Raila Odinga sold his car to raise funds to start his manufacturing company, East Africa Spectre.
The ODM leader narrated the chronology behind the birth of the only private company in Kenya that supplies gas cylinders to oil companies. The year was 1971 when Raila was a lecturer at the University of Nairobi.
While addressing businesspeople in Nairobi on Wednesday, Raila said a friend tipped him about a businessman who was selling manufacturing equipment at a throwaway price.
The Indian businessman was operating in Jinja, Uganda, and he was looking to escape to the UK after being chased away by the Iddi Amin regime.
“I was teaching at the University of Nairobi when an Indian friend who was a technician told me that one of his friends had just been sent away from Uganda and had uprooted all his machines from Jinja to a yard at Parklands and was selling quickly to go to Great Britain,” Raila recalled.
The former Prime Minister visited a yard in Parklands to see the machinery which included rolling machines, welding machines, sheet metal cutting machines.
The businessman named his price but Raila could not afford it, forcing him to sell his German-made Opel car.
“The entire machinery was being sold at Sh12,000 which I didn’t have, my salary was only Sh2000, so I sold my car to raise the cash and that is how I started,” he said.
Raila then set base in Industrial Area and started Standard Processing Equipment which produced steel windows, doors among other steel products. He expanded the company to make gas cylinders and renamed it East Africa Spectre.
Raila disclosed that he ventured into manufacturing gas cylinder after a white proprietor from Agip Oil Company told him they had a shortage of cylinders and were looking for local firms that could produce them.
Having worked in a cylinder manufacturing firm in Germany, Raila obtained samples from Agip, retooled, and began manufacturing gas cylinders.
One of his clients from Germany advised him to take up a loan to expand his business.
“When he came to my workshop and saw what we were doing, he was impressed and took me to Kenya Industrial Estate under ICDC and that is how I went to Kenya Industrial Estate.”
Ida Odinga currently runs East Africa Spectre as its managing director.