Thursday, July 25, 2024

How fear of herding cows pushed me to be first B.Com honors graduate in Kenya

Daniel Ndonye is a well-revered name in Kenyan corporate circles, but his journey to the top is anything but ordinary. He is currently an Independent Chairman at I&M Bank.

Ndonye is also a proud member of esteemed organizations like the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK), the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), and the Institute of Certified Public Secretaries of Kenya (ICS).

Daniel Ndonye has held positions on the boards of top corporations in Kenya such as EPRA, and in Africa. He has worked with Deloitte & Touche for over 30 years, of which 20 he was the Senior Managing partner. He has over 37 years of experience as an accountant.

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However, his beginnings were far from glamorous. Daniel Ndonye’s humble roots were in Machakos. As a young boy, his main task, as instructed by his mother, was to tend to his elder brother’s cows and goats.

Those animals often gave Ndonye quite a headache by straying into neighbouring fields and munching on crops. What followed was a good thorough beating. But it was this fear of cowherding that propelled him to escape that life and excel in his academics.

“I decided to focus on education and I started topping in Standard One. In 1960, I sat this exam called the Common Entrance Exam. It was an exam which most people failed, but I passed in the first attempt. When I sat for the CPE, I got a letter inviting me to go to Alliance High School for form one,” he said in a past interview.


Over the years, Ndonye became a man of many firsts; the First graduate to bag a first class honours in Bachelor of Commerce in Kenya, the First Black Managing Senior Partner at Deloitte, the First ICAEW member from Africa and the First Black Chair of The Members Advisory Board of ICAEW.

Daniel Ndonye fondly reminisced his second year at UoN when his performance earned him a reward; Sh. 1,000 from MCR Cash Register, a business machine company. He was also featured in the papers that gave him good publicity to good effect when the CEO of Deloitte sought after him.

“He asked if I was interested in being trained as a chartered accountant in the UK. Within no time, I went to study Chartered Accounting in Liverpool, in the UK.”


“It’s actually negative motivation that got me going. I wanted to sit for my exams, pass and go to a school far away so that I couldn’t herd cows,” he added.

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Daniel Ndonye loves reading autobiographies and has a home library filled with books on investments and personal development. To him, success means accomplishing what you set out to do, an ethos that has shaped his achievements.

 “Shakespeare was right when he said that life is like a play. You get on the stage, play your part and another person will take over from you. A few years to come, people will not remember your successes or failures. Just do your bit and forget about the rest,” Ndonye urged.

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