5 Media-Shy Billionaires Controlling the Kenyan Economy

  • From left to right: Jane Wangui Njuguna, Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa and Stephen Jennings.
    From left to right: Jane Wangui Njuguna, Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa and Stephen Jennings.

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  • American billionaire entrepreneur, Mark Cuban, once quipped that "There are no shortcuts. You have to work hard and try to put yourself in a position where if luck strikes, you can see the opportunity and take advantage of it."

    Proving that there is no shortcut to success, some tycoons have exhibited grit, persistence and good old hard work in order to establish themselves among the top tier class in their respective fields.

    Their storied careers and immense wealth have caught the attention of Forbes - with some of the tycoon's companies valued at Ksh7 billion ($70 million).

    Here is a look at five media-shy billionaires who control lucrative sectors in Kenya:

    Billionaire Bharat Thakrar, the founder of Scangroup Company.
    Billionaire Bharat Thakrar, the founder of Scangroup Company.
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    Bharat Thakrar

    Bharat Thakrar embodies rags to riches story with his company, SCANAD, which grew to become a multibillion firm. After finishing high school in India, Thakrar returned to Kenya and was offered a position at his father's company, Skyline Advertising Agency, the largest advertising agency in Kenya at the time.

    The young lad rose through the ranks in his first year at the company but was forced to seek another job after the company folded. At his new company, Advertising Associates, he oversaw the launch of Close-Up toothpaste, Blue Band and Royco Mchuzi Mix products.

    He later ditched the job and resorted to start his own company, SCANAD with a friend. Putting in the long hours, Thakrar grew the company which was later acquired by WPP, a British multinational advertising and public relations company. As of 2017, Forbes Magazine pegged the value of the company at about Ksh7 billion ($70 million).

     Jane Wangui Njuguna

    The business mogul has established herself as a dominant figure - being ranked as one of the 23 women billionaires, who are worth more than Ksh3 billion in Kenya. She, alongside her husband, acclaimed banker James Mwangi, have amassed wealth in the course of their careers.

    Wangui is said to own Ksh3.7 billion worth of shares at the bank her husband serves as CEO and one of Kenya's largest insurance companies. Together with businessman Peter Munga, she runs an investment vehicle called Filimbi Limited.

    The company, established in 2011, operates in the Investment Service sector. Njuguna has also invested in other businesses and sectors such as real estate as well as hospitality.

    Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa

    Over the course of the past three decades, Ndegwa has established his company, Janus Continental Group, as one of the largest companies in East Africa.

    Ndegwa started out as a civil servant working at the Central Bank of Kenya. He later moved to entrepreneurship, initially running the Green Corner Restaurant in Nairobi CBD before expanding into other sectors including wines and spirits imports and petroleum. 

    The tycoon also owns The Hub Shopping Mall in Karen, Nairobi, as well as running companies in various sectors such as petroleum industry, commercial drink industry and energy industry.

    His reach extends to operations running in South Africa and collectively his businesses have employed more than 3,000 Kenyans and foreign nationals.

    Stephen Jennings

    Hailing from New Zealand, Jennings reportedly fled from Europe in order to start a multibillion company as well as undertaking several projects in Kenya. 

    His past indicates that he fled from Russia after forging a heart attack and then escaping while being transported to the hospital, according to international sources. 

    Previously, Jennings had founded Renaissance Capital in 1995 but was ousted in the company. After moving to Kenya, the tycoon founded Rendeavour, where he is the largest shareholder.

    Through the company, he is in charge of developing the Tatu City project, a 5,000-acre Special Economic Zone (SEZ). He is also involved in other projects in various parts of Africa.

    Amarjeet Patel

    According to the latest report by Knight Frank, Amarjeet Patel was listed as one of the 23 women billionaires worth more than Ksh3 billion in Kenya. Married to billionaire Baloobhai Patel, she is a co-owner of various investments that are worth over Ksh3 billion.

    The couple has invested in a number of industries including gas manufacturing, insurance and banking. The couple has the single largest stake in Carbacid- the leading supplier of food-grade carbon dioxide used for carbonated beverages. 

    Patel is also a major stakeholder of the luxurious Sankara Hotel in Westlands, Nairobi, alongside the late Charles Njonjo, as well as runs Transworld Safaris Limited.

    The Sankara Hotel in Westlands, Nairobi.
    The Sankara Hotel in Westlands, Nairobi.
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