Category Archives: Kenya domestic tourist

Corporates Loving Golf

Historically, golf has been considered to be a costly sport in Kenya with difficulty in accessing equipment kits and membership clubs to play at. But now golf is enjoying increased corporate attention and bank sponsorships in the post-covid period. Some of these initiatives had begun in the period before the shutdowns in 2020, but the increased need for individuals to exercise in open spaces boosted more interest in hiking, cycling, jogging, and golfing. Golf clubs were previously seen to be losing touch with young people, and many of the new initiatives are designed to turn this around. 

Some ongoing corporate golf partnerships are:  

  • Kenya has been a multiple winner of Africa’s Best Golf Destination at the annual World Travel Awards and the Kenya Tourism Board is keen on using golf to promote tourism both by local and international travelers. Golf is played year-round in Kenya and the country has easy connections to other tourism facilities. KTB cites a consultancy research report that golf travelers spend 2.5x more than leisure travelers and stay for longer periods 
  • Absa Kenya has a long-running sponsorship of the Kenya Open Golf tournament which, with the support of the Government that aims to boost tourism into the country, is known as the Magical Kenya Open and is part of the European Tour. The 2022 edition tournament was played in March at the Muthaiga Club and was won, for the first time, by a Chinese golfer, Ashun Wu.
  • This year, Kenya Airways joined as a corporate partner and had aircraft fly past over Muthaiga on two days of the tournament and, as an official sponsor offered discounted rates to golfers and fans while ferrying in PGA officials working at the tournament. 
  • NCBA has the NCBA Golf Series with ten tournaments around the country that was in Kitale last week and will next be in Kampala, Uganda.  In 2021, the series had 13  tournaments that attracted 1,700 golfers. Some juniors golfers who participated won qualification to two international events – the Rome Classic (Italy) and the Big Five (South Africa).  
  •  The Safaricom Golf Tour has received sponsorship of Kshs 100 million, for a 14-leg tournament that will involve outreach to local communities and make the sport more accessible – it will rope in corporate and amateur players, juniors (play on Sundays), caddies (compete on Mondays) at the different legs. It aims to find new talent for the sport, especially young golfers, and winners of different legs will feature at the finale at Vipingo Ridge in August. The Vipingo Ridge course was launched in 2010 and continues to host several leading international golf tournaments. 
  • Also on the European Tour is the Magical Kenya Ladies Open which is played at the Vipingo course. The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) is the main sponsor of the tournament which this year featured 90 golfers from 25 countries. The tournament also got a Kshs 20 million sponsorship from Safaricom’s M-Pesa who held a junior golf clinic.
  • Crown Paints and Prime Bank are part sponsors of the US Kids Foundation golf series along with Safaricom and NCBA. The three-year program will be run through the Junior Golf Foundation (JGF) to promote golf development through the training of up to 40 coaches across the country and supports local golf tours to introduce more young people to the sport. It has held events at Limuru and Muthaiga and will have more at Karen and Royal (Nairobi) all leading to a finale at the Muthaiga Golf Club in May 2022.
  • Kenya Ports Authority will have tournaments in different cities of its operations – Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu. 
  • The Tannahill Shield one of the largest amateur golf tournaments in the country is ongoing at the Royal Nairobi Golf Club this Easter Weekend. It is sponsored by Jamii Telecom, Rentco and Chipper Cash, a remittance company. 
  • In 2021, Absa Kenya sponsored the Savannah Tour Classic a new event created for the European tour in the recovery from Covid and was staged ahead of the Kenya Open. 
  • The Johnnie Walker Classic golf series resumed after eight years, sponsored by EABL’s The Johnnie Walker Classic golf series resumed after eight years, sponsored by EABL’s Kenya Breweries. “Road to Gleneagles” will have amateur and professional golfers compete at 20 clubs across the country ahead of the finale in May 2022 where the winning team will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to play at the Gleneagles in Scotland which is one of the top golf courses in the world. For the professionals, participation will help them to improve their competitiveness for the European tour events played in Kenya. 
  • Insurance companies including ICEA and Liberty (a Stanbic affiliate) also support golf as do other companies in the sector. 
  • EDIT: Amateur golfers are invited to enter the Race to Vipingo Ridge by registering and submitting scores achieved during “club nights” at their home clubs between 18 April and the end of June for a chance to win a chance to play in the finals at Vipingo Ridge, with their transport and accommodation careered for. Note, there is an entry fee for the qualifying rounds.
  • EDIT: NMG has the Nation Classic Golf Series again for 2022.

Kenya’s Money in the Past: Kenneth Matiba

“Aiming High” is an autobiography of Kenneth Matiba that covers his life as a civil servant, businessman, farmer, corporate leader, member of parliament, cabinet minister, and presidential candidate.

It’s also a good business book that’s well written and detailed.

Excerpts:

Scaling Farming Ventures

  • While exporting beans to Europe, he faced freight challenges. East African Airways (EAA) had no cargo and when BOAC planes landed in Nairobi from South Africa, they were always full. Cargo was doubled booked and often not loaded at Embakasi airport and later thrown away. He decided to start a cargo airline in 1967 and registered African international airways and invited John Michuki and Charles Njonjo to join. At the time EAA’s problem was that Uganda was not remitting revenue and it was serving uneconomic routes in Tanzania. He got the authority to operate a cargo charter flew an old Britannia plane that was on sale for £65,000 to Nairobi to inspect with Michuki and Njonjo. But unhappy EAA staff reported back and the Tanzania Standard had a headline about how Kenya was helping three capitalists to destroy EAA. Michuki and Matiba were PS’s and Njonjo was AG and they decided not to sign the purchase agreement and the plane was flown back to England.
  • Craziest venture: In 1975 during a potato shortage in England, tried to export 6,000 tons. Rounded up all potatoes in Meru and with 290 trucks got them to Mombasa. Managed to load one ship with 1,600 and later another with 1,700. The second broke down, and by the time it reached potato was rotten and the ship was diverted for special cleaning.

Making Transitions

  • Only after he resigned from the government was he able to safeguard his independence through personal business dealings.
  • Radio announcements about cabinet reshuffles were a feature as far back as 1965. He heard he had been transferred from the Ministry of Home Affairs to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives. There was no proper handover and he felt it was wrong to shuffle civil servants (PS) like happened with ministers.

Corporate Life

  • In 1968 he planned to retire as PS and gave a one-year notice. He asked Geoffrey Kariithi to wait till President Kenyatta was in a good mood before telling him. When Kenyatta realized this he asked who authorized Matiba to leave the government and Kariithi reminded him it was he. Matiba later made up – he was arranging for his son Raymond and John Michuki’s two sons to be circumcised and Kenyatta asked that he also rope in his two sons, Uhuru and Muhoho.
  • After he left the government, he had five job offers and chose Kenya Breweries.
  • He refused to become the Chairman of Anglo Kenya investments without equity, so he was offered 26% and he paid for that.

Hoteling & Real Estate

  • Acquired Brunners hotel in 1974, a hotel in the middle of town, that was listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange. The Brunner family had 65% and Marcel Brunner and his son Derek continued to run it and helped Matiba with Jadini later on. But they closed it in 1978. It had an old interior and its 120 beds could not support the needed renovations. They sold the building in June 1982 and Fedha Towers was later built on the site.
  • George Robinson bought 10 acres in Karen, improved and sold it to buy the Mackinnon Building opposite New Stanley for £50,000.
  • Matiba scouted Jadini Hotel in 1967 which was on sale in £54,000 and recommended Robinson buy it. They sold MacKinnon at a profit and bought Jadini and another 10 acres in Karen.
  • Bought Dacca Road houses in Nairobi West in 1969 and sold them in 1971.
  • They developed Golf Course housing estate but later gave up housing to concentrate on hotels and schools.
  • When Robinson died, Matiba negotiated to purchase his stake and took over Jadini. He had to rush to complete construction and open for tourists while facing down hostile old staff and management.
  • Michael Betrano, a new manager, rescued Jadini when it had 7.5% occupancy in March 1973 and put it on the world map. He later hired Christopher Mogidell who took it further.
  • In 1978, built Africana Sea Lodge in six months and in 1984 built, the 400-bed Safari Beach in 10 months that was opened in 1986.

Tourism Sector

  • Seasonal airlines: For KTDC, Matiba chaired the struggling Air Kenya which only did business from December to March and July to September when tourists visited. It was idle rest of the year and utilization was never above 50%.
  • Difficult Ministers: Tourism Minister Elijah Mwangale saw hotels as swindlers who did nothing but cheat Kenyans out of the foreign exchange. Matiba also held his tongue when Maina Wanjigi set a target of a million hotel beds which he correctly saw as unrealistic as the industry could not build 100,000 beds a year.
  • Matiba argued that tourism was the cheapest for Kenya to earn foreign exchange. To earn $100, you need to invest $40, and gets a net of $60 while to earn $100 from coffee, it costs $68.

Sports involvement

  • Matiba decided to form Kenya Breweries Football Club in 1970 and have all staff stop playing for other teams. They entered the poorly-run Kenya Football Association league that had a lot of frustration. Matiba later formed the Kenya Football Federation to run a 12-team Kenya Football League exclusively as a company that the Sports Minister could not interfere with and invited other clubs to join and though KFA refused to recognize them. But after Gor Mahia agreed to join, other teams followed. All they wanted was to play soccer and entertain fans, not represent Kenya. They were not deterred by a suspension by the KFA and went ahead to draw a league for Nairobi Mombasa Nakuru Kisumu, book and pay for the stadiums on Saturday and Sunday for a year.
  • Clubs got more from gate takings, tickets were printed by security firms which club representatives checked at gates, and complimentary tickets were abolished. While prices went up, they got more fans to come after they eliminated stone-throwing. They ensured clubs showed up ahead of time for matches for inspection and eliminated match delays sometimes caused by witchdoctors and superstitions.
  • In his first year chairing KFF and KFL, Kenya won three East African cups.
  • Matiba was an avid sportsman who climbed Mount Everest when he was a Cabinet Minister.

Giving Back.

  • Matiba worked with Bishop Sospeter Magua who wanted to make the church self-sustaining with permanent income through investments, and not be weak financially by staying dependent on unpredictable charity donations. They organized for three districts – Muranga, Kiambu and Nyeri – to contribute. President Moi chaired the first harambee in Muranga where Kshs 1 million was raised, Mwai Kibaki chaired the next one in Kiambu and Njonjo was invited for the third in Nyeri. They bought a 7-acre plot in Loresho and one acre on Kayahwe Road to build maisonettes. But Bishop Magua died in a road accident in 1982. Is Bishop Magua Centre, home of the first iHub, named after him?
  • Embori farm in Timau was put up for sale in 1977 for Kshs 34 million and Robert Wilson, the European farmer selling it, did not want it to go to a cooperative or large group, preferring it should go to individuals or a public company. Matiba persuaded him that it could remain intact and not be subdivided. The seller also wanted Kshs 20 million of the amount in foreign exchange and Matiba asked Kenyatta who authorized the Central Bank to release this sum which was, the largest amount of forex ever given to purchase a farm. Meanwhile. a cabinet minister who wanted the farm tried to scuttle the deal. Matiba did a prospectus for Kiharu residents that yielded Kshs 6 million from 10,000 shareholders. After taking over, they sold wheat to KFA and barley to Kenya Breweries to meet the interest on overdraft for seven years but the farm did not generate enough to pay back the bank loan and shareholders are not willing to pay more. So Matiba next pushed them to sell some land to local residents, with a bank offering 50% finance and keep the balance for the farm, but after a year, only a handful took the offer. The farm still runs well today.

Business and politics

  • After 3.5 years as MP, he was appointed a Minister of Culture and Social Services in September 1983. He was the Chairman of Kenya Breweries and he made a personal decision to resign and was succeeded by Bryan Hobson. At the time, Alliance had seven hotels and four schools.
  • Matiba resigned from the cabinet in December 1988. After he quit he has no passport and went about his businesses quietly, but Moi never forgot. When he got his passport back in 1989, he made a trip to Rwanda for the wedding of the daughter of President Habyarimana in July 1989. Then in February 1990, he was invited back to Rwanda to explain how that country could expand its tourism and he took five experts from the Alliance group with him. But as soon as he came back, special branch officers started looking for him for interrogation after the death of Minister Robert Ouko.
  • Concern about leadership. The Kenya majority has lost the concept of servanthood. Leaders aspire not to serve citizens but themselves. Many spend only two hours in their offices making personal telephone calls and the rest of their time on their business.

Business Advice

  • The biggest problem African businesses face is a lack of accounting.
  • Africans also treated businesses as hobbies and entrust them to ignorant family members.
  • Business people try to do too much – being butchers, curio sellers and textile dealers all at the same time instead of concentrating on one line.


Matiba was detained in July 1990. The book dwells on his medical treatment after he was poisoned in detention and his preparation to run for the Presidency in 1992 where he came second. It does not go into his later tribulations with banks and businesses that halted the corporate empire he had built. Kenneth Matiba died in April 2018.

Kenya Development Corporations Merged

July 2021 saw the announcement of the conclusion of merger plans for a Kenya Development Bank. In a gazette notice, the Government announced the creation of the Kenya Development Corporation in June 2021, which comprises the Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC), the Tourism Finance Corporation (TFC) and IDB Capital (formerly known as the Industrial Development Bank).

Industrial & Commercial Development Corporation:

ICDC owns 89% of Development Bank of Kenya, 27% of East African Fisheries, 17% of Eveready Batteries, 18% of Funguo Investments, 20% of General Motors East Africa, 4% of IDB Capital, 46% of KWA Holdings (KWAL) 27% of Mountain Region Poultry, 28% of Sisibo Tea, 2% of Uchumi Supermarkets, 31% of Almasi Beverages, 20% of Aon Minet Insurance and 23% of Centum Investments. Through a defunct subsidiary also 5% of Panpaper Mills, and 100% of Kenatco Taxis and 100% of Kenatco Transport.

ICDC also owns Uchumi House and Finance House in Nairobi and plots in Mombasa, Eldama Ravine, Eldoret and Embu, with another next to Malindi airport.

Tourism Finance Corporation:

TFC has subsidiaries including the Bomas of Kenya, Kabarnet Hotel (98%), Sunset Hotel at Kisumu (95%). Also Kenya Safari Lodges (82%), Mt Elgon Lodge (73%), Buffalo Springs (41%), Golf Hotel at Kakamega (40%), Mountain Lodge at Nyeri (39%) as well as 9% of Mararal Lodge and 5% of the Ark. Also Kenya Hotel Properties i.e. Nairobi’s InterContinental Hotel (33%) and International Hotels Kenya i.e Nairobi’s Hilton Hotel (41%). It also owns 52% of African Tours & Hotels (in liquidation).

TFC, previously known as the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation, owns Utalii house, a building on Moi Avenue Nairobi and a plot on prime Nkrumah avenue in Mombasa

IDB Capital:

IDB owns 0.3% of Consolidated Bank, 0.9% of Nzoia Sugar and 0.3% of South Nyanza Sugar Company (Sony) and a sliver of the Africa Export-Import Bank (AfrExIm)

Other:

All assets, securities and systems of the three institutions are now vested in the new corporation.

Guide to Monaco

A guest post of a trip to the Principality of Monaco, the city-state on the French Riviera, where the Monaco Grand Prix is taking place tomorrow. It’s a normal, but pricey, place for the rest of the year when Formula One is not having a race weekend.  

Getting There: Fly into Paris or a nearby major European city. You will need to get a connecting flight into Nice. 

Nice Airport is fairly easy to navigate especially coming from Paris. There may be additional customs regulations coming from other European countries though. 

Once you exit baggage claim, you can take a train, bus, taxi or helicopter to Monaco. To truly enjoy the wind-down to the Principality, take the bus or a taxi. A taxi will be +$100 so opt for the buses which leave every hour or so. The train is less than $10 but you miss much of the view. 

Getting Around: You can get along speaking English but please, please learn some French if only to read the signs and communicate politely with vendors. The majority of people here speak English, probably better than you but it would behove you to learn their language. 

Staying in Touch:  Safaricom Welcomes You to France! If you are there for a while longer, you should get a SIM in Paris though. 

Where to Stay: Save money and stay in France. The city of Fontvieille in France surrounds the principality and has several hotels. It’s an easy walk to the harbour and there are parts where you can take an escalator or lift down to the port. Go any time after the summer to get hotel deals that are ‘normal’. There are also several AirBnB options but depending on when you go, prices will be higher than you expect. Some try and stay in Nice and commute in which is fine but if you can, stay in the city. 

Visa, MasterCard are well accepted. In November, you can get a decent hotel rate of about $170 a night. Breakfast and lunch may set you back about $120 but you can budget and meal plan for your mealtimes. If your hotel offers a breakfast deal, take it. 

Eating Out:  Food, France, Immigration. Italy is a short train ride away. For the sake of doing it, get on the metro to the city of Ventimiglia, Italy which is accessible from Monaco. You will pass Menton, France where a good chunk of the people who work in Monaco live and after that, a whole new country.

Lunch is a great way to explore the cuisine. Often enough, you’ll be too full to contemplate dinner. There is one supermarket in Monaco – a Spur that is so hidden, good luck finding it. You can always go to the big Carrefour in Fontvieille, France for a big shop. It’s near the Stade Louis II. 

Odd Points: Tipping. A service charge may already be added to your restaurant meal so if you tip, it will be a tip on top of a tip. Keep an eye out on your bill for service compris

Shopping & Sight-Seeing: Monaco is super safe. It’s hard not to look like a tourist but make sure to map out a plan before you leave your hotel in the morning. It’s a small country so you can’t really get lost but make sure not to look like a complete boob when walking around. Ladies – unless you are stepping out of a car into a restaurant, you do not want to wear heels exploring Monaco. Be sensible yet stylish. See yachts parked for the winter, some on sale, and pricey apartments, with advertisements in Russian.

La Condamine where the locals shop but you will find every single luxury item in the world in this tiny country. Save your money, park yourself at a restaurant outside and gawp at the fabulous beautiful people. Take home gift – a souvenir at a gift shop in Monaco. Include the receipt. 

Seriously, set yourself up for a lazy weekend brunch or a late evening drink and watch the beautiful people in their natural habitat. We spotted Flavio Briatore!

Sights to See: The streets. Do the F1 grid walk! Also, the Oceanography Museum in Monaco is well-curated and a must-visit for its’ exhibits and breathtaking views outside of the principality. Seriously an underrated and affordable highlight! Depending on when you go, see if there are other events ongoing such as a food and wine festival in November. 

Biggest surprise in the country? At the tourist offices, you can get an entry stamp in your passport!

Kenya Tourism Signature Experiences

This week saw the unveiling of the Magical Kenya Signature Experiences collection for 2021-200, by the Ministry of Tourism that is meant to showcase the country’s diverse attractions aside from the traditional wildlife safaris and beaches.

The MKSE program began in 2019 when fifteen experiences were selected. The first group had pricey traditional tourism attraction like the Karen Blixen Museum, Finch Hattons Luxury, the Tamarind Dhow, Il Ngwesi, and helicopter trips to Suguta Valley, which music legend Madonna did a few weeks ago.

MKSE has now added 29 signature experiences in an ongoing process from 59 entries, and the ones that didn’t make it, also get mentorship to improve and qualify. Joining starts with completing an application questionnaire, and one criterion for selection includes that the investor/operator has been offering the experience for over two years. Tourism officials then do a desk audit to shortlist the promising ones, followed by a physical visit to check out the experiences. The Signature Experiences facilities will be marketed by the Kenya Tourism Board at local and international trade fairs.

The second group of MKSE experiences is more diverse and probably more accessible, though price rates were not shared. The big winners on the list are the Watamu coastal area and Nanyuki, with multiple experiences, while operators Watamu Treehouse and Savage Wilderness each feature three unique activities for visitors and tourists to try. 

Some unique additions include: 

  • Bicycling in the Maasai Mara and at Diani.
  • Watersports: Rafting/kayaking at Watamu, Sagana & Tana River and floating adventure at Mida Creek (Watamu).
  • Camel walking safaris with Karisia.
  • El Karama Lodge experience for children. 
  • Warrior Academy with Saruni. 
  • Climbing Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro with African Ascents. 
  • Golfing at Great Rift, Naivasha. 
  • 16th century stone ruins at Thimlich Ohinga Migori, now a World Heritage site.
  • Interacting with rare rhino: treks at Borana, extravaganza at Solio, tracking at Saruni,
  • Also, two unique experiences are farm ones: At Ololo in Nairobi, there is a farm experience package in which guests can tour and dine on food from the farm. They can partake in picking eggs, vegetables, visit the orchard, milk animals and buy handmade furniture. Then at Olepangi, farm guests can milk cows, make bread, collect vegetables, ride horses, do yoga, and get massages.

The new list also had some of the traditional pricier offerings that draw tourists to Kenya, including Breakfast with Giraffes (sometimes a hot topic), In the footsteps of Elsa (inspired by the story of Joy Adamson’s adopted lioness), and humpback whale watching at Watamu, that controversially featured on CNN recently.