Politics

Inside Raila’s Multibillion Gas Cylinder Empire

The company was founded by veteran leader opposition Raila Odinga in the early 70’s when he was teaching at the University of Nairobi. In 2021, Raila revealed how he started the company after selling his car in order to purchase various machines from an Asian who had fled Uganda due to the hostile political regime of dictator Iddi Amin Dada.

According to Raila, he met a friend who told him of plans by the Asian national to urgently sell off his machines in order to travel overseas.

The total cost of the machinery which included rolling machines, welding machines and sheet metal cutting machines was valued at ksh 12000.

However, Raila was unable to raise the money and decided to sell his car.

“The entire machinery was being sold at Sh12,000 which I didn’t have, my salary was only Sh2000, so I sold my car to raise the cash and that is how I started,” he said.

Through the acquired machines, he founded Standard Processing Equipment Construction hence the name Spectre. The company made steel doors, casement and windows.

Later on, Raila met a German international involved in oil investment who was looking for a local company that could supply gas cylinders.

It wasn’t a hard task for Raila since he had earlier been familiarised with cylinders manufacture while in Germany. The company asked for a sample of the needed cylinders and began the manufacturing process.

East Africa Spectre Limited became the only private company that supplied gas cylinders to oil companies.

However, the company faced major hurdles especially in 1980’s following the imprisonment of Raila Odinga. In fact, some oil companies became jittery in doing business with the Odinga company for fear of government frustration.

In 1988, East Africa Spectre Limited entered into a financial agreement with Industrial Development Bank (now IDB capital) that saw them acquire a new factory along Mombasa Road.

The new factory was meant to manufacture new cylinders while the old ones would be used for revalidation. The company however faced challenges in operating two factories and decided to merge operations under the new company.

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