Ahmednasir: From Shopkeeper to Owning a Bank & TV Station

  • Lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi during a past interview with Jeff Koinange
    Lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi during a past interview with Jeff Koinange
    File
  • For many Kenyans, Ahmednasir Abdullahi is a familiar and respected name in legal circles. The Senior Counsel has built a rich resume as a lawyer most people would want to have on their side. 

    But beyond the legal world, Ahmednasir is also a businessman with interests in media, banking, and real estate. 

    He has leveraged his success as a lawyer to pursue his love for media - under the Al Nur Media Group which he chairs. 

    The company publishes the Nairobi Law Monthly and the Nairobi Business Monthly - two magazines that run in the city. It also owns the largest and the first Somali TV channel in Kenya - RTN TV. 

    Growing up as an apprentice at his father's shop in Mandera, it would have been unimaginable of the success that awaited Ahmednasir in the city.

    Indeed, his first entry into Nairobi was abode a lorry - travelling for more than one thousand kilometres of rough road to the Nairobi School where he had been admitted for his A levels. 

    He would later be admitted to Nairobi University where he got his first degree in law. His performance earned him a scholarship to study for a masters degree in law from Cornel University - an ivy league university in New York, US. 

    After a stint teaching law at UoN, he teamed up with another brilliant mind from Mandera, Abdikadir Mohamed - to found Ahmednasir, Abdikadir & Company Advocates - one of the top law firms in the country. 

    Banking 

    In 2008, Ahmednasir and Abdikadir received the green light to start First Community Bank (FCB) after gathering a group of partners. 

    Abdikadir, a Harvard trained lawyer, is also a former legal advisor to President Uhuru Kenyatta. 

    Other FCB founders include Hassan Varvani who is also the bank’s chairman, and Amir Nahdi – a Tanzanian businessman.

    Ahmednasir Abdullahi speaks to the media on December 1, 2015.
    Ahmednasir Abdullahi speaks to the media on December 1, 2015.
    Daily Nation

    “I was having a chit-chat with the former Mandera Central MP, Abdikadir Mohamed, a really brilliant guy, and he suggested the idea and we thought it would work,” the lawyer revealed in a past interview. 

    FCB was the first fully-fledged Sharia-compliant bank in Kenya that mainly targets Muslim faithful. 

    The banking laws for Muslims are different since the Quran outlaws interest (riba) on money either borrowed or deposited. 

    Ahmednasir, a devout Muslim, is on record declaring that he has never taken loans, advising entrepreneurs against borrowing seed capital. 

    “Starting a business using credit is not a good idea, I wouldn’t do it myself. You have to generate enough seed money to start your business without borrowing. 

    “I have never taken a loan in my life. Business should also serve a greater cause than just making a profit, “ he stated in a past interview.

    Upon meeting all the requirements, the CBK granted them approval to conduct the business of a bank.

    As is required by law, this was followed by the acquisition of the primary location of the bank, IT systems and other necessary operating facilities as well as the recruitment of staff for the institution.

    CBK officials were then invited to the business premises to conduct an inspection of the property and systems and the partners paid the requisite fees needed for a license.

    “In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 2 of the Central Bank of Kenya Act, the Central Bank of Kenya specifies, for purposes of the Act, the bank set out below. First Community Bank Limited,” read the Gazette Notice by then-CBK Governor Njuguna Ndung'u.

    In September 2008, former Finance Minister John Michuki exempted the bank from certain sections of the Banking Act in order to enable First Community Bank Limited to offer products that are Sharia-compliant.

    Within six years of operation, the bank had an asset base of Ksh12.5 billion and more than 100,000 customers.

    The bank owns the FCB Mihrab building in Kilimani which serves as its head office.

    FCB Mihrab building in Kilimani, Nairobi
    FCB Mihrab building in Kilimani, Nairobi
    File