NAIROBI, Kenya, May 16 – It was a small affair, with only the closest of friends, family and business associates in attendance.
But the reason for the gathering was by no means minor; Dr Chris Kirubi, business magnate, philanthropist and pan-Africanist was being knighted by the French government for his, “distinguished accomplishments and contributions to the growth of members of the society at large.”
“I’ve been told that this is the greatest honour the French bestow. I think what’s left for me now is to become a French man, I’ll be expecting my passport,” an emotional Dr Kirubi joked.
But it did not minimise the significance of the red-ribboned medal pinned to his lapel.
Especially for a man who testified he had no home growing up. “I don’t think people usually appreciate just how far I’ve come. My dream home is such a big deal for me that when we started, my architect had hair on his head. Now he doesn’t.”
From such humble beginnings, Dr Kirubi is now the Chairman of Capital Group Limited with Haco Tiger Brands Limited, International House, Nairobi Bottlers, DHL Kenya and Centum Investments Company being among his other notable investments.
“A lot of lives now depend on mine,” Dr Kirubi who has a thousand workers under his employ remarked almost disbelievingly on receipt of the insignia of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.
But it’s not only for his business acumen that Dr Kirubi joined the likes of Jane Kiano, women’s rights advocate, on the list of Kenyans to have received the Legion of Honour established by the legendary Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.
His contribution to society, as a philanthropist and as a nationalist who’s served on various national strategy formulating task forces such as that which came up with the Vision 2030 blue print was another reason.
READ: Businessman Chris Kirubi Knighted for work with youth
And given it’s a French award, Dr Kirubi’s efforts to strengthen the economic and cultural ties between the two nations also played a part in his selection for the award; Dr Kirubi being vice-chair of the Alliance Française in Nairobi.
“I’m yet to perfect my French though,” Dr Kirubi again joked.
That said, the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour is no joking matter and as Dr Kirubi tells it, neither was his climb into the Forbes list of most influential African business leaders.