For Dr Simon Gicharu, the founder and chairman of Mount Kenya University – East and Central Africa’s largest private institution of higher learning – quality education is the engine that will propel Africa’s economic growth
Last month, the world stood in unison at a glamorous event held in Monaco, South of France, to salute a son of Kenya who raised himself by his bootstraps to rewrite the rules of higher education,- and now steers East and Central Africa’s largest academic juggernaut.
Dr Simon Gicharu, CBS, who dons another hat as Chairman of the Rural Electrification Authority (REA), believes success of a leader can be measured by the number of lives he positively transforms.
Mount Kenya University, the institution he founded with a seed capital of only Sh20,000 today graduates over 10,000 highly skilled young people annually in various academic disciplines.
Through its network of 16 campuses and centres throughout Eastern Africa, the university has built an ecosystem that supports over 300,000 families.
And since he took over the helmsmanship of Rural Electrification Authority (REA) Board, nearly 20,000 primary schools in rural Kenya now have access to electricity. “Investing in education is investing in people,” he says.
In Monaco, Dr Gicharu represented the East African region in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. It led to his eventual induction into the World Hall of Fame, thus certifying the institution he founded as stable, viable and iimpactful.
In fact, what mesmerised the judges and fellow competitors was how Dr Gicharu manages to return a profit using a unique business model that allows students to pay fees by instalments.
“MKU is a community outreach programme with an economic engine,” he says of the institution that employs over 4,000 people. Besides financial performance, other criteria used in his induction were entrepreneurial spirit, community impact, philanthropy, innovation and strategic direction.
In line with his philosophy of focusing on community outreach, MKU has constructed a new science and research centre in the remote Turkana County at a cost of Sh200 million.
“The soon-to-be commissioned centre will transform this traditionally marginalised community by providing access to higher education,” he says.