George Waititu is the owner of Tafaria Castle and Country Lodge and the brains behind Royal Media Services (RMS) affiliate, Viusasa and Content Aggregation Ltd. The visionary entrepreneur rose from humble beginnings to establish an empire for himself.
Prior to establishing the resort, the Kenyatta University alumnus was the Managing Director of Ipsos Synovate, an international research company, but quit in 2011 to pursue a childhood dream.
Here is his story as told by WoK.
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Waititu’s family settled in the Abadare ranges, Nyeri County in 1979 making them the earliest settlers after the Deighton Downs ranch was subdivided. He grew up in those plains which were then very isolated, remote, lonely and simply godforsaken as hardship ranged from wildlife conflicts, droughts, lack of water, strenuous daily chores and absence of social infrastructure typical of most rural Kenya.
He fell in love with the scenery and dreamt of establishing a resort in the area.
Tafaria Castle and Country Lodge
The lodge is located on the foot of the Abadere ranges, Nyeri County. It is 224 Kilometres from Nairobi and overlooks the Laikipia plains.
“The castle is supposed to transform my village from a dark age to a more enlightened age, similar to what happed in medieval times. This place molded my character and made me the person I am today. It is desperate for help and development,” Waititu told Forbes Africa during a past interview.
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Waititu revealed that the castle which boasts medieval architecture cost him $3.5 million (approximately Ksh350 million at the time) to set up.
“I could have chosen to get into the lucrative real estate sector in Kenya and by now my return would have doubled,” he says.
Seventy per cent of construction work was done by locals. It was completed and opened its doors in 2012.
However, its construction faced a fair share of challenges. Waititu battled lack of resources and negotiated with neighbours for land and water. The heavy rains also made the place inaccessible and it took time before he could invest in a proper road.
“The rains can come and wash away the roads but the skills they acquired can never be taken away from them.”
Waititu founded Tafaria with the aim of making it a model village and guide the development of the area.
“I don’t want to change the rural life. I just want to improve it without changing its rural setting.”
Tafaria offers a range of sporting activities including; Horseback Riding, Archery, Volleyball, Horse Carriage Riding, Lawn Tennis, Badminton, Swimming, Basketball, and Mini Golf.
For relaxation, the lodge offers a bird-watching experience or a culturally insightful art tour. For those who love working out or meditating, the lodge has yoga classes and an outside gym. There is even a kids park to entertain your little ones allowing you to take a relaxing break.
Visitors can also enjoy the beautiful scenery by taking a hike in the park or going on a scenic park drive.
For evening leisure, visitors can spend time by the fireside, at the coffee lounge or the moat bar with signature cocktails in hand. They can also shake away the night at a disco in the Castle’s dungeon or hang out in the playroom for foosball, a game of pool, table tennis or darts.
Visitors are also treated to a one of a kind hike or game drive to see some of the big 5 at the Aberdare National Park or Solio animal sanctuary famous for its white and black rhinos plus lions, leopards, cheetahs, buffaloes and zebras. Those who may also want to adventure further into the park, they get to experience an amazing scenic drive while seeing some of the most majestic waterfalls on the continent.
Tafaria is an ideal location for conferencing and team building due to its tranquil location away from distractions and the large open spaces plus indoor and outdoor meeting areas. The conference centre has three meeting rooms: the Roundtable, The Horseshoe, and the Think-Tank, which accommodates up to 300 people.
The lodge also offers an ideal location for weddings thanks to the scenic beauty of the land and the castle. Newlyweds also get to ride on horse chariots as they enjoy their special day.
The centre is also a multidisciplinary centre for the Arts in Kenya incorporating accommodation for creatives, visual arts, fashion, photography and beauty studios, art galleries, music & film recording & post-production studios, software design studios, metal, wood, pottery and glass workshops, conference rooms with video facilities, an auditorium, a culinary studio with a canteen and a wide range of recreational activities plus a country lodge.
Waititu is the brains behind ViuSasa – a mobile phone app that allows audiences anywhere in the world to stream or download Kenyan entertainment content for just Ksh10 a day. The app now boasts about 3 million subscribers.
He notes that the decision to launch the new medium was informed by research conducted over several years to address emerging market needs and problems that producers of short videos face in the country.
“The first thing we do is look for a market for your content. We then distribute the videos to ensure everyone who is supposed to get them does receive them. We also educate people that the videos are available. That is the general work of the company,” he says in a short video produced by Citizen TV, released ahead of Viusasa’s launch.
Today, the app is ranked among the most popular in Kenya, with WhatsApp taking pride of place at the head of the table ahead of Facebook and ViuSasa closing the list of the top ten.
The whole idea behind this initiative was to help local producers protect, distribute, promote and monetise their content. Producers focus on creativity, while the app focuses on distribution, promotion and monetisation. It is run by a company called Content Aggregation Limited.
Waititu hopes that every village will have its own video content in languages that the villagers themselves best understand and love, by creating easily-accessible content, and in the fullness of time, ensure that content producers realise the true value of their creations.