By Mohamed Dakane
At the centre of the bustling city of Nairobi along KenyattaAvenue, next to the famous New Stanley Hotel is Pan Africa life insurance house. Located inconspicuously at the heart of the towering city, the building is ostensibly known to few. Inside too, the building is uniquely different in many ways.
From the outlook, the building looks old and medieval in comparison to the glassy structures that form the bulk of the city structures. One would therefore imagine that the access to the building would be less stringent and haphazard.
However, the opposite was the truth. The building is simply heavenly and neatly organized with everything modern putting many city building to shame, a classic case of never judge a book by its cover.
Entering the building was quite strict; leaving your identification document to security guards and a bit of frisking is testament to the fact that the building is not just ordinary but one that seemingly harbours honchos of the town.
After rigorous process of checking, I was cleared and I took the lift to my destination, Amana Insurance Brokers Limited on 4th floor. The office was executive and simply gorgeous. Demarcated into departmental segments, the offices looked attractive and lovely. Moving inside was the CEO’s suite that was magnificently unique. Surfaced with red presidential carpet and immensely decorated with the modern office paraphernalia, the suite was simply heavenly and undeniably lovely.
Swinging on the big sit was Mr. Ahmed Abdi, CEO of Amana Insurance Brokers Limited,An exuberant young man whose life contentment was vividly manifested from his physical outlook. Smartly dressed in a modern lounge suite, the 28 years old father of one had all the reasons to be happy. However, his excitement on this particular day was quite extraordinary.
For him, this was not only a red letter day but one that fell in a month that came with all manner of blessings. It was his birthday, barely ten days after the birth of his first born. It was the same month of June that he was promoted to be a member of technical and legal sub-committee of the Association of Insurance Brokers of Kenya, (AIBK).
In the same month he was featured in ‘TheEntrepreneur’, one of its kind weekly programaired on KTN that features entrepreneurs who have been able to achieve significant feats in business world as a source of inspiration to the rest of world. It was the combination of these charming blessings of hisbirthday, the coming his new baby, his promotion and indeed the acknowledgement and appreciation of his unrelenting entrepreneurial spirit by a premier program such as ‘The Entrepreneur’all in a row that made him almost ecstatically rapturous on this particular day. And for that matter, he was really delighted and overwhelmed quite extraordinarily, at least on this special day.
Away from the excitement, joy and ecstasy was another story, one that quickly reduced the jovial Ahmed into a helpless hobo as he recounted his past ordeals in a rather somber way. Ahmed’s melancholic and indeed gloomy journey of surmounting unimaginable odds to become what he is now, the CEO of an exponentially growing enterprise right in the bustling city. In retrospect, it is a life journey that definitely rendershis current status into a subject of great amusement.Call it, the rare life ‘magical happenings’.
Coming from a humble background, life was never a walk in the park for Ahmed. He encountered myriad of challenges that had a far reaching implications on his life. Born in Garissa, and schooled in DadaabPrimary school, a town that is known for harboring the world’s largest refugee camps, his early life was as precarious as that of the camps before he was transferred to Al farouq Primary in Garissa.
His parents were poor with no much to sustain them. There was no quality education and therefore his future virtually appeared bleak even from his early childhood days. Despite the odds of life going against him, Ahmed soldered on and sat for his KCPE in 2002 and got admitted to Bura secondary school. It was at this point that things went berserk and rendered Ahmed almost hopeless.
He was chased from the school due to lack of fees with no one to extend a helping hand. After his search for salvation became an exercise in futility, theharsh reality finally dawned on him and this became a nightmare for the poor Ahmed and as a result, depressed him a great deal. His dreams of changing his world through education was memorably shatteredin a rather petrifying manner he will always live to remember as long as diamond remains priceless and ocean wet.
But all in all, the crestfallen Ahmed had no option but to contend with bitter reality that was really having a toll on him. As a result, he dropped from school and faced the unforgiving life and decided to seek other means in order to put food on the table. Being a third born and the eldest son of a family of nine, Ahmed as sole bread winner had no alternative but to devise means and ways to take care of the demanding family. As fate would have it, Ahmed at some pointtried the unimaginable.
He became a matatu tout, a novice garage mechanic, a truck turn boy and part time driver in Garissa town to make the ends meet. He remembers in an emotional recollection the day his formal application letter to certainhardware that promised to pay him a paltry ksh5000 a month never got a reply while he was in Mombasa. ‘Life sometimes can be full of tragic and heartbreakingly brutal’ he said in a rather melancholic mood.
On 28th of April 2008, while he was going on with his chores in Garissa, Ahmed received a call from his cousin Nageye Mohamud Dahir. A call he says that fundamentally changed his entire life for the better. He was called to serve as an office messenger for Transnep Insurance, a company owned by Nageye based in Nairobi.
Even after being a stranger to the ever bustling city, Ahmed never got swayed. He continued with his spirited zeal to work hard. His determination earned him respect and accolades within the organization and in a short span; Ahmed rose through the ranks to become marketing executive to General Manager supervising all the activities.
For the doubting Thomases, Ahmed never lost the focus. When the opportunity came, he registered for KCSE on the same year as a private candidate and he got C minus despite all the challenges. This made him pursue several courses including Marketing, insurance and Strategic Management that made him getacquainted with managerial skills.
Besides that, Ahmed went ahead and became street smart. He registered hisown company with a friend as a partner, Al Amana insurance Agency on 23rd March 2011. Since then, Ahmed extended the same zeal this time round; on his own entity in an industry he understood the most. His determination as always paid off and the company blossomed to a soaring heights. It became the first agent to register with Takaful Insurance and the first one to sell a motor private policy. Since then, Takaful insurance became their lifeline winning several encouraging awards as the best agent. The attestations of the same were all over the office with pictures of him with Takaful CEO Hassan Bashir almost in every corner of the suite.
Thereafter, Amana agency grew and took an upward trajectory. He later registered it as Amana Insurance Brokers Limited. However, Ahmed greatly attributes his successes and that of his company to Hassan Bashir, the astute CEO of Takaful Insurance who literary did everything possible to mentor him all through from the word go.Today, as he enjoys the serenity of his executive office, Ahmed goes down the memory lane and says in rather delightful manner, sometime when the memory of my past haunts me, I poke myself to confirm whether it was the real me.
As he sips the coffee, Ahmed continues and quipped, ‘even the sky is not the limit’. ‘Today, I have employed six employees from scratch but that is not my satisfaction. I still want to grow’, he continues. He plans to expand his business and become an insurance company of its own. He plans to venture and expand his enterprise to East and Central Africa in the years to come. Besides that, Ahmed wants to venture into Agriculture and ICT stating that it is the way to go in this fast-advancing world.
For the young promising entrepreneur, life would not be fair for him hadn’t he been focused and determined. His day start at dawn after the morning prayers, Fajr, then runs to his office to enjoy the serenity of the morning hours when the mind is still fresh. Ahmed spends his Sundays with his young family saying it is the only day dedicated for them. He enjoys remaining fit and therefore occasionally goes to the gym. He also plays volleyball during his off-peak hours to remain healthy. For Ahmed, his successes are just but the tip of an iceberg, what the future holds for him is much more immense.
For those still desperate about life, Ahmed says it takes courage, hard work and dedication. The young father advice for the destitute was bold. ‘Be yourself, accept the reality and move on. Don’t play the victim’s card’, he says. Ahmed sparkling eyes was promising. Indeed, life was never fair to him but he managed to change it. Today he enjoys the bliss of the same life that made him once work as matatu tout.’ In life, there is no short cut, confront it in an objective way and you will triumph’, said the charming young CEO. Stretching his hands while swinging on his ‘big’ seat, Ahmed concludes in rather encouraging manner by saying ‘life can be scaring but when it gives you lemon, make lemonade and stop crying for oranges’. He ends with contentment, peace of mind and joy written all over his face.
Mohamed Dakane is a Nairobi based writer and a contributor of Nepjournal. Find him on twitter @moreherz