By Steve Umidha
As the seasons change, one thing remains invariable – another CEO is speaking out about the value of empathy in business and beyond. This time it’s the founder of Lordship Africa, Jonathan Jackson, as he promotes his-newly found aspiration – the noble quest to give back to society, and it is all for a good cause.
Ask anyone what matters most when it comes to investing their hard-earned money. Chances are, right upbringing and trust and maybe hope, will be the top answers. So it makes sense that gaining consumer trust is a key focus for most companies and organizations alike – and it starts by being involved in the community in which they serve.
Jonathan has taken lessons from his life and those of his parents, to focus on empathy at home, cultivate compassion at work, and ultimately to harness that understanding to make a difference in society.
That ultimate goal of social impact, is underscored when he reflects on a journey he tells me he began early last year (2019) taking everyday action driven by empathy.
Jonathan Jackson, the founder and Chairman of Lordship Group – an international private equity and real estate development company, says giving back to the community is a mantra for his company.
“My parents taught me the values of giving back into the society,” Jackson says, of his foundation –
Jonathan Jackson Foundation – whose existence he tells me is to work in the slums with communities to empower the youth and women on economic empowerment as well as sports, arts and music.
It is a trait he says he picked early on in his life from his parents who had settled in Eldoret town and worked as teachers before moving to Nairobi where his father swapped careers to evangelistic vocation as a pastor in AIC Ziwani church as his mother began a charity programme in Kibera Slums working to empower women in the area.
‘We initiate and scale up community projects and ensure tangible, positive impact and accountability on the ground for the community, our partners and stakeholders targeting specifically women and youth. We track, monitor, evaluate and ensure delivery of program success in all community projects we are involved in,’ reads in part the Foundation’s What We Do on its website.
Interestingly, Mr. Jackson, born and brought up in Eldoret had prior ambitions to sponsor a football team, only to end up buying a community-based football club participating in a Kenyan Super league, Nairobi City Stars, in what he admits was an ingenious way in getting to the community in the hope of reaching the young people through the popular sport.
Upon completion of his Business Management progression, Jackson says he worked in a number of construction companies before taking a huge gamble to move to Czech Republic to whet his appetite in the real estate business.
“To be honest, it was gamble,” he says, one that was also triggered by economic meltdown in Europe at the time, “I didn’t have any money other than my savings, so I rented one apartment and painted it, put some new carpets in, some new lights and sub leased it for office space which was in high at the time, made some money, constructed some more and raised enough from rental income,” he says.
From the rental income, Mr. Jackson says he had enough to persuade the bank and with that he secured his first ever bank loan of 150,000 Euros (to be repaid after 5years) and invested a chunk of it on land and eventually got his permanence, selling part of the land while developing rental apartments. This marked the journey of Lordship Group.
“It makes me smile when I think about it. It was so much money for me at the time,” he narrates.
Today Lordship Group boasts of having completed in excess of 6Million sqm of commercial space and residential accommodation valued at over 1Billion (Euros), with two projects coming up in Kenya, namely; Karen Hills and 88 Nairobi Condominium, an ambitious 44 floor-modern-apartment his company is putting up at an estimated cost of Kes5Billion christened the firm’s signature development.
In February of 2018, the firm unveiled the luxurious project in Nairobi’s Upper Hill district that will sit on a one-acre piece of land along Fourth Ngong Avenue and whose plan is touted to be top-grade to be entrenched with Turkish interior designers with other amenities and facilities borrowed from global standards.
Jackson is upbeat about the two projects and the country’s recovering economy. This is being motivated by the country’s relatively stable economy and Kenya’s quest to put up affordable housing units for its citizens, coupled with other factors which the company believes will sustain its businesses through another year of prevailing tough market conditions – that was largely decelerated by 2017 general elections.
With a market known for its reputation for being resilient and tenacious, it is perhaps little surprise that Lordship Africa is keeping its spirits up – amidst three years of political bickering and uncertainty in the credit market.
The company further have future plans to enter other African markets and already salivating for markets like Ethiopia owing to its vast space and growing infrastructural plan among other potential markets.
“We have our challenges as a country including corruption but generally we are optimistic,” he concludes.
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