in Kenya but within Africa.

But we have a long way to go and so if we lay the foundation correctly, then there is no reason why we cannot be able to get at least where Asia has gotten; some of the countries in Asia, when you think about whether its Singapore itself, whether its South Korea, this has happened within a lifetime, in one generation.

Not something that has happened over 100s of years like in Europe. Those are the insights it gave me. And then working and meeting different cultures. When I was there, I spent a lot more time in Asia itself. I said look I know Africa and the Middle East. For many years I have been here, let me spend time in markets that I don’t know.

So I spent a lot of time in markets like Korea, Hong Kong which are some of our biggest markets, Singapore itself, and  India. And that gave me another perspective. Convenience is at the heart of it. Technology is what is going to be the biggest enabler. But also the role that banks and financial institutions can play to really make a big difference and be the voice of good in any of those markets.


So it was an exciting outing, challenging but good. It made me get out of my comfort zone. We use that word again loosely, it’s good to get out of your comfort zone and go to a place you are not comfortable with. 

7) Early this January a local newspaper reported the NCBA group and Absa Bank Kenya had risen and overtaken Standard Chartered Bank Kenya in the market capitalization ranking of the Kenya business index. Does this metric matter to you?

No, it doesn’t. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean anything. I think for me the most important thing is that we are very clear about what we need to do. Very clear on our strategy and we have routinely delivered very good financial outcomes. When you look at the dividend we declared of Ksh, 22, I think in total, the shareholders are very happy. The number of shareholders who I meet, some I do not know, just tell me to thank you for that dividend.

That’s what is important. It’s not about where our ranking is in the market cap. Market capitalization is a factor of the share price and availability of the shares and we know that Standard Chartered shares are very much sought after. They are not as available as so they are very much sought after…. So hardly anyone ever sells. 

So it’s not a metric that we even think of. You are the one who is telling me. We never look at it. For me it’s about whether I  am serving my client, whether are we meeting their needs, whether are we able to solve their problems, and whether are we able to, when it comes to shareholders, give a dividend. I think we are. I don’t know why you did not look at the dividend payout… It’s one of the best…. It was the highest.


There was a report that was released yesterday by Standard Investments Bank. It rates us very highly.  

8)Standard Chartered Bank integrated its mobile banking platform into the Airtel money payment system in Kenya and it’s the only bank in Africa to have a real-time, online integration payment system with a telco with no human intervention. Is this statement correct and if so, what is so special about the system? 

  I think first of all, when you look at what is happening today, the consumer really wants to do things digitally. Yes, you hear there is an argument that people want to visit branches, but not our clients. We can see from the statistics that it is clear that people do not want to visit branches. And this happened during the  Covid era. Covid accelerated it.

And then our investment into the digital platforms both for the retail and corporate clients, has made it extremely convenient to do whatever you want to do without visiting a branch. 

When you and I were in school, we had to create time to go to the bank. Today you don’t have to. You could be in the middle of something and you are also doing your banking. You could send someone to do something and they send you the till number and you make the payment.  That’s the convenience we are giving our clients.


We are giving our client no reason to think about whether I need to think about cash, I mean I just traveled, I’ve just come back. I never thought for one minute to get dollars. There was a time when traveling abroad when you visited the bank to get dollars. Now you just get into the plane and go because your account is there with you. I was thousands of miles away and I was making payments in my shamba in shags.

They did not know where I was. They were sending me a message ‘Please I need Ksh. 8000 to pay for the labor’. I just go to the Mpesa app, I give the guy Ksh 8000, he doesn’t know where I am. Such convenience. Before you would have met them, sat down, told them this arrangement, left them the cash, then everyone knows you’ve gone. You can only know when someone is gone when you call them and the ringtone will inform you that one is out of the country because it’s different. 

So that’s why we do these interventions. In terms of that investment, those linkages with telcos. We no longer see telcos as competition,  we see them as partners. We don’t see fintech as competition, we see them as partners, and we partner with them. Some of the offerings we have on the phone are actually being offered through others, not through ourselves.

Because they are the ones who specialize in that. We are the face of it because when you want to come, you want to see Standard Chartered, the underlying platform is somebody else. So those linkages, those partnerships are what makes a big difference in our offering. 

9)How do you rate the local banking ecosystem in regard to the number of banks? And when you scan the market, you realize that the local banks are ahead in relation to asset capitalization. Does this worry you? 


No, I think it’s good for Kenya. Could we do with fewer banks? I think… so that we can enhance local competition. It’s very clear that in 42 months that there is a very clear difference between what you call the tier 1 banks and tier 3 banks, there is a very big difference.

It has benefitted this country, and that is what has driven financial inclusion that is obviously a lot higher than in most sub-Saharan Africa. So that helps. Financial Inclusion is important because it has powered this economy.

I think when you look at what Kenya has been able to do especially in the private sector. We talk about the SMEs. SMEs in this country have been assisted by the banking system, to be honest. That’s what powers trade, credit. So a strong financial system powers an economy.

You cannot have a weak financial system and a robust economy… So it’s something that I think we are all ready for. I am very proud of the stability in the banking sector, and hopefully, it is going to continue helping the Kenyan economy to keep growing and diversifying.

10)When you make an exit from the bank, what do you want to be remembered for? 


A couple of things in terms of driving matters of sustainability, I think that’s important and not just by talking about it. But also being able to say this is what we have done.

We committed to planting a million seedlings two years ago and we are 230/ 250. We looked and said ‘Everybody talks about planting trees but where is the source?’ So we partnered with Kenya Wildlife Services and they got us some space at Nairobi Arboretum and that’s something that I’m really proud of.    

Secondly is in terms of how we stand in terms of diversity that we talked about. How do we ensure that the platform that is laid is going to continue being sustained in terms of ensuring that diversity is entrenched in the bank? And what is more important is understanding that you could achieve diversity but not have inclusion.

You can be in meetings and you are not talking the language that makes everyone feel included. So that is something that is very important, looking out for minorities. For example, there are some colleagues who are visually impaired and when I sat with them one day and they gave me feedback, I was like oops, things we take for granted, that we are not looking at the lifts, bathrooms, and being deliberate to solve the challenges that they face… These are things we need to do. When a new technology is being rolled out, sometimes we don’t remember a different software. It comes as an afterthought.

Looking out for that is something I want to be remembered for. And then how do we ensure our employees bring the best of themselves to work? I want to be remembered for creating an environment where people feel comfortable to challenge the status quo.  They can feel comfortable changing the processes because they are the people who are receiving the process, the people who are actually using it, the ones who will suggest differences, and also the clients to feel that yeah, he made a big difference. 


And finally, of course, a strong financial outcome. At the end of the day, there are shareholders. I meet them sometimes when I travel out of the country and during our AGM and you see it makes a big difference to a lot of these, they are the people who bought these shares especially when Standard Chartered launched.

Now they are elderly, late 70s, and you see the difference that payment makes in their lives. That is very important. So I want to be remembered for having kept the cheque going and not doing anything stupid. 

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Corporate World

Dr. Manu Chandaria: East Africa’s No.1 Philanthropist Indelibly Secures an Unvarnished Legacy



Dr. Manu Chandaria

 “The wealth that you have is not yours. You are only the trustee of the wealth you have,”  Dr. Manilal Premchand Chandaria

I have come to terms with my own mortality and what better way to deal with that than to bequeath to the living?” wittingly asks Dr. Manu Chandaria, veritably the bellwether in the altruistic area of philanthropism within Africa’s fastest-growing region. And understandably, because of his ubiquitous charitable engagements drawing in the existential sectors of health, education, and social services, this nonagenarian typically attracts circumspect admirers as he transcendently redefines charitableness, with no questions asked.   

This past August, for example, Dr. Chandaria fittingly became the first African awardee of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. According to Eric D. Isaacs,  president of the Carnegie Institution, it was Dr. Chandaria’s work to give “hope for a healthier and better-educated population” that caught the attention of the award’s selection committee, 

“Mr. Chandaria is setting a very high standard for philanthropy through his support for higher education and his efforts to mobilize and empower a new generation of business leaders,” Isaacs wrote in a statement to Devex. “We believe that his example will inspire other philanthropists, perpetuating the virtuous cycle that the Carnegie family of institutions seeks to advance.”

On receiving the global award, this professional Engineer who is an alumnus of the University of Oklahoma, graduating in 1951,  underscored that philanthropy was more than just giving money to people in need, noting that people can still be philanthropic by contributing to society in any way they can.


“Philanthropy is not just about writing a cheque and giving it away. It is about serving the community. Whether it is by giving money, by working for the community or by looking after them, whatever way that’s what I call philanthropy,” he said.

  With an estimated net wealth of $2.5 billion inextricably tied to the 107 -year-old family-owned Comcraft Group of Companies, of which he is  Chair, this 93-year-old  industrialist is in big measure part of a selfless, moneyed,

global coterie who passed as proteges of John D. Rockefeller who formalized charitable giving back in 1913, setting up the Rockefeller Foundation.

 Mr. Warren Buffet,92, is a quintessential example.

In 2010 he and Bill Gates launched the Giving Pledge Initiative, asking billionaires to commit to donating at least half of their wealth to charitable causes, with Patrice Motsepe becoming the first African to sign up for the initiative.


  Locally, the philanthropic spirit is getting traction.

The top office in the land took cue as witnessed in 2003 when former President Mwai Kibaki conferred  Dr. Chandaria with the award of the Elder of the Order of the Burning Spear (EBS) “ in recognition of outstanding or distinguished services rendered to the nation in various capacities and responsibilities.” 

And on the global stage, Queen Elizabeth II conferred on him an OBE (Order of the British Empire) “ in recognition of his work for the community in Kenya and promotion of Kenyan economic and British interests in Kenya.”

In 2020 the local Standard newspaper, quoting an anonymous source drawn from the Comcroft Group of Companies, reported Dr. Manu Chandaria had at the time contributed over Ksh 11 billion ( about US$ 100,000,000) to charity.   

Verifiably this seasoned rainmaker is not averse to donating money to worthy causes including but not limited to  Ksh 100 million ( US$ 814,464.89 ) handed to Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital, Ksh 125 million ( US$ 1,018,081.11)  to the University of Nairobi, Ksh 25 million to Kenyatta University, and water tanks and hand sanitizers to Kenya’s Police Force during the Covid-19 epidemic. And for the last 67 years, The Chandaria Foundation has supported hundreds of secondary school children especially the girl child through its bursary program.


“Elsewhere, we are the heart valves of the Chandaria School of Business at the United States International University (USIU) in Nairobi and have helped set up the Chandaria Innovation and Incubation Centre at Kenyatta University. We have started a Chandaria Centre for Performing arts at the University of Nairobi.  The Mabati Technical Institute and Mabati Medical Centre at our flagship company, Mabati Rolling Mills Ltd are supported by the Chandaria Foundation.” Dr. Chandaria is quoted by the Standard newspaper.

“Adding,“ We support many secondary schools across the country in one way or the other. Leap Hubs that we are rolling out in conjunction with the Global Peace Foundation will help students start learning and finding out with the help of others what they can do after school whether or not they proceed to universities and polytechnics. Our aim is to help them create a sustainable business.” 

 And intermittently out of gratitude, beneficiaries of Dr. Chandaria’s selflessness often name institutions eponymously after this local industrialist.

 Disarmingly humble, Dr. Chandaria’s demeanor masks his deep pockets; the way he lives his life embodies a perfect picture of frugality. 

“My wardrobe has five suits. One new comes in, one goes out. I give it out. It’s a lesson about giving. I learned it from Mahatma Gandhi. I followed Gandhi when I was at University. I accepted everything he told us. He led a very simple life,” he told the Standard newspaper.


When he hosted your correspondent in his office along Limuru Road, Nairobi there was nothing displaying a lifestyle coalescing around conspicuous consumption. 

 Everything around him spoke of simplicity.

 But the framed pictures dotting the walls of his office spoke of a man who had dined with the most powerful and influential people in the world. There were framed photos of Mother Theresa and President George W Bush.

 “Mother Teresa was a friend of ours. She came to our house four times. She taught us a lot about prayer. Giving is simple when you want to give. It’s easy to give when you feel the pain of others,” Dr. Chandaria told Jeff Koinange.

 In an interview with African Philanthropy Forum, (APF) this celebrated philanthropist said, “The wealth that you have is not yours. You are only the trustee of the wealth you have.”

 Asked what he would change if he could live his life over, Chandaria responded with characteristic humility and compassion: he would have started serving others sooner, reported the APF.


He explains the genesis of his philanthropic streak is in-grained in the larger Chandaria family. 

“ Back in the 1950s, we heard about the Rockefeller and Ford foundations and what they were doing in America. When my brother and I came back from America we thought of starting The Chandaria Foundation. This was in 1954. The idea was to help people without waiting for them to approach the Chandaria family. We thought that with a foundation there would be a focus on our giving. This has proved to be true over the years.”

 For a man, whose father studied up to standard three and whose mother was initially illiterate, Dr. Chandaria understandably possesses a soft spot for his parents.

“The family was poor. They only spoke Gujarati, while my mother started reading and writing in vernacular at the age of 55. They strongly felt that the future of their children would not be any better than theirs unless they got educated. To them, this was the only way to get the family out of poverty. To me, education plays an important role in the life of a person’s evolution. It’s because of education that we are what we are today.”

He explains: “Ours is a family business. I came back to Mombasa after my master’s degree in engineering at a USA University in 1955. My brother and two cousins, Keshav, Kanti, and Kapoor with various educational backgrounds also returned to Mombasa. Our family had two businesses, one in Nairobi providing wholesale services to many retail shops throughout Kenya.

The second business was the Kaluworks plant in Mombasa. It was established in 1929 and was the major supplier of aluminum pots and pans in Kenya and Tanganyika till World War Two.


Over the years other younger members of the family finished their education in the UK including the United States and also joined the business. It was a small business with only 40 employees and five members of the family. When we came back after our education, we were of two minds, of either starting our own business or working in the family business.

“After considering the fact that our parents gave us the opportunity to go to university for higher education and they had constantly struggled after settling down in Kenya in 1915, we felt we could not disappoint them and ruin their dreams.

We decided to join them to grow the business. Under the guidance of my two elder brothers Devchand and Ratilal, we all put our efforts to grow our small company and within the first five years we had five hundred people working for us.” 

In big measure, Jainism has had a seminal effect on Dr. Chandaria.

 In an exclusive interview with JoongAng  Group in 2010, Dr. Chandaria described his family’s spiritual heritage as an influence on his philanthropy.

 “Jainism has taught me moderation through abstinence and vegetarianism. It guides me to live a life through union and unity within the family,” he reportedly said.


Indeed according to Sean Bevis, a Master’s graduate from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, who studied Indian Religious and Philosophical Systems, specializing in Jainism and Buddhism, “ “donations” are generally regarded as positive acts of charity within the Jain community,” he writes in an essay titled  “A Philosophical and Sociological analysis of the role of ‘charity’ in Jainism with specific reference to the nature of dana ( giving)  and aparigraha  (non-possession )in both Jain and non-Jain environments.”

In order to renounce parigraha (‘possession’) which he refers to as delusion “which causes a person to develop false notions such as “this is mine” or “I made that” and thinking that one can hold onto what he or she currently “has” forever”  and murccha  ( delusion of possession) an individual has to detach themselves from the ten “external possessions” which are land, houses, silver, gold, livestock, grain, maidservants, manservants, clothing, and miscellaneous goods such as furniture[17].

From the mendicant point of view, all these possessions must be given up entirely, apart from in the ‘white clad’ Śvetāmbara sect whose renunciates are allowed to wear clothing[18]. From the point of view of the laity, aparigraha[4] is adhered to by imposing limits on what he or she may own which means that once they have reached the ceiling on the number of goods owned, they should not exceed it as this would constitute parigraha

Vijay Nath in her book, Dāna[11]: Gift System in Ancient India: A Socio-economic Perspective, wrote: “Ancient Hindu lawgivers were always cognizant of the spiritual merit arising from the act of dāna[11]. So much importance was attached to it as a primary social need that it came to be assigned an exalted place in the rituals of the time.

No religious ceremony was deemed complete without it; no act of religious devotion was considered fruitful unless accompanied by it. The charity was sought to be inculcated as the cardinal virtue, through which all could be atoned for and which held the key to the highest heaven.”[23]


According to Dr. Manoj Shah, Dr. Chandaria will leave behind “ a legacy  of being a Nation Builder.”  

While former fellow local Billionaire Mr.Naushad Merali  through his personal assistant Jane Wokabi told  your correspondent  Dr. Chandaria is a “ great philanthropist, very committed to what he does and loves his country .” 

 And award-winning Jyoti Mukherjee said, “ He will always pass as an international citizen. For he’s an Indian staying in Africa, receiving awards from the Queen of England and the President of India, having businesses all around the world, and contributing towards the growth of African industries, education, government reforms, and charity. But overall, he’s an ideal human being. Such people don’t leave a legacy. They live by example for eternity.”

















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