A Walk Through Lifestyle

In every ugly thing, there is a beautiful side to it. Let's make the ugly beautiful.


By Mical Imbukwa


Dr Dinah J.C Mwinzi, MBS, Principal Secretary State Department of Vocational and Technical Training

The unemployment rate being experienced among the young people in Kenya is around 40%, but how come there are a lot of jobs without takers? Many youth graduate yearly from universities and colleges but their skill sets don’t match the industry requirements.

One way of ensuring that the unemployment gap among the youth is bridged is by ensuring that the skills offered in institutions of higher learning are in line with the requirements in the industry. TVET (Technical & Vocational Education and Training), a flagship of vision 2030, was designed to take care of the skills challenge, which normally lead to unemployment cases.

The Hands on The Future National TVET Conference was held recently and according to Dr Dinah J.C Mwinzi, MBS, Principal Secretary State Department of Vocational and Technical Training, the main focus was on Access, Equity, Relevance, and quality of skills training from training providers TVET, and this cuts across public and private institutions. Generally, Linking Industry with Academia. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed with KEPSA, KAM, Kenya Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Education, TVET among others, and this was in line with apprenticeships, internships, attachments and sabbaticals to lecturers.

To this effect, government has increased resource to TVET institutions including loans to students so that there is wide access. This is something Dr Mwinzi says will increase the number of students going to TVET institutions because they will now be able to easily access loans and bursaries from the Higher Education Loans Board and even in situations where parents are not supporting the students to go to TVET because of biasness to degrees, the students can now make decisions on their own and with support from government, pursue courses of their choice. The allocation was increased from 500 million to 900 million.

“The government also in the recent past opened special needs institutions that were not there before, when there was not much focus on TVET. The institutions include, Karen for the deaf and physically challenged, Machakos for the blind, Sikri for all the other special needs, and last but not least, Nyangoma for special needs, “notes the PS

From 2013, there has been focus on TVET reforms, majorly, general reforms on education and this was supported by the World Bank among other development partners. The government’s commitment is such that, TVET institutions should be opened in every constituency, and so the government is committed to build one technical institute per constituency. So far there are 203 technical institutions, 60 being completed, 60 being operationalized, and 70 under construction. Among this institutions, the PS confirms that 66 have been accredited, and 70 are awaiting registration.

Skill wise, the government has put in place specialised agencies that will ensure that the country’s aspirations are met. “TVETA, which is a body for quality and relevance, regulates the sector (the training providers, the institutions, the students and the trainer) and ensures the standards are maintained. CDACC (Curriculum Development and Certification Council), on the other hand ensures that whatever curriculum we come up with, is TVET (competence, training, institution and assessment). This ensures that the requirements of industry in form of occupational standards are actually used to make the curriculum and ensure that whatever we teach, is the standards of industry. We have to bury the story of mismatch of skills, in our history,” she says. The government is moving from KNEC to CDACC where curriculum and assessment go hand in hand.

There will be an additional body known as Qualifications Authority, which will harmonize TVET’s qualifications, and put in descriptions of the national qualifications. The PS notes that this will ensure that the qualifications are recognized both in Kenya and globally. “This will enable us know how long a course is supposed to take, not in terms of years but contact hours, the trainer, contact with practicals like apprenticeship, attachments and internships. We devise exactly what the student will derive knowledge in, and for how long, because there is a process in learning that expects them to internalize issues. There is also a group learning which is very important and interaction with the real world. So far our qualifications are good” The document is still in the draft form and it is being taken through the necessary approvals, before it is published most probably this year.

The beauty with TVET according to Dr Mwinzi is that, the students easily moves from one stage to another because they have mastered competency and there is formative assessment. Competency in TVET is when a student can manipulate and use machinery and what is required for them to master. The student is therefore able to acquire the needed skills and also use the whole person. They don’t only rely on the teacher but also able to be creative on their own.

There is however something the PS wants people to note that will kill the bias that has and still is there, towards the TVET courses. “TVET is not for people who are not academically blessed, but for those who are technically oriented. Students are gifted differently. We have the cognitively oriented and the technically oriented. God in His own wisdom never made anybody a junk. He made people to have different capabilities that appeal to different things. There are people who are called think doers who think and do things later, and doer thinkers who do things first and think later. We are either of the two and we need to respect each of those and know that all of those combined, build a society.”

She adds that designer engineers are in most cases A students but the people who translate their designs into products are the technologists. The technologists even if they have PhDs, they are TVET because they are the ones who make a product from a design. This is why the engineering technology board has been registered so that the technologists can be recognized.

“The country currently has a shortage of electricians and plumbers with the right qualifications and in fact on our pipeline, there are only two engineers who can weld on a live pipeline, aged 58 and 59 and they will be retiring in the next two years. The country has to get specialists from Nigeria, Jordan, Philippine and other places yet our own people have no jobs because they lack the right skills,” she laments

She also points out that, Kenya also doesn’t have underwater welders and in case a ferry for any reason cracks, we have to wait for someone from the Philippine and they can quote any amount. “This department therefore wants to empower our own people so that we avoid importing manpower and it is therefore taking up the rare courses and training the TVET students on them.”

The close link between TVET and LIWA according to Dr Mwinzi, will help bridge the gaps and Kenya will even start exporting skills and manpower to neighboring countries reversing the usual norm of importing, and this will also help reduce the cost of labour. Kenya therefore needs to set the pace and maintain the standards. Currently, 78% of students in universities are doing humanities and only 28% are doing STEM courses. The system is imbalanced.

On the bright side, The Rift Valley Training Institute has expanded enormously because the whole of the East African Region, send their students to this institution. “It is our star institution with over 6000 students, and over 10,000 application every year. I am very happy that organization are starting to embrace the spirit of TVET, and this is demonstrated by wings to fly which send all their students, to TVET institutions,” notes the PS

Also for the first time, TTIs are able to export products made in Kenya to China through AVIC International. This is to demonstrate that when it comes to hands on skills, TVET take it. “We also have KTTC in Africa skills and training center and we have put in a lot of support for that. We are going to equip 134 TTIs very shortly with support from China and we are equipping another 33 with state of the art equipment with support from Africa Development Bank. We have the best smart classrooms in the world in our 10 national technical institutions and they can do simulations, something which has reduced the number of training material.

In the next 5 years, TVET hopes to produce industry ready graduates at O- levels and also wants to see its own human capacity built in the sense that all its products are processed to completion. “We also want to see that as we grow in the extractive industry, Oil, Gas, and all the other industries, we want to see our local content in terms of contractors, the work force, the employees and the management to be Kenyan. All in all, we want to have a legacy of nurturing our own and giving them an opportunity to express their creativity,” she notes

In a wrap, this is what the PS has to say;

“We are looking towards not discriminating anybody on the basis of what they gained, rather we want to see their capabilities. We should not use KCSE exams to condemn people, but rather to place them appropriately. That is why in the new structure, we want to place students according to their pathways. Last and most important, we should focus at looking for the positives in our country, rather than always the negatives.”




By Mical ImbukwaCharles Ringera CEO(Half-Standing)

Mr Charles Ringera, HELB CEO

Almost four years into the five year strategic plan that was established in 2013, the Higher Education Loans Board has made tremendous milestones on its key pillars namely; financial sustainability, customer service delivery, internal process re-engineering and corporate governance.

The HELB ACT Cap 213A of 1995 provides for the establishment of a board of management of a state fund to be used for granting loans to assist Kenyan students to obtain higher education at recognized institutions of higher learning. This is reinforced by Chapter 4, Section 43(1) (f) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, which guarantees the right to education.

According to Charles Ringera, HELB CEO, there was a setback in the initial plan which was supposed to end in 2014. This was due to chartering of 20 universities in President Mwai Kibaki’s 2002 to 2013 term, which increased students eligible for the loans substantially.

“Luckily enough, the new government was just coming into place in 2013 with a clear emphasis on TVET, which was to cater for unemployment issues and support vision 2030 in terms of manpower. Once we realized that that was the new direction, we then had to come together to see how that transition would look like and that is when we crafted a plan that would run from 2013-2018.” Says Ringera

The CEO takes note of the impact of unemployment on loan repayment. “When they don’t get employed, they affect us directly and that compromises the revolving fund aspect. Initially, HELB was 100% governmental institution. But by 2013, the loan repayments were coming in at about 25% and government giving 71% of the total required to fund students. This is where corporate governance and institutional capacity for the board comes in.”

The government recommended that HELB becomes a Development Finance Institution, which meant sourcing its own funds. This called for retooling both skill development and technological infrastructure.

“The board then realized for the pillars to work, they were to be founded on a solid base known as Customer Service. We did a research and found out that why some students would run away with our money was because we also gave them a rough time when we were handling them. So we wanted to give them a wonderful customer experience when they were borrowing so that maybe when they were repaying, they would feel at home, and this is the only way we were going to improve loan recoverability,” says the CEO

Things are getting better for the board for it is currently funding students in 70 public universities, 110 TVET colleges and 65 Medical Training Colleges. External resource mobilization is also succeeding. HELB added a Kes 1.4 billion resource base between 2013 and 2017. This is due to the board’s capability stewarding revolving public, corporate, non-governmental, donor and individual funds with experience and tenacity.

As stated by Ringera, the board currently manages the funds of five counties and seven constituencies and it is still holding talks with other counties on the same. “We want the students when they go to school, they shouldn’t look back because of lack of school fees. “ In the last three years through seed funding from USAID and other partners, the board commissioned the Afya Elimu loan product through a sophisticated funding mechanism structured around Public-Donor-Private Sector syndication. In conjunction with intra health international (management arm of USAID) and Private Sector, HELB structured a revolving loan product to finance medical students at Kenya Medical Training Colleges and Faith Based health training institutions. This is aimed at addressing the urgent need of trained technical personnel to support the health sector. So far the Afya Elimu Fund has mobilized KES 766M which has trained over 9,000 health care workers

HELB interventions are geared toward funding tuition that provides and nurtures a skilled pool of human capital for the domestic economy. Consequently HELB has structured its loan instruments in a manner that prioritizes the funding of scarce skills in priority areas such as Science, Technology and Innovations; a strong value proposition for vision 2030. HELB has started a National conversation to rebuild student and public confidence in the TVET college sector, which provides the basis for the required technical skills through the #KaziNdioHii TVET Campaign.

“To improve our functionality, we have greatly embraced technology. Students apply online and processing and communication are both done online. HELB is heavy on social media [Facebook and Twitter @HELBPage] and so the applicants don’t have to visit our offices in case they have queries. HELB kiosks are targeted to be opened in universities all over the country to enhance students’ interaction with the board. Technology has also enhanced the loan recovery process because we are able to find the debtors on social media and initiate a conversation with them,” he says

The board is also deliberately pursuing efficiency in funds disbursement that also creates a higher financial discipline among its customers. In collaboration with various banks, the board commenced implementation of student smart card. The card introduces sophisticated applications and utilization of funds and also acts as a University identification card. The card has 3wallets; the tuition wallet will be swiped at the university cashier’s POS while the upkeep wallet can be used at the student cafeteria, supermarket, cashed at the ATM and includes the possibility of transferring to other payment channels like M-pesa. This in turn translates to a more efficient disbursement system and accountability.

As a CSR initiative, the board has a hand in education, health, environment and charity. HELB awards 94 Science, Technology and Innovation scholarships – a pair for each county. The board also gives bursaries to the most vulnerable and deserving in society and this year, Kes 237 million will be spent on that course. On environment, the board has a portion in Ngong forest that it takes care of. HELB also sponsors the Stanchart marathon, which doubles as a resource mobilization and charity affair and has adopted the Thika School for the visually impaired under its education CSR pillar

The board has its share of challenges with many priorities competing for funding from the exchequer. “This year for instance, the total funding from the government was Kes 9 billion and the resource required for us to fund the 260,000 students on our roll is Kes 10. 3 billion. So we have a deficit of about Kes 1.3 billion. Kes 800 million for administration is also required. Resource is never enough and that is why some eligible students don’t get the funds,” notes Ringera

Another challenge, according to the HELB boss, is unemployment which leads to the slowed loan repayment process. Most graduates cannot practice what they learnt in university in their workplaces, which forces their employers to spend money on fresh training. TVET bridges this gap. The chances for TVET students to get employed due to high skill power, during the first month of graduation are 99% and an example of this, he says, is nurses. TVET students, he notes, also pay loans faster than graduates because unlike graduates who depend on employment for the payment of the loan, they create employment. Losing a big number of youth because of their lifestyle is another challenge he notes. “There is an insurance programme for the postgraduate but not for the undergraduate and so when they die before repaying their loans, there is no way we can recover them.” However, the insurance issue is being addressed.

Defective loan applications is another challenge. Last year according to Ringera, the board had about 8,000 (10%) defective applications. Most of them are not keen to fill in all the required details, and, reaching them sometimes becomes a problem because some use their parent’s or guardian’s contact details.

Moving forward, the board has launched a financial literacy campaign aimed at sensitizing students about HELB Loan repayment obligations at the point of application. It is tiered from first to final year For instance, final year students are encouraged towards job creation as opposed to job seeking.

HELB is also looking to improve on the TVET space by supporting institutions offering technical courses outside of the Ministry of Education umbrella through partnerships. Such institutions include KEWI, which trains plumbers and Stima College which trains electricians.

Most importantly, the board wants to see the institution converted into a Development Finance Institution (DFI).

Ringera has this to say to higher education students; “What you do with the time spent in college is very critical. It is not about graduation, it is about what you get from university or college. Therefore, the concept of skill-based kind of training is something that should be emphasized on by all, because then unemployment rates will go down for graduates who will be able to create their own employment.”

Gender Based Violence; a Matter of National Concern

gender-based-violence-photoBy Mical Imbukwa

Yesterday you left home on your twos. All your dreams were intact. On the one side of your mind was this well-constructed three storied-house and on the other was a successful career. At the center of it all was a successful life, a beautiful family. You even had a goal well written down and the period it would take to accomplish it. But, everything happened so fast. In less than 24 hours, you were buried in darkness. A darkness of pain, torture and disbelief. The ambitious, intelligent and strong woman in you had gone leaving an empty shell. But why?

On 11th February 2017, Ms. Irene Aisha Syongula woke up a woman full of hope. She had plans for the day. Plans for her children. Though she had to attend a funeral meeting in Kibarani area that evening, she was fine. It didn’t occur to her that that night, she would encounter a near death experience.

The 23 year old was returning home from the funeral meeting when two men well known to her accosted and raped her in turns. After this, they told her that she was going to die to prevent vindication. They then hacked her legs with a machete and tied her with ropes on the railways track so that a train would finish her off. Indeed a few minutes later, a cargo train from Mombasa railway station to Changamwe crushed her limbs but her screams got to the locomotive driver and he managed to bring it to a halt. The lady was trapped underneath the heavy locomotive wheels all this time screaming and asking God to protect her for she had small kids to take care of.

Yes she was rushed to hospital and is undergoing treatment but the life of the single mother of two, will never be the same again. She might acquire artificial legs, but the wounds from the accident will live with her for a while. Pregnancy might have been prevented when she was rushed to hospital but, what about the infections, maybe chronic, she might have contracted from the gang rape? What about trust? She might completely lose trust in humanity because the people who committed this heinous act on her were well known to her. As much as she needs to thank God for her life, all her long term plans have taken a drastic turn.

We have many Syongulas in society. Some of whom media might have highlighted their ordeals and many others who might have suffered in silence, perhaps died and their stories buried with them. Minors are defiled every day. Women are bartered and some of their body parts chopped off mercilessly by people who countless times professed love for them. There are also men who might have faced this violence though in circumstances different from those of women.

What about we said no to this gender based violence? There is something we need to deal with first though: Alcohol and drug abuse. People who commit these odious acts are often times under the influence of something strong. There is no way a normal person will take a machete and chop off the neck of a fellow man, however aggrieved they might be. Remember that news that was making rounds some time back of a group in Uganda that was feasting on human flesh? Is that normal? What about the case in Kahawa where a brother murdered the sister? Most women battered by their husbands will tell you that alcohol was involved. That the husband came home drunk and started beating her for no good reason. Anger management issues or family background could be partly the reason for the violence but alcohol and drug abuse holds a bigger percentage.

So, why not join hands with bodies like Africa Unite Kenya and help fight this gender based violence vice? Why not join NACADA in the fight against alcohol and drugs abuse? Why not become our own scouts and impart the right values in our kids while in their tender years so that they grow up into responsible men and women? As the saying goes, “as a child is raised, that is how he/she grows.” Let’s not overlook these issues even if we are not directly affected because sooner or later it will come to us and we shall need help. Let’s be our brothers keepers.


By Mical Imbukwa

Once upon a time, I was a girl full of great ambitions. I envisioned myself driving high notch cars, living in an exquisite home, with a loving husband and beautiful babies. I generally wanted to be a very successful woman. I wanted to be that princess that would attract that prince charming who would give me a beautiful world. Among these beautiful things, was a five star wedding that would be the envy of many and definitely the talk of the town. I generally wanted to be a woman after God’s heart, but I died halfway there.

Once upon a time I envisioned myself as a man full of vigor. A man that would provide heaven for my family. A man that would love my wife for who she would be and respect the alter vows. A man that would guide my kids on the right path of life. I generally envisioned myself walking all the stair cases of success and I didn’t see myself at any point being consumed by the greed of success. I envisioned myself loving and respecting all the women in my life, but I died halfway there.

You see in my early life, papa beat me all the time for the slightest mistakes that didn’t even warrant it. He said that I was as foolish as mama and I was destined for a miserable life like her. I watched him torture mama all the time that I wondered whether he really ever loved her. Mama always wore a sad face but she never at any point stopped showering dad and us with love. A pained soul was what she was and each time I saw the pain in her eyes, it broke me. This made me start hating all men for I envisioned them as heartless as papa. My dream of ever finding my prince charming died at this point in my life.

Akoko my Christian Religious Education teacher in high school said that I was very thick headed that I would amount to nothing better in life other than reproducing like a rat, children that would be as thick headed as me. The whole class broke into a loud roar of laughter, and consumed by shame and pain, I shade tears. Unfortunately, I believed her portrayal of me and my self esteem was extremely lowered. My dream of becoming a well travelled doctor was killed for I ended up dropping out of school.

My first boyfriend was a jerk. Being my first love, I didn’t even experience the goose bumps and butterflies that girls my age at that time experience with their first encounter. He made me feel like a useless piece of rag that I completely lost myself. At seventeen when I was finally sired, he took off. I had to go back  home to papa who couldn’t stand the sight of my protruding tummy. Mama though disappointed, cried with me and stood by me throughout the nine months journey. I delivered the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and on the sixth at 24, mama succumbed. My pillar of strength and hope was gone and as expected, papa threw me out for he could not stand my mini nursery school. On the streets, my reproducing tool became my investment. I became a prostitute!

I experienced a beautiful childhood until at 12, when the cruel hands of death snatched my loving parents from me. As the only child and son, I was entitled to all the wealth  my parents left behind. Ugly fate was staring at me though, for my greedy and opportunistic relatives snatched everything from me and I was thrown out. No one was ready to welcome me in their home for they termed me a burden. With anger and bitterness, I sought refuge in the streets. Life was not easy here and I was even entangled in robbery with violence, and jail became my eternal home.

I died! I died because I allowed it.  I should not have allowed my brutal papa to define my destiny. I should not have allowed my high school teacher to determine the direction my life would take. I should not have given in to my perverted boyfriend. I should have stood firm and faced my greedy and opportunistic relatives. The moment I lost hope, that is the moment I died and my resurrection resides within me!



By Mical Imbukwa

She can’t even cook like so and so. Her cleanliness cannot even compare to that of so and so. Why can’t she talk like so and so. I don’t like how she walks. If only she could walk like so and so, things would have been different.

He/she failed their exams and therefore cannot amount to anything in life. Just because they did something unappealing once, whenever that thing reoccurs when they are around, it is their fault. You start calling them names without even giving them a chance to explain their side. You even paint  a particular image of them, that everyone close to you starts to view them in that angle.

She is single and it is all her doing. She is overambitious and books and money will be the end of her. No man in his right mind can marry a woman like her. Just because she flirts a lot, she is a slut. She is a single mother of two boys, fathered differently because she sleeps around. If she is a good woman, why couldn’t one of the men who did the fathering, wife her?

Why does he waste time going to work when he is miserable January to December? If he is not careful, he will be thrown out of that cube he has lived in for God knows how long. He got work in the city and completely forgot about his family and probably maybe, his monthly earnings can only sustain his rent, food and bus fare.

Parents call some of their kids stupid and as time goes by, they start believing that they are actually stupid, since that one person they adore said that is what they are. With time, they can’t even grasp a thing in class because their self esteem was lowered. In school, teachers do the same thing to them. Always praising the bright students and pupils in class and all they get are negative remarks which end up demoralizing them more.

The moment a husband stops appreciating his wife, that is the moment she looses herself. You know, when women reproduce, there are certain changes that happen in their bodies. Some loose weight, others become “shapeless”, while others maintain their previous shape. Most of those who become “shapeless”, really face it. The husband’s view of them drastically changes. The treatment also changes. They are judged harshly and in reality, some might have tried all available means to shade the weight without success. Their self esteem is lowered and they give up and stop trying.

You use your hands everyday, right? How come the fingers are in the same place, yet they are not the same? Have they ever failed you in their functionality despite the fact that they are not the same? Unless one is injured, right? Have you ever looked at twins? How come their destinies are different, despite the fact that they were conceived on the same day, stayed in the womb together for nine months sharing an umbilical cord,and stayed together for most of their teen lives?

Do we at one point try to imagine the hurdles this single mother might have encountered or still faces? Do we try to imagine the ridicule and disappointments this young man might have faced that turned him into this hopeless person?  Do we try to imagine the torture this married woman might have faced in the hands of the husband she once adored to turn her into this empty shell? Do we at one point try to walk in their shoes?

Why can’t we learn to embrace each other as we are? Why can’t we learn not to give rush judgement? Why can ‘t we focus at looking for the good in people other than the bad? Why can’t we understand that people can never be the same? Judgement is very harmful especially when  coming from people one adores. It tends to lower their self esteem which is very deleterious to ones success.

What about we started embracing one word. Love! Study people before you judge them harshly! Understand that people’s destinies are different. Don’t believe all the negatives you hear from people. They might just be haters! Most of all, let us pray for one another.

Terrorists Invaded My House and Threatened me to Vacate

By Mical Imbukwa

My house was always  a beautiful, peaceful place! A place where angelic dreams were made but evidently, this was not to last.

It all started one night when I could not seat on my couch and watch Zee World in peace. My High Density 5 by 6 Foam mattress and my hot pink duvet, were no longer warm. My king size bed was no longer for me alone! I had company. Uncivilised company!

At night, I kept on tossing and turning in bed before I could catch a glimpse of sleep. It always felt like I needed to have  an interraction with water yet I always showered before I tucked myself underneath my duvet. Each morning I woke up to spread my bed, there were stains of blood! But from where? My menses had long passed! I could go to shower and my face was so painful like it had cuts! I checked in the mirror and there were scratches! What type of terrorism was this!

My sleep was at stake! My face too was endangered! And my blood? Oh no! The torture persisted until I was made to abandon my bed and sleep on the floor! This worked. At least I had a peaceful night.  I could not place my hands on what was happening until one Saturday when a pal visited.

We were having a chat, me seated on the carpet and her on my couch which I had been forced to abandon ,  when she let out an “oh my God! ” I jerked! What is it? “Don’t tell me you have Alshabaabs in you house!” Alshaa what? What do you mean Alycia? She held something between her thumb and index finger and ushered me to her side. It was a tiny, dark brown insect? “This thing has just had a share of my blood!” she said. I have never been so confused! I was clueless! What is that? BEDBUG!

I almost screamed! I had heard guys talk about them at work, but I had never seen them. But how did they get into my house? Could it be from that matatu I boarded a month ago since I was late for work and it was the only option? The matatu which had the “Bedbugs professional’s” sticker with a number on it? Someone had already discovered a business opportunity. Did someone say a while a go that Kenya is a hotbed of opportunities? Hell yeah! He was right! Call it”opportunity in misfortunes!”

“Forget about how they got here. How will we  get them out of here?” said the lover of sleep ninja in my head! Alycia knew how these Alshabaabs looked like, but funny enough, she had no idea of how to eradicate them! I thought of looking for the number I had seen in the matatu but that would take time and  I needed to get rid of these terrorists as soon as yesterday!

I decided to inquire from a neighbour and lucky enough, he had had an encounter with them in his previous home and successfully eradicated them. He went and bought a certain substance known as “lava”, mixed it as indicated, and sprayed everywhere he suspected they could be hiding! When he was, done, he asked me to lock the house so that it could work. Yurk! The smell was already suffocating and so I obluged and went for a walk with Alycia!

Boom! That is how the terrorists vacated my house, and I bet they read the memo and will never come back! Else, I will bomb them before they even enter the gate, because they have very bad jokes! “Supriiiiiiiise!”



Have a fun with Isabela.

My Encounter with a Sixty Something Sponsor from the West!

Last week Tuesday, there was this conference that was happened in Safari Park Hotel that I went to cover. So after registering at the reception, I decided to drop my business card in the glass bowl on the table! As I made my way to the conference room, there was this muzungu who stopped me, to get my card. After I had given it to him he asked whether I had 10 minutes and since the conference hadn’t started, I thought why not?

“You are a Journalist? Would you mind working in Dubai? One of my companies is looking to hire more staff and you appear well placed for the job. ” When dealing with corporates, you also become one! So I asked him what his company deals in Blah blah blah because to be sincere, this Dubai bit interested me! So he suggested, why not go to the restaurant by the pool and talk more?

At the pool this nigga placed a parket of cigarettes on the table and asked me whether I smoke. “Cheki mzae, Si uwache maswali ya ujinga?” The ninjas in my head started conversing! What do you drink? “water!” hahaha. Manjaa nlikuwa naskia! Hata wazae kwa tumbo karibu waanze kuongea! “wee, kwani leo hatupati kakitu?” He convinced me to take juice of which I ordered apple juice!

Wacha sasa aanze kuroroa! “I own a multi million dollar business. Even the Nairobi Tavern being constructed in Upper Hill is mine! I want you to join me in the Dubai company! How much do you earn in your current job?” Hapa napo kuna beshte yangu fulani aliniambia nsijiangushange nkiulizwa mambo ya mshaara na prospecting boss! “60,000”. Eish! I thought I had raised my bar high enough! “600 dollars? How do you even cope with such an amount here? How do you even buy Clothes and the likes because you strike me as someone who really loves fashion? The job market here is really poor, right? That is the salary I give to my tea boy in Dubai!” Huyu mzae alikuwa ameanza kunikatsia walai! Na sasa nngemuambia my real salary si angeshuta!

“I hold a master of Psychology and I have studied you have a lot of worry in your life! You are struggling a lot and ain’t sure about your future! How old are you? You look 22/23? Good for you! I want to be the fortune you badly want! Do you have a passport? You Africans really amuse me! How can someone not have a passport? How much would It cost to get a passport? I will give you 40,000. And how much would you need now for yourself? I will give you 60,000? Uuuwiiii! Thitima! “Lakini  mbona majaribu yamekuwa sehemu ya maisha yangu? Anyway…

” If you come to work in my company, I will give you everything you need! Your gym membership will be paid! You will shop anywhere you want! You will fly the world with me because I am an International businessman and you will be my PA. You will come here to visit your family from time to time and your family will also come to visit you from time to time. Become the fortune your family needs! ” At this point, the ninjas in my head assembled for an urgent meeting! Huyu mzae tumfanyie? Kwani anadhani tunaishi kwa mti alafu tunalalanga njaa?” The ninjas settled on holding it for a bit..

” You should see my house in Dubai! You will love it! There is however something about me! I have all these things but I am lonely! I had a Nigerian girlfriend but she couldn’t stand my travelling lifestyle and so she left! I am aging and really need someone in my life! I don’t know whether that person is Mical. What if I die today? I really need someone to inherit my business. Hehehe… I didn’t laugh though and neither did I roll my eyes!

He realised I was in deep thought! “What are you thinking about? You don’t need to suffer in life anymore! God has send me to rescue you! Just make up your mind, shake my hand, and we have a deal!” Deal tena? I looked straight into his face and said, “Picture this… I walked to you and asked whether you had 5 minutes and then I told you that I was in urgent need that needed 100 dollars and I would refund it in two days time because my money was stuck somewhere! However genuine I sounded or however little the money I was requesting for was, would you give it to me? He said being a stranger, he wouldn’t! I told him that he had answered himself because he was a stranger and I could not trust him just like that. He gave me his card and asked me to contact him in case I changed my mind!

I told him that I needed to get back to the conference because that was my main business there! As we walked back, he asked how long it would take for me to make up my mind and I told him that would be 62 days and also I need God’s intervention! He said God had already intervened by sending him to me! He said he was expecting me that evening but I told him I would think about it! A cab was to pick me anyways!.

During tea break, I saw him walk in another lady and I figured he was on a mission to gather beautiful African girls! He called me on Thursday afternoon to say that he would be leaving on Friday evening and he wanted to see me that evening at Safari Park Hotel! Mimi hiyo jioni nlijiendea zangu cocktail Intercontinental hotel nkamuacha akaukie huko na hizo multi million dollar businesses zake!

Mtu kwanza anicofirmie kama kuna Nairobi Tevarn inajengwa Upper Hill alafu akuje tustrategize juu bado nko na business card ya huyu mzae! Sipendangi ujinga mimi!

Mastermind Alliance Powers Optiven’s Purpose.

By Mical Imbukwa
Superficially, goal setting looks easy and fast motion requires lone walk. However the masters know that goal setting is “as easy as Climbing snow-capped rocky mountains.” And no worthwhile journey will be accomplished without team input.
Are you stuck in the circle of draggers that weigh you down enough to prevent you from moving forward? Are you stuck with a goal that you have tried to implement for years without success?  Wondering on how to succeed in life?
The story of George Wachiuri, CEO Optiven Group, as he takes us through the power of mastermind alliance and goal setting, will get you unstuck.

“You cannot achieve your vision if you are all over! Goal setting helps us to focus on one area and coordinate. You cannot for instance move to taxi business today because you heard that is where money is. When you focus on one particular goal, you are able to achieve it within the estimated period of time. For instance at Optiven, we have a goal to create 15,000 jobs by the year 2035, and that is what we are focusing on,” Wachiuri kicks off.
He notes that goal setting helps us consolidate our resources. This enables one to see the particular resources they need to achieve a particular goal. Even as an organization expands, it has to focus on its goal. Goal setting is therefore very important for any organization or individual that wants to move forward because it provides the spot around which to rally employees.
Wachiuri remembers those years when he failed 15 times in startups for he didn’t have a particular goal he was chasing. “There was no clear goal. I was younger and my goal was to be in business, but that is not how a goal should be. The goal should be solving a problem within the society. So I think when I focused and decided that the goal of Optiven is to settle Kenyans and to make sure that every Kenyan has got a home, new energy came in!” he notes
What is being implemented now, according to the real estate mogul, is a strategy laid down in 2008 when a vision had been crystalised as “to be pacesetters in social economic transformation.”
Through giving back to society, the Wachiuri is also answering to a commitment he made to God at Uhuru Park when the whole world seemed to be against him. He promised God that if He gave him money, he will give back to society and he will never skip a tithe. True to this commitment, God has always been his pillar and greatest consultant. He credits God for his success.
“The mastermind principle is also what is making us succeed as Optiven. The principle states that you cannot achieve much alone for you need to consolidate your knowledge; efforts and you also need to create the spirit of harmony and ensure that the environment and the culture is good!” he points out
Optiven succeeds because it is able to focus on its vision, and to see this bear fruit; it hires the right people and has created a culture for them. At Optiven, the CEO is not the boss! The bosses are the customer, values and targets. If all the three bosses are happy, one gets a promotion.
“Don’t come to Optiven to please George for he is nothing but a servant! I am also subject to the three bosses. That is why you find we are careful on customer service and target and it is no wonder last year 2015, we won the Company of The Year Award (COYA) for best and overall company in Kenya.”
Optiven is also proud of the following awards; Best and Overall Company in Top 100 Mid-sized Companies in Kenya 2014/2015. Best Property Developer, 2014/2015. Still in 2015, Optiven got the award for Best & Overall Company in Customer Orientation & Marketing, COYA Awards. To add on this, the CEO of Optiven Group, Mr. George Wachiuri was awarded as the Best & Most innovative entrepreneur in the USA Mashujaa Awards 2015, under the category of Business and Entrepreneurship.
Wachiuri links the achievements to the culture of performance that has been harnessed at Optiven where he states that nobody is supervised. The targets do the supervision. “If you want to come to work at 9o’clock and leave at three; that’s your own problem. As long as at the end of the month you hit your targets, no one will ask you anything!” he notes
Every organization has particular traits they look for in the people they hire to aid in realization of set goals.  For Optiven, the number one trait is attitude, then passion and finally skills, of which skills can be trained but attitude and passion is inborn.
“Optiven is a very warm organization where there are no bosses but servants. We therefore look for people with the right attitude; for with it they can be trained and mentored,” he says
As they say, success follows success. In his mastermind alliance, Wachiuri has successful people who keep inspiring him on the path to greatness.With great pride and admiration, he lists them as Kingston Ogango, Head of Media & Communications at Christ is The Answer Ministries (CITAM), Rev Bishop Philip Gatutu, his wife, Mary Wachuka, who is also Managing Director at Optiven group, Hon. Okello, owner of Sahel publishers and also publisher of his books, Dr Lettin’g Kebiwott, Vice Chancellor MUWA and Mr. Mwenda, HR manager for CIC.
This handful of people is the group Wachiuri calls on in moments of defeat and strategic positioning alike. Their inputs come in various shades, but are invaluable.
The mastermind alliance, in Wachiuri’s view, should have a great impact on an individual or an organization. A good mastermind alliance aids one unpack ideas. Whenever he has challenges, they are able to encourage him. The people in Wachiuri’s close knit circle are good Optiven ambassadors. They also contribute towards the success of Optiven. They are great supporters.
It is true that a team can help one go far but some members of the team can drag success. Wachiuri, therefore, categorizes people into three; those who will trust you, encourage you, inspire you and lift you up. This category of people, are very good to have around because when you have an idea, they will help you unload it.
There are those called the weights. For these ones, you spend time with them, you feel so heavy because they offer no motivation. The best thing to do with these ones, he says, is to remove them from your inner circle and take them to the third or fourth circle.
Finally, there are the draggers; these ones always drag you. You tell them an idea, they pull you down. They will tell you that others have tried what you are attempting and failed and so you have no reason trying. For these ones he says, you have to put them off your inner circle.
“I have thrown people out of my life severally. In fact, there are people when they call me for coffee, I don’t go because by the time I am done with them, I am so exhausted from the negative talk. I tell people jokingly that, you have no need having people in your phonebook that can’t even loan you 5,000 shillings!” he quips
He says that there are people he meets whenever needs energy. Dr James Mwangi of Equity bank is one of them.From him, he tries to know how he copes with such a broad-based bank. The spirit of Vimal Shah, of giving back to the corporate/society, inspires him. In fact he says he is the man who made him participate in KEPSA, in the governor’s round table and Kenya Property Developers Association (KPDA). He has taught him on how to negotiate with the government on corporate issues.
“From Manu Chandaria, I get the spirit of giving back to society. You go to Nairobi hospital; you find he has donated a whole wing. You go to the University of Nairobi, he has donated. The power of giving makes him look so young yet he is an old man. He is a man who inspires me a lot, especially on philanthropy.”
Challenges in the mastermind alliance, he says, come in fostering culture and harmony in an organization. When the culture is right implementing of goals becomes easy. “This is one great challenge we used to face at Optiven but when that warm culture was harnessed, the performance culture, the value based culture and the culture of honesty, everything started moving in the right direction. Honesty runs Optiven and we therefore have no room for dishonest people,” he notes
His advice to young ambitious youth with regards to the mastermind principle and goal setting is that;
“All the time, don’t plan to work alone. Get your two, three friends and start a course. Always be patient. Don’t go into betting because you want to acquire quick wealth. Success is a step by step journey just like climbing a ladder. Optiven is now 18 years old. We have been here for so long and when people see George Wachiuri shine, let them know it has been a journey of 18 years.”
He also adds that, young people should avoid comparing themselves to others. If they have to compare, let it be to build them and not to feel jealous of other people’s prosperity. “Forget about competition! Compete with yourself. God has given each and every one of us abilities that we just need the right resources to explore. If it is education, upgrade it. If it is inspiration read inspirational books such as the ones done by me.”
He encourages the young ones to form chamas, form limited companies and to join Saccos. They have to work together until the time they feel they are stable enough to stand on their own.
And to owners of companies out there, he urges them not to be bosses but the partner to the people working for them. They have to work with them and show them the vision. “That is what we do at Optiven. We don’t say Optiven belongs to Wachiuri, we say it belongs to all of us. We don’t call them staff; we call them partners because we are here to work together. Every morning we say, “Who is Optiven” and the staff shouts, “I am Optiven!
He adds; “At Optiven, we are one team, one goal. We believe we can make the cake big and invite people to cut it by creating more jobs. When you are out there, don’t give up. Persist for when one door closes, another one opens. Create a commitment with God for He is able to show us His favor when He is within us and whatever we shall touch will prosper.”
His parting shot;
“In Kenya today, we have opportunities that we can’t be able to exploit because Kenya is expanding, revenue and expenditure is growing, thanks to the huge market. The infrastructure is developing; the democratic space is now bigger. We have opportunities, so let’s open our eyes and grab them so that we can offer solutions to the society. As you offer the solutions, money is a byproduct and so let us not focus on making money. Rather, let’s focus on offering solutions to our society and then money will follow.”

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