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Top 7 Most Powerful Kenyan Business Leaders.

Kenya is home to East Africa’s top business leaders who control a huge chunk of the region’s economy. They form the inner circle of economic strategy formulation in Kenya and are the drivers of the private sector. In terms of personal wealth, they are some of the wealthiest individuals in Africa.

These are some of the Kenyan men and women who are pushing the envelope for the country.

1. Dr. Manu Chandaria, chairman of the Comcraft Group of companies

The 83 year- old is referred to as East Africa’s most venerable business leader by Forbes. He is at the pinnacle of one of Kenya’s most affluent family dynasties. The octogenarian’s family business establishment has its presence in over 40 countries globally. Dr. Chandaria has established his personal brand as one of the
most successful – and richest – Kenyan entrepreneurs.

Dr. Chandaria, unknown to many, runs big philanthropic projects ranging from education to health and business policy formulation to cultural issues. His Chandaria Foundation is active in over seven countries, and has given away millions to causes in education, health, and the arts making him Kenya’s biggest philanthropist.

2. Chris Kirubi
71 year- old Chris Kirubi is a Kenyan entrepreneur who has built a very successful business portfolio consisting of real estate, manufacturing, and media. According to Forbes magazine, Kirubi is worth over $300 million (Kshs.24 billion) that ranks him as one of the wealthiest people in Africa.

Most Kenyans will know him as DJ CK, a code name he uses when he turns into a disc jockey at his radio station, Capital FM.

In 1998, Kirubi assumed ownership of Haco Industries which he expanded from a distributor of American and British brands to a leading indigenous manufacturer of consumer products, including TCB and Palmers, two of the leading hair and skin care product brands in the country. Today, revenues from Haco run into millions of dollars. Apart from employing hundreds of people in Kenya, the company also makes everyday items such as pens, razors, lighters, baby food, stationery and bleach.

Kirubi holds the largest individual stake in Centum Investments; a private equity firm listed both on the Nairobi and Uganda stock exchanges. He is also reported to be the largest individual shareholder in UAP Insurance, East Africa’s third largest insurance company.

Turbulence hit his career in 2006 where as chairman of the board of Uchumi Supermarkets, a publicly owned chain of retail stores, he was accused of using his influence to sell a piece of its property without independent valuation or an open competitive process.

Although Kirubi admitted no wrongdoing, the case was finally dismissed in May 2011 on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to implicate him in the case of defrauding the retailer supermarket giant. Despite media reports channeling all the attention to the story prompting massive public interest, he managed to wade off the potential crisis with a lot of composure.

3. Vimal Shah, CEO, Bidco industries
He has built a behemoth business from the ground up. Vimal Shah is a name that is very synonymous with Bidco industries. According to ventures Africa, the Bidco Group under the leadership of Shah has established itself as a leading manufacturer, marketer, and distributor of edible oils, fats and hygienic products in East Africa. Some of its flagship products here in Kenya include edible oil brands like Elianto and Golden Fry, cooking fats including Kimbo, laundry soaps, margarine, baking powder, and hygiene products.

Shah is credited as the brains behind the resurgence of Bidco from a small unknown company to one of East Africa’s most successful stories ever told. Its products have penetrated beyond the Kenyan market to over 16 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Because of his distinguished achievements, he has given talks at various places including the prestigious Harvard Business School. As a result, Harvard Business School carried out a case study on Bidco Group with an objective of creating a success model for other enterprises to emulate.

4. Tabitha Karanja, CEO, Keroche Breweries
Karanja founded Keroche Breweries, the inaugural beer manufacturing plant in the world to be owned by a Kenyan. The beer manufacturing industry was previously left to multinationals with East African Breweries having a monopoly in the local market.

She is said to have weathered a lot of resistance in setting up shop including high taxation and meddling from high powered government officials. Her determination to succeed where others had failed to start led her in forming the multibillion shilling empire.

After investing Ksh.1 billion to start the company and following its subsequent success, she went on to invest a further Ksh. 500 million in May this year to increase production. The plant based in Naivasha employs more than 100 people and Ms. Karanja projects her business to grow further to have 25- 40% of the market share. With its flagship brands, Summit Lager and Summit Malt, the brewery has proved resilient in the market. Last month, she was featured in the CNN African Voices programme, a program that aims to highlight the success of both continental Africans and Africans in the diaspora.

5. Dr. Titus Naikuni, Managing Director and CEO, Kenya Airways
He is the man at the helm of Africa’s leading airline, Kenya Airways. Under Naikuni’s leadership, Kenya airways has kept growing and stamping it’s authority as the king of the African skies. Kenya Airways flies to 56 global destinations out of which 45 are within Africa.

Mr. Naikuni, holds a Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nairobi. He is also a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Management Development Programme (PMD71) and was awarded a Doctor of Science Engineering by the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, an honorary award in recognition of his contribution to development.

Between August 1999 and March 2001, Mr. Naikuni was a member of a team of World Bank sponsored Kenyan technocrats, known as the “Dream Team” who were engaged by the President Moi to turn around the Kenyan economy.

In this capacity, Mr. Naikuni served as permanent secretary to the Ministry of Information, Transport and Communications.

6. James Mwangi, Managing director, Equity Group
Equity bank limited is a Kenyan bank which started as a building society back in 1984. Since then the bank has grown bigger to become the largest financial institution by customer base in East and Central Africa and the largest African majority owned company in the region. All of this under the watchful eye of Mr. Mwangi.

In June, Mr. Mwangi was named the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year 2012 at an awards ceremony held in Monte Carlo, beating 59 country finalists vying for the same title. Equity Bank operates in several East African Countries including Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Mr. Mwangi reportedly owns 7.32% of the Bank’s shares after it went public at the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

7. Joshua Oigara, Group CEO, Kenya Commercial Bank
He is regarded as one of the country’s youngest bankers. Many Kenyans on twitter wondered how he had gotten such a position at such a young age. KCB is the leading commercial bank in East and Central Africa by Asset base and branch network. He was appointed KCB Group CEO in August 2012.

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