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French billionaire donates books to MKU

French billionaire businessman Mohed Altrad has donated 3,000 books to Mount Kenya University.

The books, worth Ksh4 million, are the world’s first English version of Badawi, an autobiographical novel that is part of the literature curriculum taught in French schools.

Prof. Simon Gicharu, Chairman Board of Directors, distributes the donated books to studentsProf. Simon Gicharu, Chairman Board of Directors, distributes the donated books to studentsThe book, tells the inspirational story of a nomad boy born in the desert sands of Syria. He raises himself by the bootstraps to earn a PhD in Computer Science, and later becomes one of the richest men in the world.

Badawi reflects the life of Mr. Altrad, the CEO and Founder of Altrad Group, Europe’s biggest dealer in scaffolding and an assortment of construction materials. Born to a single mother in the desert, Mr. Altrad was dissuaded from going to school but struggled through, earning a scholarship to study in France before venturing into entrepreneurship.

His company has annual revenues of 1.6bn Euros (Ksh1.7 trillion) and employs over 17,000 people, according to Forbes magazine. In 2015, Mr Altrad won the coveted EY World Entrepreneur of the Year Award. MKU Chairman Prof. Simon Gicharu, who represented East Africa was inducted into the World Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame at the same ceremony.

“Knowledge is universal and this story teaches us that everyone can be successful, in spite of their humble beginnings,” said Prof. Gicharu.

Badawi was first published in 1994, and updated in 2012. The English version was published this year. Françoise Nyssen, director of Actes Sud the publisher said, "Mr. Altrad is smart enough to realize that life is about something deeper than just making money and modest enough to know that literary success can't be bought."

Mount Kenya University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Stanley Waudo who received the books at Thika Main Campus thanked Mr Altrad for the donation, saying Badawi will go a long way in encouraging university students to become entrepreneurs, and impart in them attributes such as persistence and hard work. “We will also share the books with other universities and public libraries in Kenya,” said Prof. Waudo.

View photos here