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Fear of herding cows stirred me to excel – Daniel Ndonye

Mr Daniel Ndonye. Image courtesy

Nairobi, Kenya, Jun 28 – When Daniel Ndonye ran away from his step brother’s trade of herding cows and goats, he didn’t know how far his career boat would sail to.

Looking back, he is glad that he made the tough choice of embracing books. He has bagged several firsts in his career; First to get first class honour in Bachelor of Commerce in Kenya, First Black Managing Senior Partner at Deloitte, First ICAEW member in Africa and First Black Chair of The Members Advisory Board of (ICAEW).

Capital FM caught up with him at the Muthaiga Golf Club for him to share about his 37-year corporate experience.

What is your current position?

I retired as the managing partner of Deloitte and Touché in May 2010 so I’ve been out for the last seven years and enjoying it. I put a list of the things I wanted to do. As soon as I’m mentioned to one or two people that I was resigning, they offered a few directorship opportunities.

After 37 years, I vowed not to touch anything to do with auditing and farming.

How many did you get?

In the area of the quoted companies, I was a director of five companies. One delisted and I remained with four.

You mentioned that you didn’t want anything to do with farming, why?

There is a history to it. When I was a little boy, I was plucked from my mother to go and look after my step brother’s cows and goats. So each time the cows and goats would invade other people’s shambas, I would get a thorough beating. When I decided enough was enough, I took off.

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After that, I went to school in standard one and I decided never to look after cattle and goats.

How did the herding of goats and cows impact your life?

I decided to focus on education and I started topping in standard one. In 1960, I sat this exam called common entrance exam. It was an examination which most people failed, but I passed it in the first attempt. When I sat for the CPE paper, I got a letter inviting me to go to Alliance High School for form one.


After high school, I went to the University of Nairobi. When I was in the second year, I performed well. I got a thousand shillings price from MCR Cash Register – a business machine company – and I was featured in the papers getting the award.

The awards brought a lot of publicity and the CEO of Deloitte looked for me. He asked if I was interested in being trained as a chartered accountant in the UK. Within no time, I went to study Chartered Accounting in Liverpool in the UK.

Coming from Machakos, and studying in the UK, how was that?

My experience in the UK was beautiful. The life was very enjoyable both on the social front and the professional front.

Any racism experience?

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When I bought a car, I experienced racism. Cops would stop you without any reason.

Daily routine?

After 22 years being married, my wife died and I remarried. I have two small children, one in the nursery and one in the primary. I try my best to drop them to school daily. I also read a lot. I am not very disciplined going to the gym but I walk a lot for like for an hour daily.

How does it feel to be a first in many areas?

It should humble you. Shakespeare was right when he said that life is like a play. You get on the stage, play your part and another person will take over from you.

A few years to come, people will not remember your success or failures. Just do your bit and forget about the rest.

It looks like everything has been very easy for you, is that the case?

It was hard work. I was a bookworm throughout. I can’t say I was naturally bright. I worked for every grade that I got and by extension where I am currently.

What’s your take on the culture of instant gratification?

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When you do something and it’s not bringing results as quickly as you want it, be patient. Start investing small, in the long run, you will have results.

What do you do during your leisure time?

I read a lot of autobiographies.

Your favourite? And what’s in your library?

I like all of the ones I’ve read. I’ve just finished Moody Awori’s and I’m now reading Kalonzo Musyoka’s. My library has a lot of books on investment and personal development in my library.

How have autobiographies helped you?

You learn that you share a lot of experiences with other people. When I was in class seven, I could debate a lot but when I went to form one and I tried to debate, someone whispered that I was speaking Kamba because of my accent. I never spoke again. And when I was reading Kiraitu Murungi’s, I read that he also went through the same experience.

How do you define success now?

Success is when you achieve what you intended to do, whatever it is. For example, I can say that I succeeded being an accountant. I have a track record of 37 years as an accountant.

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How do you view money?

Money is what enables you to meet the daily requirements of life. For example, I feel like I have money because I’m able to pay this lunch, or else, we would have to have a cost-sharing arrangement.

How much money is enough?

I don’t need to have a lot of money as long as I can meet the household needs, occasionally go on holiday and meet the daily demands of life.

What is it that motivated you?

It’s actually negative motivation that got me going. I wanted to sit for my exams, pass and go to a school far away so that I couldn’t herd cows. When I went to school and started doing well, there was this motivation to just keep doing well. Success motivates.

How has your work been with ICEAW?

I’m the chair of the ICEAW Committee in Africa. Our work is to ensure that we preach the message. It is just basically to see how to promote the chartered accountants qualifications in Africa. The qualification made me who I am and if I can encourage people to get it, I would be happy.


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Daniel Ndonye is a chartered accountant by profession, having worked with Deloitte & Touche for over 30 years, 20 of which he was a Managing/Senior Partner. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Nairobi.

He is a Fellow and the current chair of The Members Advisory Board of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, a fellow the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya and the Institute of Certified Public Secretaries of Kenya. He sits on the boards of several companies, among which Four (5) are listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

He eventually went ahead to become the first Kenyan Managing Senior Partner at Deloitte, and the African fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

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