Young Kenyan builds business acumen in China, inspires peers
While growing up in a low income suburb northwest of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, Mohammed Kimani never dreamt that he would one day become an accomplished entrepreneur with a large footprint in his native country and China.
Kimani endured the indignities of poverty at a tender age while growing up in a shanty village where youth often fell on the wayside thanks to limited chances in life.
The death of his estranged biological father cast a dark shadow in Kimani’s life and that of his three siblings.
Having observed the immense struggles his widowed mother endured in order to feed, clothe and educate her offspring, Kimani vowed to work hard in school in order to secure a lucrative career that would salvage his next of kin from the shackles of deprivation.
While in high school, Kimani did manual work to raise tuition fees and the trend continued when he joined college to study information technology.
The self-made businessman, who founded Amana Export Company (AEC) after graduating from a mid-level college in Nairobi, is an embodiment of courage and resilience in the face of adversity.
Now in his early 30s, Kimani has witnessed the growth of a medium scale enterprise into a profit churning behemoth that has a large presence in Kenya and China.
During a recent interview with Xinhua, Kimani said that a visit to China in 2012 paved the way for the rapid growth of his start-up that is not only involved in import and export business but also facilitates interaction between Kenyan and Chinese entrepreneurs.
“When I first landed in China in 2012, I applied for a teaching career although my heart was in business,” said Kimani, adding that perks and exposure gained in the teaching profession paved way for realization of his dream as a distinguished entrepreneur.
He was employed briefly as a teacher in Shenzhen and Henan province and later moved to Beijing to build his start-up.
While in Beijing, Kimani interacted with successful Chinese and Kenyan entrepreneurs whose advice and connections would later open new opportunities to the ambitious youngster.
“I knew from the beginning that Beijing was a strategic springboard for a foreigner yearning to venture into business since it is a cosmopolitan city,” Kimani said.
Ever the optimist, Kimani defied skeptical voices to oversee growth of his flagship company in a foreign land while maintaining loyalty to his country of birth.
Kenyans are seen at the Western China International Economy and Trade Fair in Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan Province, Oct. 16, 2009.(Xinhua/Chen Xie)
“My company picked up in 2012 shortly after settling in China, and we have been importing general merchandise like clothes, electronics, foot wear, machinery and household goods from the Asian giant to Kenya,” Kimani said.
He said his company has offices in Nairobi and Guangzhou to help facilitate interactions between Kenyan and Chinese enterprises.
“We have been assisting Kenyan entrepreneurs to prepare travel documents to China and also link them up with suppliers there. Our company also facilitate shipping of goods imported from China,” said Kimani.
He revealed that in 2014, his company facilitated 200 Kenyan entrepreneurs to travel to China to buy products while exploring new markets.
Kimani’s start-up has been facilitating Kenyan small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in importing high quality and affordable products from China at a modest commission.
“My work is to identify suppliers in China and link them with our small and medium scale entrepreneurs. We can also order products for Kenyan importers through online platforms,” Kimani said.
Kimani is among a growing cadre of Kenyan professionals and entrepreneurs who consider China their second home as bilateral ties between the two countries blossom to new heights.
Kimani alternates between China and Kenya as he oversees growth of an enterprise that has created many jobs.
“I returned to Kenya last month and in some instances, I stay in China for a whole year due to heavy workload,” said Kimani, adding that Kenyan youth consider China a prized destination to hone their entrepreneur skills.
Chinese manufactured goods have gained traction with Kenyan small and medium sized enterprises due to their quality and affordable prices.
Kimani said that a robust interaction between Kenyan and Chinese entrepreneurs has fostered trust and friendship.
“Our businesspeople are amazed whenever they visit China to buy a wide range of products. They are surprised to discover that Chinese society is very welcoming and friendly,” Kimani said.
He said that Kenyan youth who had lengthy work or study tours in China are currently behind investment frenzy back home.
“Hundreds of Kenyan youth have been able to lift themselves from poverty after staying in China where they gained business skills,” said Kimani.
He is currently studying Chinese language at a university in Guangzhou and while in Kenya he offers mentorship on entrepreneurship to disadvantaged children.