My Interview with George Ndirangu. This interview was originally posted on Face2Face Africa.
The African continent has been subject to many narratives, both within, and beyond Africa’s borders. Among the many narratives is one that proclaims this generation a “lost” one. Whereas some of us are, indeed caught up in the high life of drugs, alcohol, and sex, among other vices, I believe the notion of the “lost generation” is in itself reductionist, because there are also the go-getters and the-ceiling-can’t-hold-us movers and shakers who refuse to settle for average when they can be the best. With the goal of not only balancing the narrative but also using their stories to inspire other young people, Face2Face Africa decided to interview George Ndirangu (pictured), a 24-year-old business analyst, news anchor, host of the talk show “Business Agenda” with TV10 Rwanda, and CEO of Kenya’s Fashion 2Die4 in order to spotlight an achiever whose drive is limitless.
Sanna Arman: Tell me a little about your background; who are you and where do you come from?
George Ndirangu: I was born in Mombasa (Kenya) and later moved to Nairobi. We first lived in the Eastern side of Nairobi, and when my mum’s income improved, we moved to Thika Road, where I grew up. I went to Kagumo High School in Nyeri and pursued my degree in Actuarial Science at Jomo Kenyatta University.
Who am I? I’m a 24-year-old man who believes that you can never settle for less than what you envision, so every single day, ever since I understood the meaning of accomplishing something and reaping the benefits of it, I’ve been trying to accomplish more.
I have not been able to reach some of my objectives, maybe I’ve just done one out of a thousand, but I intend to just keep pushing myself to the limit until I reach a point where I no longer have to introduce myself to people.
SA: How did you get to where you are today?
GN: First of all, prayer is every single thing. I was having a prayerful meditational moment earlier at my place today. Something happened, I got a phone call, which I’ll probably be having another interview with you on soon, but I’m not going to tell you now, so I don’t jinx it.
But my point is, God is everything and I can’t even imagine life without God.
Also, my family: mum, dad, sisters, and brother. My mum is always pushing and encouraging me. She is always reminding me to act grown, be mature, and not try to simply blend in. My dad is always supporting me in my decisions and offering advice. They are some of the most realistic people I know.
My small brother is always looking up to me, wondering what he can do next in life; he plays violin, he plays the piano, which I have no idea how to play, and this always motivates me.
SA: What strategies did you use to get to this point, or what would you say made you stand out from the crowd?
GN: Growing up in Nairobi, one of the problems I faced was that I invested too much In to things that did not make sense. You know, “fake it till you make it’?” I wanted to stand out, be the coolest guy, or look like the guy who had a certain thing before someone else.
When I outgrew my teens, I understood that I really have just one life and I can keep making mistakes, but every time I make a mistake, it affects either my life or someone else’s life.
My social media, for example my Twitter, went from just ranting or making fun of people to not engaging, in say, trending topics that bring someone down. As a friend and I were discussing sometime back, you should never be basic or predictable to people. If you have a girlfriend for example, keep people guessing; who is she? Where is she, etc.? Always leave room for some mystery and have an element of surprise. This applies in the case of future employers or investors and is a strategy I try to use in my workplace.
When you have an element of surprise and bring something to the table, you can also feel free to eat from the same table.
SA: You’ve clearly got your foot in the three cornerstone fields of contemporary society; fashion, media, and finance, among others. How do you manage to maintain balance?
GN: I have an app on my phone called “ToDoist.” It’s an application that gives you points every time you schedule something and do it. My aim is usually to get as many points as possible by the end of the week, by accomplishing as much as I had set out to do.
I plan my day from Monday to Friday: every single hour.
I don’t believe in someone calling me up randomly asking to meet. If we hadn’t planned for it, then we have to meet up some other time.
Being able to juggle among fashion, working here in the media, working for the UNDP, working for schools, and working in the finance industry is all a matter of planning. Once you plan out your time, everything works out.
Improvisation, on the other hand, is also an important skill for times when things don’t work out as initially planned out.
SA: What would you say is lacking in the African media and fashion industries today?
GN: African media and the fashion industry to a certain extent lacks ingenuity. There are hardly any ideas from self. At least a good number of the ideas are copied from somewhere, be it West, East and implemented in a way applicable to the given environment.
I know African fashion has been borrowed by the West, for example Louis Vuitton and even some of the African fabrics have been picked out by VLISCO, but our fashion industry is simply emulating what has been done; modeling, blogging, fashion sites etc., and the thing with what’s been done is that, that hardly stands out.
African people are blessed with a ton of ideas, however, even where there is ingenuity, in some cases there is lack of continuity.
This is why my new mantra is ingenuity, continuity, and positivity. When I manage to get an idea that is self-made, I want to ensure I [follow] through with it and also keep a positive mind-set.
SA: I don’t know much about the finance industry, but it is said to be one of the hardest industries to thrive in. Do you agree?
GN: I wouldn’t say it’s one of the hardest to thrive in, because once you get into it, you know what you want – whether you want to be a clerk, accountant, chief financial officer etc. It is only as hard as the level you want to be in as different levels and posts have different requirements. The biggest problem is that you never deviate unless you start your own firm.
SA: What would you say are the biggest challenges the finance industry faces in Africa?
GN: The biggest challenges that I have seen are either lack of exposure or lack of proper training. There is hardly any real training or mentorship. I was working at the ministry of housing in the finance sector, where I would handle large amounts of money, but I hardly had any mentorship. That, I believe, is the greatest challenge.
SA: Unemployment is one of the challenges facing the African youth today. How do you think young people in Africa can deal with unemployment? And what advice would you give them?
GN: “This is something we’ve talked about in so many conventions. It is such a tricky topic to discuss. My advice to young people is that you simply need to get off your *ss, go out there, and look for a job as much as possible and network with the people around you.
If not, develop a solid plan to employ yourself and search for investors. In most countries right now, especially here in Rwanda, they are advocating more for entrepreneurship, and young people are actually getting a lot of sponsorship.
I usually hand people the cheque sometimes and think, Oh damn, I wish this was me.”
Entrepreneurship really is the way forward.
You also need to know what works and what doesn’t as well as what your financial capability allow for. For example right now, unless you definitely have the financial means, I wouldn’t advise anyone to invest in a print fashion magazine. An online platform would be better off.
SA: Speaking of Africa, you have traveled around quite a bit. What is a common factor you find among African people that you can’t find elsewhere?
GN: “Africans have so much culture!
They have a solid base and always know where they come from. People say that Africans leave to go abroad and they forget where they came from. I beg to differ. Africans always remember where they come from, down to the little towns where their grandparents live.
Africans have so much culture that can be seen even in the way they dance; Africans are the best dancers, no doubt. Well, apart from Shakira.
They also have a sense of pride in where they are from.
SA: What are some of the challenges you face on a daily and how do you deal with them?
GN: As with most people, my image is one of the things I take very seriously. At some point, I had an issue with my weight, and it took some people to help me get through it or fitting in to a new environment and trying to do things I have no experience in. These are some of the challenges I faced.
One of the lowest points in my life was when KQ turned me down, and I swore that I would get my own plane one day. One of the people who auditioned would be the pilot. I realized that it doesn’t matter where you come from, how you struggled to get to where you are, or how hard you have worked, but whether you qualify for a role.
How I deal with these challenges is by being realistic with myself and knowing that people don’t care about all the other things, only productivity and results.
Another challenge I faced was how to present myself on social media and the public stream, and what not to let out. If you are blessed with the opportunity to be a news anchor, you must present yourself responsibly. For this, I had to mature both mentally and in how I dressed and presented myself.
SA: Lastly, what is success to you, and in a similar vein, what is failure?
GN: Success for me, as I previously mentioned, is reaching a point where you don’t have to introduce yourself. You reach a point where you stop looking at a picture thinking, I want to go there, but I’ve been there. Not I want that jet, but “oh wow, maybe my jet should be the same color.
Success for me also means reaching a point where everyone who has been with you (your inner/immediate circle) is also reaping the benefits of your happiness. I can therefore sum success up as happiness, not necessitating an introduction, and sustaining a lifestyle effortlessly.
Failure to me is just giving up on what you had set your eyes on, from the simplest of things to the more complicated.
I would like to congratulate Mr. Ndirangu on his show “Business Agenda,” co-hosted by Fiona Mbabazi, which has been picked for a second season, premiering in August, with a $20,000 boost from the Rwanda Creative Hub.
Watch Ndirangu at work on “Business Agenda” here: