Kenyan Billionaire Who Started as a Coffee Picker

  • A 2007 photo of billionaire Stanley Munga Githunguri
    A 2007 photo of billionaire Stanley Munga Githunguri.
    Business Daily
  • Every successful person, more so billionaires, has a grass to grace story on how they created their wealth and maintained the cash (and in extension, respect) flow.

    For some billionaires like Stanley Munga Githunguri, the struggle was far worse and involved immense challenges every step of the way.

    The tycoon, who has amassed multi-billion properties spread across Nairobi and Kiambu counties and cannot assign a figure to his wealth, started out as a coffee picker surviving on a Ksh3 pay per day.

    Githunguri, in a past interview, confirmed that while living with his semi-illiterate mother, school was not a priority and that it took the intervention of a priest to have him acquire education.

    A file photos of Lilian Towers in Nairobi.
    A file photo of Lilian Towers in Nairobi.

    “I used to accompany my mother to pick coffee. We were paid 50 cents a tin and I would fetch Ksh3 in a good day. My mother, who was at the time employed at Kalimoni and Gwa Kihoro estates, would be paid ksh20 a month.

    “Our breakfast used to be porridge, as well as tea, many times either without sugar or milk. We used to look forward to Christmas when my mother would afford to cook us a decent meal or chapati and meat. We used to eat such food only once a year and on Christmas," he told Nation.

    His mother had struggled to get him through primary and part of secondary school before well-wishers had him enrolled at St Mary’s High in Alaska and transitioned to Methodist University, Yampa Valley College, and Kansas Teachers College after a Ksh7,000 fundraiser for an air ticket.

    When he returned to the country, he secured a job at a local commercial bank where he rose to the position of Branch Manager for Nakuru and Mombasa branches. 

    While at the bank, he developed cordial relationships with Kenya's founding President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, and his successor Daniel Moi.

    "I met Kenyatta in 1972. He had an account with the bank I worked for and always summoned me to State House when he wanted to make any transactions. Moi was also our customer,” he recounted.

    After amassing experience in the business field, Gihunguri applied for a loan from a credit finance corporation to construct a tower in Nairobi that is now known as Lilian Towers. He named it as an honour to his late mother, Lilian Nyagaki. At the time, Lilian Tower was among the tallest buildings in Nairobi.

    “My father passed on when I was 14. My mother Lilian Nyagaki raised my two younger sisters and me single-handedly. She struggled to feed and educate us.

    "I was born in poverty, raised in poverty and gone through it. So when I came out of poverty, I had to honour my mother. That is why I named the building Lilian," he explained.

    In the 80s, the building which houses Nairobi Safari Club, also owned by the tycoon, faced headwinds in what he termed as political pressure and was at one time advertised for sale over a loan he had taken.

    He, however, weathered the winds and expanded his property portfolio to include the coffee fields where he worked at a tender age and now known as Nyari and New Muthaiga up-scale housing estates. The tycoon also owns Ridgeways Mall and huge tracts of land in Kiambaa and Ruiru in Kiambu.

    He was also a stakeholder of pre-residential estate Runda when it was a coffee farm. Today, Githunguri, who served as Kiambaa MP between 2007 and 2017, is embroiled in a property dispute with his eldest son who wants a piece of his wealth.

    Entrance to the iconic Nairobi Safari Club in Nairobi.
    Entrance to the iconic Nairobi Safari Club in Nairobi.