Wadi Degla Holdings, an Egyptian company, built a Sh2 billion private sports centre in Runda, Nairobi. The club sits on 10 acres and the company is in the process of developing another on 15 acres in Nairobi’s Karen area.
Joseph Reda, the country manager and one of the investors, has been in Kenya since 2010 when they started construction under their parent company Egypro. This sports concept has been in Egypt for 10 years.
“Wadi is an Arabic name meaning valley, “he explains. “Degla is a famous valley in Egypt where they are situated and in there is a rare endangered antelope that appears in our logo.”
The company plans to expand to the rest of East Africa. They hope to get 5,000 families in the first three years. He met with JACKSON BIKO at his office in Piedmont Plaza on Ngong Road.
Did you feel conscious being a Christian in a predominantly Muslim community in Egypt?
We (Christians) are about 10 per cent of the total population in Egypt. In old days when we were growing up, it never mattered who was Muslim and who was Christian, we played together as children. But with time and with the interference of religion and politics, we started finding those fanatics who discriminate.
Now we feel it, especially when you’re not allowed to be in some senior job in government if you’re Christian. Out of maybe 10 ministers, you may find one Christian. But I think the new government is trying to eliminate that, I’d say. We’re one country.
Children are born with clenched fists, they say that’s their talent that God sent them down to earth with. What do you think God put in your fist?
I think I’m good with people. I can sit and interact with just about anyone, from an excellency to the guy who opens the gate.
And what do you struggle with?
(Long pause) You see, being a people’s person is very time-consuming. I struggle with that time because I have to accommodate everybody being a people’s person. Twenty four hours isn’t enough for me, so I struggle with doing everything I can in that limited time.
What were your ambitions as a child?
I never believed I would be a businessman, all my grades were leading me to being an engineer. My father, who passed away about 12 years ago, was a shop owner selling clothes. He exposed me to entrepreneurship when I was about 10 or 12 years old. When I was 15, I convinced somebody to buy a trouser and that’s how this journey all started.
Working in the shop in the busy streets allowed me to interact with people of all walks of life. So from an early age, I learnt that art of talking to people but I ended up doing civil engineering which helped me be a more organised person.
What do you fear as a 37-year-old human being?
I was never fearful until I got my son and first child one year ago. He makes me feel now I need to really look after myself for him and as he grows older that fear also grows. I’m scared of something happening to him.
If you had an opportunity to ask God one question, what would you ask him?
(Laughs) Wow. One question? (Pause). I’d ask him to forgive me.
If you were to have one superpower, walk through walls, turn paper into money, fly, be invisible, or immortal, or read minds things like that, what power would you choose?
I like that one of reading minds. (Laughter). Have you seen that movie called ‘‘What Women Want’’ with Mel Gibson? I’d love to read minds. I’d know when someone is about to con me on a deal and protect myself. I’d know people who wish me ill and find out why and fix it. I think it would be a superpower that would improve me as a person.
But can you imagine what your wife will think about you?
Actually, that’s what you want to know. (Laughter). I’d figure out ladies’ mentality in general. For instance, when you tell a lady, “I’m going out with my friends,” she’ll say it’s okay, go but in her mind she doesn’t want you to go. I will be able to read that and not go and avoid problems. (Laughs). With ladies it’s always complicated because they expect you to read their mind and understand what you did wrong because often we offend them even without knowing and they get quiet or say they are fine when they aren’t. This power would solve all problems. (Laughs).
You have one chance to invite someone for dinner, anybody in the world, dead or alive, who would that be and what burning questions would you ask them?
(Long pause) My deceased dad. Because my dad left me when I was just starting my life, I was in my early 20s. I have much older siblings but I felt like my dad wanted to invest in me more, he wanted to see me succeed. Of course, he wanted all his sons and daughters to be successful, but there’s also that thing you feel from your dad.
He treated me in a different way because he taught me how to make own money while I worked for him in his shop.
Now that I’m here and turned into a businessman he might be proud of I would like to sit with him and tell him, look, this is what I have done, this is where I am.