African graduate

Growing up I was taught education is key to a bright future. However, for as long as I remember, I was always among the bottom five in class.  The only thing I was good at is English because of my love for novels I presume.

My poor performance wasn’t due to lack of hard work. I would study till late in the night, take remedial classes and wake up early but still, my results never changed. Teachers openly criticized my performance in front of the whole class just for a good laugh and that really got to me. The worst part is it got into my head and made me believe I was indeed stupid.

I managed to score an average grade barely making the university cut-off point. I was admitted for a degree in commerce, and that’s where things changed a bit. I spent most of my first year hanging out with the cool kids on campus. All we did is get drunk and do silly stuff on school nights, road trips out of the city hence miss CAT’s and classes. I was always buzzed during the few classes I attended. Maybe I had self-esteem issues.  I have never really understood why I did that.

One Sunday morning as I staggered back to my hostel after drinking the entire night, something snapped in my head. Maybe it was the booze speaking to me. I was in 2nd year. I realized the friends I had all had family money to bounce back to should something happen to them. On the other hand, my parents were struggling to put me through university yet there I was wasting my life and using the little allowance they gave me to entertain them so I would fit in.

That day I cried myself to sleep. I detached myself from that crowd, began attending lectures again. I scavenged the internet for internship programs. Most of them were not paying but that felt like a good way of staying pre-occupied so I wouldn’t slip back to my old ways. My grades were not that good but I still applied. I have never heard of anybody who died from rejection…Haha.

I took a couple of the unpaid internships. You are probably thinking I was doing it to build experience, right? No, I was using the opportunity to network and market myself.

During the weekends, I would attend entrepreneurship summits and hobnob with successful investors instead of imbibing cheap booze. That’s when I discovered how profitable it was to be a farm produce broker in Kenya.

I began waking up as early as 3 am, take a bus to South Kinangop, which is about 100  km away from Nairobi, buy potatoes from other brokers then transport them back to the city in Kangemi by 6 am where I would sell them to other brokers who later on sold them to retailers.

During my final year in campus, I secured an unpaid internship with one of the East Africa’s leading banks. I graduated with a pass and they offered to enroll me in their Graduate Management Trainee program with a starting pay of Ksh 70,000.

I will be turning 25 next year. I am set to finish the trainee program then and my salary will be Ksh 200,000 minus bonuses. On the side, I’m growing passion fruits which give me about ksh 40,000 a week in sales. I still wake up at 3 am to deliver produce to my clients together with two other delivery guys working under me.

I always dreamt of becoming a millionaire before 30 but I have already surpassed that mark. I’m now working on becoming a dollar millionaire before I’m 30 years old.

It’s not about how many A’s you have, if you are street smart and ready to start humbly then no dream is too big and no dreamer is too small.

PS: #PerceptionVsReality is an online campaign that seeks unveil the truth behind seemingly prestigious careers, highlight the plight of top Kenyan graduates,  and showcase the positive stories. The purpose of this series is to prepare students for life after campus, candidly share the challenges young professionals are facing in the corporate world and pick life lessons from those who found a way to thrive having surmounted great tribulations.

To take part in the initiative email your story to All submissions will be published anonymously to protect the identities of the participants. Follow the series on Facebook


Add Yours
  1. 4

    I follow Strive Masiyiwa (you can ind him on Facebook) and he advocates for agribusiness. He says that if he were to start all over again, he would go into agriculture

  2. 11
    Peter Pareno

    Nowadays it isn’t about how good you are in class…you have to learn street and people skills to survive outside here and be somebody meaningful. I wonder why so many young guys are busy accumulating so many degrees and certificates while the money could be used to venture into business?

  3. 19

    The story is inspiring the least, but it brings into perception what we have been socialized to, ‘MONEY AS A MEASURE OF SUCCESS”. I tend to think that earning or having loads of money is no success at all…

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