Global Firm That was Born at a Local Kenyan Bar in Spring Valley

  • Image of raised glasses of beer File
  • Renowned global anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI), can trace its roots to several drinking sessions within Spring Valley, Nairobi.

    In his book, Native Son, one of Kenya's least known kingmakers, Joe Wanjui, gave details of the origin of the non-profit firm that took the world by storm.

    “The concept had germinated during informal discussions held in the 1980s, in the Spring Valley suburb of Nairobi where I live. One of my neighbours Peter Eigen was the then World Bank representative in Nairobi,” an excerpt of his book disclosed.

    Dr. Joe Wanjui speaking to the media during the launch of his book (Native Son), 2009.

    Wanjui spilled the little-known secret, adding that the entire concept stemmed from the rapidly developing concern at the time, regarding the high level of corruption in developing countries.

    Peter Eigen and Wanjui, during their routine chat-and-drink sessions, exchanged ideas on what could be done to combat the rampant exploitation of African resources by foreign companies.

    The Kenyan tycoon revealed that the foreign companies were happy to maintain the status quo within Africa, as the wanton corruption within the various African states was beneficial to them.

    The small spring valley boy club, that also included Harris Mule and Joe Githongo (John Githongo's father), then went on to form Transparency International, where they all served as founding members.

    Wanjui further revealed his crucial role in ensuring Githongo Jnr was appointed to TI as a director, following their father-son-like relationship.

    However, the two had a major fallout after Githongo fingered several top government officials in the infamous Anglo-leasing scandal, an act the city tycoon has never forgiven him for to date, terming Githongo's recording as the highest form of betrayal.

    Image of Joe Wanjui at a past event

    He specifically took issue with claims that he and his friends — supposedly part of a group variously referred to as the “Mount Kenya Mafia”, “Democratic Party founder members”, “Muthaiga Golf Club members” or “Gema”, had fixed Githongo up as a sacrificial lamb, by pushing for his appointment as the Governance and Ethics PS under President Mwai Kibaki.

    “In retrospect, I cannot honestly say my role in recommending John’s appointment to the government was one of my proudest moments,” a section of the book revealed.

    Wanjui served as the head of the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC) in the late 1960s, before going on to direct Unilever company from its grassroots, as well as chairing UAP insurance (a company he partly owns).

    Joe Wanjui’s extended family in a group photo taken in December 2009.