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The founder: Joseph Kihara, the Kenyan businessman on a fast track

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The founder: Joseph Kihara, the Kenyan businessman on a fast track

Joseph is the co-founder of Johannesburg-based Kiharu Capital. Established in 2019, Kiharu has worked on hundreds of commercial and residential projects and employs more than 20 people

Published 5 October 2023

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The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship came at an opportune time for Kenyan scholar Joseph Kihara. He knew he wanted to do a Master’s degree in Finance. He had left his job as an actuarial officer and been offered partial scholarships from universities in the UK, but nowhere near enough to sustain him. However, funding wasn’t the only factor that drew Joseph towards the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship. The leadership and entrepreneurship pillars appealed to him, as well as the high calibre of the board of trustees. “Also, I wanted to be based in Africa. As much as I was applying to go to the UK or the US, I really wanted to stay in Africa and establish myself here, and South Africa has some of the best universities on the continent.”

As a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, Joseph had to adjust to life in a new country, study towards a master’s degree and embark on the Foundation’s leadership development programme. It was a steep learning curve. “There was a lot to learn from all these individuals. It exposed me to a lot of things that I did not have exposure to before,” he says. Joseph interpreted the themes of the leadership development programme through his personal experiences. The reconciliation principle directed his thoughts to electoral politics in his home country. Political contestation can stoke social and ethnic divides in Kenya, and Joe has learnt not to let tribal prejudices and stereotypes influence his perception of fellow Kenyans. Since their graduation, his cohort has remained in contact, and Joseph says the network has been valuable.

Joseph graduated cum laude from his Masters in Management, Finance and Investment at Wits University. He worked as a financial consultant for a year and then co-founded Kifaru Capital in October 2019. Based in Gauteng, the company’s services include deal advisory, international trade, debt and equity finance and construction. There have been many triumphs: Joseph has found a seat at the table alongside industry leaders and gained the trust and respect of his clients.

There have also been challenges. His business took a big hit during the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020. Joe learned some hard lessons but has bounced back and found ways to ensure the company’s revenue. Earning an income is important, but making a positive impact in his industry and community are what motivate Joseph. It’s what made him choose to work in an African country rather than relocate to Europe, and what motivates him to advocate for ESG policies and practices. It’s why he believes in mentorship and skills transfer. It’s why he wants entrepreneurship and development initiatives to transcend Africa’s geographic borders. And ultimately, it’s how he can appreciate his time as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar and the impact it had on his education, his work and his outlook.

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