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The road not taken: Graduate carves out first job out of community’s pain



When Emmanuel Hirkena, 26, graduated from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT) with a Bachelor of Actuarial Science in 2015, he knew pretty well that he was joining the ranks of millions of other jobless youths.

It was not easy, recalls Mr Hirkena of the time when, armed with his second class honours (upper division) papers and bubbling optimism, he ventured out to look for a job.

“It’s only after graduating from college that you realise there is some unique point of confluence for both the learned and unlearned out here. How you take the challenge is what makes or breaks you,” Mr Hirkena told the Nation in an interview in Marsabit town.

Not one to hold out for the elusive white-collar jobs, Mr Hirkena reckoned that he could earn a living by solving some of the problems faced by his community. That meant plunging headlong into the informal sector.

He had noticed the agony of his community with regard to transport and felt he could help “commercialise pastoralism” by helping his people take their animals to the market.

“Our people have to travel eight kilometres from Hula Hula to Marsabit town to sell their animals, for their shopping and other business activities,” Mr Hirkena said.

A temporary job he secured with the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) came as a godsend. From his little savings, he was able to buy a Toyota Probox, which he uses as a taxi.

Buy a truck

His initial dream was to buy a truck, which would help his people take livestock to the market in Marsabit, Merille and Nairobi.

He, however, could not raise the money to purchase a truck. Besides, Covid-19 ruined everything, what with the restriction of movement to curb the spread of the viral disease.

Hirkena’s passion for learning and outstanding academic excellence became manifest right from primary and high school back in Marsabit County.

When he sat his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams at St Joseph’s Secondary School, he managed to score a strong scored B+ grade in a historically marginalised county that is synonymous with poor performance.

Emmanuel Hirkena talks to a client beside his Toyota Probox taxi at Laisamis Trading Centre on August 24, 2020. He turned to taxi business as he continues with job-hunting.

Jacob Walter | Nation Media Group

A firm believer in continuous learning, Mr Hirkena is currently a student member of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFOA), where has obtained three professional papers and still counting.

While he has not given up on his search for formal employment, he advises fellow graduates against staying idle waiting for white-collar jobs.

“The taxi business may not be as lucrative as people may think but, I assure you at the end of each day I pocket at least Sh1,000,” Mr Hirkena revealed.

His long-term goal is to serve and empower his community in any leadership position.

Besides the taxi business, he practises kitchen gardening. He grows kales, onions and tomatoes within their homestead for subsistence and sells the surplus.

Right attitude

He calls for optimism among the youth, many of who have been rendered jobless by poor governance and education-related factors.

“It is not a walk in the park out here, but if you maintain the right attitude, optimism and work smart, I assure you, all is not lost,” Hirkena challenged his peers.

He has been a source of inspiration in this part of Kenya that is classified under the arid and semi-arid lands.

Samuel Orkhobeste, who holds a Bachelor of Science (Biochemistry) and Dolly Lepati, who has a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics, concurred that optimism, trust and self-confidence are the key components of holistic well-being amid the joblessness storm.


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#EyesOnTheCommunities by Optiven Foundation



Kitengela, Nairobi County.
For 3 months ,John Kabue Ndegwa, has battled with a spine problem causing him paralysis, a devastation that robbed him of his mobility.

In September 2020, John found hope through the Optiven Foundation’s campaign #MobilityThatBringsASmile. He became a beneficiary of a brand new wheelchair, a gift that was comfortably delivered by his brother, pictured below.

Our goal is to reach and impacting more lives. You can be part of this cause by making a donation to Optiven Foundation via Paybill 898 630, Account name: Mobility

For more info, call us on +254 718 77 60 33 or

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This enemy called average



Do you realize there is a lot of potential in each one of us? Do you also realize that not all of us get to maximise our full potential?

The problem is because we settle on a place called AVERAGE! Join me this Friday 2nd October from 4pm, as we discuss on how we can exterminate this enemy called average.

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The Sh180,000 cat breeders



People love their pets, but how often do they think about the costs?

For years, Kenyans have been splurging cash on expensive cars, houses, fine wine and whisky, art pieces, and jewellery, but there is a new breed of young wealthy people buying expensive cats.

These cats are rare and their bloodline is documented.

“Human beings like class and social status. Because the rich do not want to remain in the same class with everybody in regards to pet ownership, they are going for Persian, Siamese, and Scottish fold cats,” says Dr Charles Muriuki of Jingi Vet clinic in Nyali, Mombasa.

Considered the ‘Ferrari of cats’, the Persian cats are highly sought-after and admired for their long and thick coats. And they do not come cheap.

“Right now you can get a Persian for about Sh50,000 but a few years ago it cost around Sh100,000, then you add the freight charge, you pay Sh150,000,” says Dr Muriuki.

Pablo and Nura are Persian cats and some of the few in Kenya whose every whim are indulged by their owner Mohamed Shurut.

At his house, during the interview, Mr Shurut says things like ‘let the furry bosses come to you instead of picking them up’, ‘never wake a sleeping kitty.’

To him, the Persian cats are feline royals.

“They are classy, loving and loyal companions. They do not like to be held so much. Give your Persian cat time as it expects you to treat it like a royal,” he says.

Every day, he spends more than an hour brushing their fur. “The fur knots very easily and it’s what makes the cat stand out. I have to groom them every day,” he says, adding that they are best kept indoors but they can be let out on a cat leash.

Many pet lovers scoff at talk about expenses to avoid being judged.

“Sometimes I fend off unwanted questions. Some people do not like pets so they ask me why I waste money on cats. I do what I feel is best for me. I love my cats,” he says.


A Persian cat owned by Mohammed Shurut. PHOTO | EAUNICE MURATHE

So how much did he spend on the cats?

Between Sh50,000 to Sh100,000 for each of his cats, minus the daily expenses of keeping them happy.

“In a month, you’re probably looking at spending between Sh8,000 to Sh10,000 depending on what kind of cat food you’re buying. I give them fish oil. You also have to factor in the veterinary bills, grooming, litter and multivitamins,” he says.

Another seller

As the exotic cat market is thriving, and supply rarely meeting demand, Mr Shurut found a niche in supplying pet owners with prized breeds.

The 26-year-old now runs an online shop, Persian Cats Kenya, a breeding business.


“I used to see social media posts of the Persian cats owned by foreigners. I had a dream of owning one but it is not easy to find them in Kenya,” he says.

After a long search, he bought a kitten from a friend whose Persian cat had given birth.

“He had imported the cats from Egypt. He opted to sell me the male kitten and remain with the parent stock. I started shopping for a female one. I imported a female cat from Egypt,” he says.

He never imagined the cat hobby he casually picked up would end up becoming a business.

“This year I noted that many people were looking for Persian cats. I had many inquiries, especially on social media. I decided to start importing and breeding the cats,” he says.

Mr Shurut sells two-month-old kittens imported from Russia and Egypt for Sh150,000.

“The common ones are the Doll Face Persian Kittens and Punch face Persian kittens. My female cat is also pregnant and I am hoping to get kittens. The price is fair. Someone who truly values them will get them at any cost,” he says.

Another cat owner Juliet Muchira from Kiambu imported a Persian cat after seeing it online.

“I have always loved cats. I owned my first cat when I was six years old. Four years ago, as I was researching more about cats, I came across the Persian breed and I was interested. I tried finding one locally but didn’t find it. That’s when I thought of importing,” she says. The Persian cat gave birth and she decided to breed them.

She has been doing the business for almost three years now. Her cattery, Juliepaws is registered under The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), the World’s Largest Registry of Pedigreed Cats.

The cost of owning a Persian cat differs, she says, with the needs of a client. The most expensive cat she ever sold cost Sh180,000.

“I sold it to a family in Mombasa a year ago. I have never sold a cat outside Kenya, but I hope to. But I have sold so many kittens locally, Mombasa, Nairobi, and Kiambu. My cattery is the only registered cattery in Kenya,” she says.

The cats come with a registration certificate.

“My cats are all imported and I get them from certified and registered breeders who know their bloodline,” she says, adding that what makes them expensive is their distinctive face, tiny ears, gentle temperaments, and being a pure breed.

Pet love

Traditionally, dogs and cats were working animals than pets. A cat kept the mouse down, a dog guarded homes, and so on. But now, lots of people are latching onto the craze for buying and sharing their homes with pets and choosing to take care of them in ways that our parents did not.

Over the past 10 years or so, human-pet relationships have grown closer, says Dr Muriuki.

“Most people now are embracing the pet culture. They are keeping them as companions, taking care of them. We socialise with pets differently. For example, one cat was coughing and sneezing because the owner had changed her cologne to one that was not cat-friendly. At my clinic, she called her friends, told them that the cat was unwell, took videos and photos as one would do with a child,” he says.

Exotic cats are a huge amount of work and a considerable investment, fuelling an increasingly thriving cat product and service market in Kenya.

However, Dr Muriuki says, the downside of buying the exotic breeds, is that some breeders import male and female cats from the same parents, they inbreed and they start selling inbreeds.

Inbred pedigree cats end up suffering from life-threatening diseases like cancer and deformities.

by Business

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