19 November 2012

Kenya: Catching Up With Former U.S Envoy Gration

So what does a former United States Ambassador and retired Major-General of the US Air Force do after leaving behind quite an illustrious career that spans both North America and Africa?

Well, for most who wondered what became of former US ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration following his controversial resignation from the embassy; he decided to start a company to maximize on Kenya's growing opportunities in ICT.

The company called Gration Group is fairly young having started just a month ago, with an ambitious goal of helping Kenya achieve Vision 2030.

It may sound cliché, but Gration has thought it through, down to a five point plan that hinges on connecting companies, solutions, technology and people.

"By having a company here with my reputation, with my contacts in America and around the world, I think I can bring more companies here. We are currently in negotiations with government and private industries," he explained with a slight smirk creeping into the corner of his mouth.

Gration used to run the company in the US and had to shut it down when we worked for the White House, but managed to revive it as a Kenyan venture with the same concepts.

Through the group, he plans to connect investors to opportunities in East Africa and Kenya, get technology to meet the rising demand for hardware in the region, connect solutions to Kenya's social challenges as well as financing to local entrepreneurs.

"As people begin downloading GPS and streaming videos the requirement for bandwidth and client server storage like cloud are going to go way up. What we'll do will involve fibre, fast, sufficient and secure storage," he said.

Gration, who happens to speak fluent Swahili, has a strong connection with Kenya having spent much of his childhood in the country as the son of missionaries.

To this day, that experience has proven to have had a significant impact on Gration, who said profits from the group will go into a trust to help orphans, the disabled, vulnerable women and children.

"Those are things that my wife and I are committed to. My wife was an orphan, so we hope we can give the money we make back to Kenyans," he said.

Acknowledging the investment risks that often put prospect firms off from setting up shop in Kenya, Gration said he is willing to change those negative perceptions and get them in on what is brewing in the country.

"There is no reason why people should not invest, and I hate to say it but they are afraid of Al Shabaab, corruption and petty crime. They see you have to do 'magendo' (corruption) to get ahead. I'm running a corruption-free company and I'm not going to do 'kitu kidogo' (something small referring to bribery)," he said showcasing some of his Swahili.

It is clear Gration is here to stay for the long haul, well at least long enough to see Kenyans see themselves as East Africans or global citizens and pull away from the tribal cocoons that retreat to much too often.

"If they did that this place will take off. It's devolution that will make Kenya a stronger country, not to benefit one tribe or region. It will make a difference in stability, security and prosperity," he said.

He certainly doesn't believe in watching other people play the guinea pig, his military past will not allow him. It's about going all in, but even more getting others to enjoy a piece of the growing pie called Kenya.

"I registered right here in Kenya. I believe in Kenya so much that I'm risking my income and my future in this country. Come on down and follow my example," he chimed.

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