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Time to celebrate our own industrialists

Monday August 1 2016

Mrs Tabitha Karanja CEO Keroche Breweries receiving the top Business Woman of the year in East Africa trophy from Marie Leclercq- CNBC Business Development Manager (East Africa). PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Mrs Tabitha Karanja CEO Keroche Breweries receiving the top Business Woman of the year in East Africa trophy from Marie Leclercq- CNBC Business Development Manager (East Africa). PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The story of Kenya’s industrialisation is embedded in its Vision 2030 economic blueprint that seeks to propel the country from a low to middle-income economy.

Through the manufacturing sector, significant strides have been made and the economy’s fundamentals are strong for economic take-off supported heavily by the rise of local industries.

The formation of a full-fledged Ministry of Industrialisation by the government in 2013 was a clear indicator that industrialisation is a key priority.

While the main focus is on the success of Kenya’s industrial policy, little or no attention is paid on what it takes to be a successful industrialist in a country where navigating to the top in business is a daunting task.

Some of the industrialists that the country has produced include Dr Manu Chandaria, Dr Chris Kirubi, Tabitha Karanja, among others. Just like most Kenyans have done us proud internationally by winning international awards, the same can be said of our industrialists.

Today, I choose to focus on what Keroche Breweries founder and Chief Executive Officer Tabitha Karanja has brought to our economy.


Born in a remote village of Kijabe in 1964 and with a seed capital of Sh500,000 that has given rise to an ultra modern multi-billion state-of-art brewery, Tabitha’s rise to the top in the corporate sector is one long inspirational story.

Tabitha is probably the most courageous and industrious Kenyan woman to have opened a business onslaught against a multinational brewery.

Her relentless fight for market share – currently at 20 per cent has earned her global awards even though, locally she has had to fend-off stiff business monopoly, male chauvinism and industry skeptics to grow Keroche Breweries into an internationally admired success business story.

In 2010, Tabitha was honoured by President Kibaki with the Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear (MBS) Award for her efforts in supporting the economy as an industrialist.

In 2014, she won the CNBC Africa’s Business Woman of the Year Award which honours business excellence and leaders with remarkable impact on their industry and community. Last year, she won the Transformational Business Award in Morocco, which is given to a notable business leader who has created significant socio-economic impact in Africa.

Tabitha’s international accolades do not end there; she remains the “face of Kenya” at these award ceremonies in foreign capitals. On August 1, she will be in Accra, Ghana as a nominee for the prestigious Africa Life Achievement Award.

But what does her corporate presence abroad and international accolades mean to the Kenyan economy? First, this is a great source of global market visibility for East Africa’s biggest economy. The mention of her as a top contender in such fora puts Kenya on the continental and global map.

Secondly, the interest created by her nomination and participation in such global events is a source of interest that endears foreigners to visit Kenya as tourists.

Thirdly, the flow of foreign direct investments and increase in the diaspora remittances is a benefit that cannot be gainsaid.

Just like other industrialists who care to transfer their knowledge and skills to the younger generation, Tabitha runs a youth business mentorship programme, through the Keroche Foundation, that will give rise to a new generation of industrialists.

This is how developed economies create wealth and foster economic prosperity for their posterity.

Let us celebrate our industrialists. Let us support their worthy courses. That is the only way we can find homegrown solutions to our economic challenges.

The writer is an economist, consultant and commentator on trade and investment; [email protected]