If you asked most people to choose between a car and a bike, the decision would be very easy. Who doesn’t want to sit behind the wheel, anyway?
Yet for Peter Biwott, the bike would be his first pick. The CEO of KEPROBA (Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency) says he loves cycling. Throw a racing motorbike into the mix, and he would really have to think long and hard on what to take.
“My passion is cycling,” he says. In fact, he was still nursing a knee injury sustained during cycling the week prior to this interview.
Losing weight while having fun
On the weekend of 21st September, Biwott says he did 70kms on his bike – 68km on Saturday and 10km on Sunday – a no-mean fete by CEO standards.
Not many managers used to polished offices and chauffeured around in air-conditioned road monsters can claim that title, let alone mount a bike, but Biwott says he does this all for passion and keeping fit.
“This is cutting weight in a fun-filled way,” he says, explaining how it has helped him to cut quite substantial flesh. “With a bike, you just want to go and go. My next target is doing 100km.”
Mr Biwott wishes it was possible to ride to work every day. But the reality of security, poor infrastructure and negative perceptions is such that cycling to work in the chaotic Nairobi city can be a risky affair. Without designated lanes for bikers, it is taunting to navigate the city vehicle and human traffic.
To appease his adrenaline, he engages in motor-racing. Next time a sputtering SUV motor-bike zooms past you, it just could be this guy seated today in an executive office, all suited up and spitting queen’s English and corporate lingo.
“I love cruising long distance,” he tells BT, which engaged him on some of the things he does when he’s not racing up and down KEPROBA offices and attending high-profile meeting to improve Kenya’s exports and brand.
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By riding and cruising on a motorbike, Biwott also is building himself into a role model to promote safety and compliance with traffic and road rules.
“Motorists have no mercy for other road users on bikes,” he says. He recalls many incidents when he’s forced off the road or blocked by cars.
“They forget that everyone, including pedestrian and bicycle users, has the right to use the road. Boda boda guys, though, can be very rowdy on the road and so they need the right skills.”
I only consume the vegetables produced on my farm.Peter Biwott
And it’s not just about the fun and adrenaline. Biwott learns a lot of management skills from these activities. Every day he learns something new on every ride, and finds it very practical in running an organization as well: good managers and leaders are open to learning new things.
On the road, he says, you must always be sharp lest you do something that could endanger your life or the lives of other people. And so he applies the same trait, honed by his passion, in management as well as in other leadership positions.
Mr Biwott, apparently, loves reading too. As you would predict, being an economist, he is into economic content.
The week of 23rd September he was reading Why Nations Fail by Armenian-American economist Daron Acemoglu from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and British political scientist James A. Robinson from the University of Chicago.
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Those who haven’t read the book will certainly think politics, but book applies insights from institutional economics, development economics and economic history to understand why nations develop differently, with some succeeding in the accumulation of power and prosperity and others failing, via a wide range of historical case studies.
Now you understand why Biwott is interested in Why Nations Fail.
At the end, Peter Biwott goes home to a meal of millet ugali and vegetables. These days he has adopted a more herbivorous kind of lifestyle and his diet is greener. “I only consume the vegetables I produce on my farm,” he says. “It’s healthy living combined with exercising on the bike.”
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