Make your life's mistakes count and strive to provide solutions

Environmentalist and entrepreneur Isaac Kalua Green (right) addresses the press on September 25, 2022, in Karen, Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

As a young eco-entrepreneur between 1991-2001 when I was in my twenties, I made many mistakes.

For instance, I would visit my farm in Kitui County sometimes together with my father, Bishop Kalua. During these visits, I often heaped praises on my farm workers whenever I noticed that the crops were flourishing.

On one such farm visit, my father told me; “As the owner of this farm, don’t just put your attention on what has been done right; instead focus on what has been done wrong or not done at all, however small it may be. That way, you will keep improving.”

My father’s words helped me to forever embrace mistakes instead of running away from them.  Indeed, mistakes can be priceless gifts if one chooses never to repeat any of them.

In the early 1990s, I once hired a car from President William Ruto who at the time was running a business that included car hire. I used the car for about three weeks but was unable to fully pay for it, which put a temporary strain on our friendship. Unfortunately, this failure to pay for the car was part of a financial mismanagement pattern that saw me live beyond my means.

Now, even as the government continues to execute measures that will lower the cost of living, we must also take individual responsibility to live within our means. This will enable us to save and invest wisely. 

After a decade of making multiple mistakes and choosing not to repeat any, I approached the next 10-year period with a mentality of providing tangible solutions which included founding the Green Africa Foundation in 2000.

In 2001, I was chosen as member of Kenya National Sports Council and chairman of Cricket Kenya in 2004. In 2005, I was assigned CEO of the 35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, 2007 Mombasa.

I diligently executed my duties and remained focused on my green agenda which led to Green Africa Foundation winning the prestigious International Olympic Committee (IOC) global award for sport and environment in Vancouver, Canada in 2009.

I was able to achieve these because I applied lessons from the previous decade. The same applies to our nation Kenya. We must learn from the past if our future is to be bright.

The recent loss of about one million jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates an urgent need for more diversity and resilience in our economy.

By diversifying its economy, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has grown its economy exponentially from USD47 billion in 1982 to USD417 billion in 2022. One of the many strategies they used was to establish 45 free economic zones that allow 100 per cent foreign ownership, which greatly boosted Foreign Direct Investments.

Kenya should strategically follow suit to spur economic growth for job creation and reduce the high cost of living.

Between 2011 to 2022 during my forties, I added a third layer in the trajectory of my growth. I embarked on a mission of impacting society on a grander yet even more personal scale.

It is during this period that I served as Vice Chair of Tana and Athi River Development Authority (TARDA), Chairman of the Kenya Water Towers Agency, heightened my service as founder and CEO of Green Africa Group of companies and initiated the now hugely impactful Plant your Age Campaign.

These initiatives have created millions of sustainable livelihoods and greatly replenished the environment. The greatest lesson learned in this past decade is the importance of respect for people. Respect begets truth. Truth is the antidote of boundless relationships.

In 2023, it cannot be business as usual. We must embrace our Mistakes, choose to be Problem solvers and Respect fellow human beings. I abbreviate this as MPR which apparently means Monthly Progress Report. Let’s apply MPR for sustainable growth. Think green, act green!