Partners Worldwide was founded 20 years ago in Kenya. Today, Kenya continues to be a stronghold of PW’s work, with long-standing partnerships and a powerful, united network of businesspeople working together to end poverty.
An invaluable member of this Kenyan network is my friend Simon Wanjohi Karimi (pictured right).
Simon is a banker with a pastor’s heart. He is a captivating storyteller and a business trainer extraordinaire. He is a family man—married for 22 years and the father of four sons—and a servant to his community.
Five years ago, after a successful career in the banking industry, Simon launched the microfinance institution Makao Capital Limited. Makao is a Local Community Institution (LCI) in our network and an exemplary one at that.
In addition to leading Makao, Simon has also served as PW’s Curriculum Coach in Kenya for the past five years.
He epitomizes the idea of training trainers and coaching coaches. He serves with humility and expertise, a rare combination, and has helped build up one of the strongest business training teams in our global network.
A CONVERSATION WITH SIMON
Tell us about your professional background and some of the things you are involved with in the Nairobi community.
At university I was trained in education. I worked as a teacher for several years before I joined the microfinance industry, where I have worked for the last 23 years.
I served as a senior leader at a microfinance bank, and then in 2013 I started Makao Capital Limited. It has been my privilege to serve as the Managing Director of Makao Capital since then.
I also serve as the advisor of the Kenya Student Christian Fellowship in Kiambu County and preach in high schools throughout my community. I also serve and mentor the youth pastors who serve high school students in 400 schools around the county.
I am also a member of Gideons International. We distribute Bibles to high schools, prisons, hotels, hospitals, and beyond.
In addition to this, I serve on the Board of Directors for Expansion International Africa, an organization that serves the community in the areas of education, health, and economic development. One of the things we are known for is resettling IDPs (internally displaced persons) after the tribal clashes and post-election violence in 2007. We have provided housing, scholarships, healthcare, and discipleship in five counties in central and eastern Kenya.
Lastly, I am an active member of my church, and serve as the preacher most of the time.
What do you enjoy most about being a PW Curriculum Coach?
When you see the transformation that comes in the lives and businesses of those we have trained, and see the positive change in the way they manage their resources, incomes, inventories, and time… that’s what I enjoy most.
It is also rewarding to see businesses expand after the training and increase their ability to employ more people—especially vulnerable people—and to be able to tell others what God has done in their businesses; that makes me proud.
In your opinion, what makes the Partners Worldwide training unique and effective?
The PW training shows that business can be done differently, that business can be a calling from God and a way of reaching people’s hearts and changing communities.
We teach people not only to earn money and support their families and create employment, but to see that God has called them into the marketplace as ministers and pastors. I like to tell people after the training that they are going to be ordained, not as pulpit ministers, but as marketplace ministers.
Talk about the training team in Kenya you’ve helped build.
After we initially went through a Train-the-Trainer five years ago, I was chosen as the Kenya Curriculum Coach and graciously accepted the role. But I knew we had to build a larger team that complimented each other’s areas of expertise and could share the training load.
Today, our team of trainers and LCI managers meets monthly, along with our PW country manager. We work together to find ways of improving our training delivery and cohesiveness.
There are some in our country network who are very adept at leading certain sections—such as the marketing, finances, budgeting, business planning, calling to business, etc. We have created synergy among our team of trainers, so that we can bring in trainers from other organizations to train our clients and demonstrate the power of a team approach.
What is your dream for Makao Capital?
For Makao, my dream is that God will help us become a microfinance bank which is supported by the central bank of Kenya, and that will offer training solutions to people in all areas that are needed.
The word “Makao” means “shelter” and I am hoping to be able to offer affordable loans for housing and property, as well as microloans for businesses.
I am also looking forward to Makao becoming a center for business training and idea generation, a center where businesspeople—both new and experienced—gather, share ideas, and network together.
We have constructed the Makao Capital Training Centre, where we look to expand economic growth in Kiambu County, not just through micro-credit but through joining people together in training and Christian fellowship. This is part of the dream.
What is your dream for the PW Kenya network?
For PW in Kenya, my dream in regards to training is that when people think about growing their business and being part of a strong business community, they will think of PW and our curriculum.
I hope that we will continue to make it simple for businesspeople to be trained, through cooperative societies or financial institutions or local business networks, and that our curriculum will be the curriculum of choice, and that many people will create and improve their business plans as a result of their training.
70 percent of Kenya’s population is young people. As we look forward, PW can make a deliberate effort to train the youth of Kenya and university graduates on how to begin and manage businesses, how to create jobs and increase profitability, and how to change the mindset about business so that it is truly a positive force in our communities.
Stay tuned for next month’s Curriculum Coach Spotlight!