Samuel Maina is the Chairman of Urithi Housing Cooperative Society Limited.
He spoke to myNetwork about his journey from teaching to real estate, the need for affordable housing in Kenya, and why time is the greatest asset that every young person has.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up at a time when wearing shoes to school was a preserve for the privileged few. To be admitted in Standard One, you had to be able to touch the tip of one of your ears by placing your hand over your head.
Going to school presented a break from a myriad of home chores such as grazing cattle and sheep and fetching water and firewood. After my primary school education, I attended Rongai Agricultural and Technical High School where apart from the teaching staff, the school had only two cooks.
The rest of work was done by the students. Here, I learnt first-hand time management, diligence, honesty and persistence.
What did this experience teach you?
Am the eighth born in a family of 10, meaning I hardly enjoyed anything new. Books and clothes were passed down to me by my older siblings.
Coming from a large family, and being much younger, it was common to be forgotten when food was being was being served. In school, teachers were very strict and unfriendly. Such experiences make you very handy and enduringly strong.
You’re a teacher, how did you end up in the real estate sector?
While serving as a teacher, I deeply understood that the ever escalating land cost prevented many from owning homes. Experiencing and realising this need motivated me.
Together with a long-time friend and a few others, we came together and formed what Urithi is today.
The desire to see young families and individuals owning property has led me to formulate a social economic model that ensures that housing remains affordable and within the reach of a vast majority.
I didn’t imagine I would work in the real estate industry having trained as a teacher of English and Literature.
After a decade of teaching, I undertook a Masters course in Human Resource Management at JKUAT. I later enrolled for my PhD in the same university and course. Coincidentally, this was the time when Urithi was taking shape. Opportunity met preparedness and the rest is history.
What advice would you give to young people who have an interest working with co-operative movements?
The future of our country would be made richer if the youth would embrace the cooperative movement in providing answers to their quest for property ownership. Through a SACCO, one is able to save for future gratification.
You have been very vocal about the need for affordable housing. What are its main benefits to Kenyans?
A close study of a typical worker in our country reveals that they spend over a third of their earnings on rent each month.
If most people would have their own shelter, it will in turn increase their disposable incomes to other expenditures such as food, health care and education.
Co-operative societies can, and have, played very significant role in the realisation of affordable housing, due to their diversity and geographical spread.
What is the biggest challenge to the realisation of affordable housing and how can young people be part of the solution?
The cost of land, which is dictated by its proximity to a town and availability of social amenities such as roads, sewerage and water has been a great impediment.
The government can introduce settlement schemes in some unexploited areas such as Kitengela and Kangundo Road by providing the necessary infrastructure. This will make land attractive to the youth.
To address the cost of financing, the government must devise a cheaper and convenient way of making available affordable and low interest loans, especially to the youth.
What advice would you give to a young person who intends to venture into real estate?
Start today what you never started yesterday. The beauty of being young is the fact that you have the time to take risks, make a mistake and change your course.
Real estate invests in time, hence our slogan- Buy and wait, don’t wait and buy. If you lose on investing on time, you lose greatly since time is the greatest asset that every young person has. The question is, what can you do today to impact on your future?
Is there something that most people don’t know about you?
I have a great passion for farming. I have a small farm that is a replica of our farm in High School. In a small way, I do some philanthropic work that I rarely scream about.
Also, most of my associates think I am an extrovert but my personality test reveals that I am an introvert. I like the ambivalent nature of my personality. It makes people underestimate me, which helps me greatly as a leader.
Deep down, I’m a designer and a creator of art, be it in design or structure. I’m very good in conceptualisation of designs and the creation of aesthetics.
Landscaping is perhaps my greatest forte. I like reading and writing poetry and listening to music, my favourite being Country Music.
Which is the most interesting book you have read so far and what lessons did you pick from it?
The 48 laws of Power. I have come to discover the power of power! You are what you think just as you are what you eat. The most defining aspect in a person is the power behind his motivation.
Do you have a mentor?
My mentor is my former high school principal at Rongai School, the late Dominic Jordan.
Through him, I was able to understand the wider world, question the ordinary and obvious while interrogating the status quo. He taught me servant leadership, a virtue that rests well within me.
What would you list as the gravest mistake you made in your youth?
We were newly married, and my wife wanted us to buy a piece of land and build a small house, while I wanted us to use the money to buy a station wagon and start a transport business.
I was able to convince her, and as fate would have it, the vehicle got into a terrible accident on the first day and was written off. The car was insured, but the insurance company was later put under receivership before I was compensated.
If you were to become 25 again and you had a chance to change one thing about yourself then, what would it be?
I would spend more time learning and attaining problem-solving technical life skills.
I would also reinvent myself through innovative thinking and blue sky exploration. I wouldn’t hold back my search for uniqueness.
Which one of your personal attributes do you owe your success to?
Humility. I’m very ordinary and modest in all my dealings. I endeavour to climb down to reach everyone below me, hence making formidable networks and building mutual trust.
I realised long ago that people buy trust, not commodities – you lose trust with people, you lose everything. My upbringing has taught me to have deep respect for all regardless of their station in life.