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Simon Gicharu: Building Mt Kenya University Has Taken Patience And Honesty

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Mt Kenya University founder Simon Gicharu has been inducted into the World Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame. In the ongoing week-long event in Monaco, France, whose highlight will be the crowning of the 2015 Ernst and Young World Entrepreneur of the Year on Saturday, Dr Gicharu is among the 65 top business leaders from across the world to be feted for the final awards of the World Entrepreneur of the Year that will be held tomorrow.

Dr Gicharu, 51, is among three Africans selected to represent the continent at a global competition to award distinguished entrepreneurs. The event, which is sponsored by Ernst & Young, recognises the accomplishments of entrepreneurs.

He was picked for his contribution to education by creating a private university now with over 50,000 students and 4,000 employees, and also for its higher number of accredited academic programmes among private universities in the country. He is credited with transforming a training college that was operating at a loss and could hardly meet its rent obligations, into a leading private university in the region.

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He will represent East Africa, alongside Wale Tinubu of Nigeria and Asher Bohbot of South Africa and will be among 65 entrepreneurs from 53 countries to be recognised as EY celebrates its 15th anniversary.

EY Entrepreneur of the Year is the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The award is given on the basis of entrepreneurial spirit, financial performance, strategic direction, innovation, global impact, personal integrity, influence and philanthropy.

Mr Gicharu will compete for the World title and cement his legacy by entering the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame, joining the 572 previous country finalists since the global event started in 2001. Equity Bank chief executive Dr James Mwangi was named the World Entrepreneur of the Year in 2012 for his contribution to banking.

“I am proud of the work that I started several years ago of transforming young people, it has not been an easy journey that has seen setting up of campuses in Rwanda, Somalia and in various counties in Kenya,” Mr Gicharu told Nation.

He said investing in education is not an ordinary enterprise as it requires a lot of resources and patience.  “It is about transforming young people from school and ensuring that they have transformed into required manpower in the society,” said Mr Gicharu.

There are 65 contestants from 53 countries. Together, they have a combined revenue of $38 billion and employ over 334,000 people. Mount Kenya University, the largest private university in East and Central Africa, employs 4,000 people across six countries in Eastern Africa.

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Dr Gicharu said that honesty and patience has been his philosophy and encouraged young Kenyans to be honest to succeed in whatever they do. Mr Gicharu started off with Thika Institute of Technology which grew into a fully fledged university in 2011. In 2012, President Mwai Kibaki awarded him with the Chief of the Order of the Burning Spear, the highest State honour for a civilian for his role in promoting education and entrepreneurship.

Mr Gicharu was born in Kiambu and attended Kenyatta University where he pursued Bachelor of Education degree, specialising in double mathematics. (DAILY NATION)

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