The village boy who became a global manager and politician

Kithinji Kiragu
Owing to his academic brilliance, professional excellence, business acumen and political dabbles, Kithinji Kiragu stands out as one of the most illustrious sons of Embu County.

The down to earth and friendly man will easily fit among locals at his Embu backyard and effortlessly immerse in deep and meaningful conversations on a multitude of topics.

But beyond that, Kiragu is a public sector management specialist who consults for the World Bank and has even been contracted by African governments as a consultant.

His popular name KK had its genesis while he was working with whites in a consulting fi rm and they had trouble pronouncing his names. The found KK easier to say and remember.

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Kiragu has his name immortalised in the annals of the history of Embu County in the spheres of business, politics and philanthropy.

He is the founder and chairman of Embu College, which for close to 20 years has trained and churned out graduates in various disciplines and is the second largest tertiary institution of higher learning in the county after University of Embu.

He also has investments in a consulting firm, vast coffee and tea estates and is also a dairy farmer. In addition, he is the proprietor of Embu High School, a boys’ boarding school.

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He considers himself blessed for his rise from a son of poor peasant farmer’s parents in Kairuri village, Embu North sub-county to where he is today.

The family man schooled at Gituri primary school and later at St Pauls’ Kevote High School where he broke record in performance that remained unmatched until the 8.4.4 system replaced its predecessor the 7.6.2.3.

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He proceeded to Strathmore School for his A-levels where he took Physics, Chemistry and Maths, a moment he values much in his life as he says they offered the best education.

He graduated with a Masters degree in business administration from the University of Strathclyde, U.K. in 1979 after a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Nairobi.

The same year, Kiragu joined Coopers & Lybrand, now part of PricewaterhouseCoopers, as a management consultant.

He earned promotions to became a director before founding his own firm, KK Consulting Associates.

Kiragu has also been the chairman and director of Africa Development Professional Group Ltd., an independent consulting firm.

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He has worked on a number of public sector reform projects in Kenya and Tanzania, including the Kenya Rural Access Roads Program.

He also served as the chief technical adviser for public sector reforms in the Office of the President of Tanzania from 1995 until 1999.

Nationally, former President Mwai Kibaki awarded Kiragu the Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya (OGW) in

2006 in recognition of his contributions to areas of capacity development and civil service reform.

In August 2010, the president appointed KK Kiragu was also appointed the chairman of the State Corporations

Advisory Committee (SCAC) in August 2010 and the following year the president bestowed him the honour of Moran of the Burning Spear.

On the political front, Kiragu contested in the 1983 and 1988 parliamentary elections and lost both. He also vied for the Embu governorship in 2013 nd 2017 and despite losing in both cases, he cherishes the experiences for shaping him into the contended man he is today.

On philanthropy, the talkative Kiragu who exudes a warm demeanour and easily breaks into a hearty laughter in the course of his conversations is known to have helped many an individual and groups and even the community.

Kiragu’s leadership bug bite him as a student at St Pauls Kevote where he recalls that while in form three he was the informal leader of the school.

At the University of Nairobi, he was the chairman of the Embu Students Association and the secretary general Nairobi University Students Association in 1976.

He recalls with humour an incident when with colleagues at university they convened a congress of students from Embu that was to be held at Kangaru School.

“Hundreds of students from Siakago, Kyeni and the few other schools in Embu arrived early for the congress. However, we met a heavy police presence and we were informed that no meeting would be held there. I learnt the Embu political leaders had thwarted the congress to counter our growing popularity. However, our agenda was innocent,” he says.

Kiragu would later resign from NUSA on realising that as officials they were being targeted on perceptions that they were dissidents.

By the time he left university, he had become a politician of national interest and in 1983 he decided to vie for the Embu North constituency which comprised Runyenjes and Manyatta minus Municipality and Kieni, which were part of Embu East.

He vied but lost the election to Stanley Nyaga Kithung’a. He believes he won but the system was against him becoming an MP due his student activism. Kiragu decided not to vie again and concentrate on his political career.

In 1987, he was summoned by President Moi to State House Nairobi. Moi told him that he was impressed by the things he was doing for the community. Moi wanted him to vie again and to focus on empowering the youth and women.

He competed against Kamwithi Munyi in an election that was marred by chaos, which Kiragu says was orchestrated by his opponents.

“Even after votes were cast, I did not concentrate on the counting. I was discontent with the nature of politics that reigned then. I vowed never to vie again for a parliamentary seat,” he says.

In 2002, some 14 years since he started KK Consulting Associates, he sold it to PWC and joined the later as a partner responsible for public management sector advisory services in Central African region.

He used part of the proceeds to put up Embu College. Initially modelled like Strathmore School, Embu College was first located at Njigoru building and even had A-level classes, but the IGCSE system was changed due to low enrolment.

In 1989, when he was aged 37, Kiragu had started a stock broking firm in the Nairobi Stock Exchange having perceived an unexplored investment opportunity.

He says the firm Solid Investment Securities Ltd, never made a profit until 2003 when Mwai Kibaki became the president and the economy was jerked into rapid growth.

Kiragu terms the Kibaki’s regime as a financial miracle. He later sold the firm.

In the run up to the historic 2013 General Elections hat ushered in the devolved system of governance, Kiragu emerged second after Governor Martin Wambora though he contested the results.

They were together in the Alliance Party of Kenya camp with plans that he would vie for the governor and Wambora for the Runyenjes MP.

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