Mama Ngina, Biwott in Africa billionaires list

Mama Ngina Kenyatta at a past function. She is among the three women that made it to the Africa’s billionaire club. FILE

What you need to know:

  • Ventures magazine, a Nigerian publication tips Chandaria, Biwott, Merali and Mama Ngina as the wealthiest in Kenya.

Mama Ngina Kenyatta and former powerful Cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott have made it to the list of Africa’s top billionaires, Nigeria-based Ventures financial magazine says.

They are among the 55 Africa’s dollar billionaires in a list that includes other two Kenyans, Naushad Merali and Manu Chandaria, whom the magazine tips as the wealthiest in the country and 25th richest on the continent with a fortune of $1.65 billion (Sh142 billion).

Mama Ngina, the mother of Kenya’s fourth President, Uhuru Kenyatta, with a net worth of $1 billion (Sh86 billion) spread in real estate, banking and hospitality sectors is among the three women that made it to the Africa’s billionaire club.

Ventures magazine, which published the list of rich Africans for the first time, placed the fortunes of Mr Biwott and Mr Merali, who both made their money during the era of President Moi, at about $1 billion (Sh86 billion).

President Kenyatta is missing from the list despite being named position 26 by Forbes Africa’s rich list in 2011— a pointer that some of the investments put under his name by the US firm could have been transferred to the family by the Nigerian publication.

The 55 billionaires Ventures magazine has identified are more than the 16 super rich Africans listed by Forbes last year.

It was able to identify dozens more billionaires by using “on-the-ground knowledge” to overcome hurdles that may have “hampered” other researchers, said Ventures.

Of the 55, 20 are Nigerian, nine are South African and eight are Egyptian, underlining the power of natural resources such as oil and gold in creating wealth on the continent.

The other women that join Mama Ngina Kenyatta in roll are a daughter of Angola’s president Isabel Dos Santos and a Nigerian oil tycoon Folorunsho Alakija and fashion designer.

In Kenya, the common thread in the billionaires is politics, save for Mr Chandaria, thanks to his holding company — Comcraft Group, a $2 billion industrial behemoth, which produces steel, plastics, and aluminum products in 45 countries. His Kenyan stable includes Mabati Rolling Mills and Kaluworks Ltd.

Mr Chandaria, 84, was named the oldest billionaire in Africa. He is also Kenya’s biggest philanthropist with his Chandaria Foundation giving away millions of dollars to causes in education, health and the arts.

Mr Biwott and Mr Merali owe the wealth to their close links with former President Moi. Mr Biwott has vast investments abroad and, in Kenya, he is associated with Yaya Centre, an upmarket shopping centre, in Hurlingham, oil marketer KenolKobil as well as land and property valued at billions of shillings.

Mr Merali through his Sameer Group has business interests across agriculture, energy and power, finance and telecommunications. 

He has significant stakes in Equatorial Bank, Sasini, Eveready East Africa, Ryce East Africa, Sameer Industrial Park and a joint venture with Bharti Airtel, a mobile phone services provider in Kenya.

Total assets

As the matriarch in charge of the Kenyatta family’s vast business empire, Mama Ngina presides over an enterprise that is associated with well-known commercial brands and blue chip companies.

This includes Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), which is Kenya’s largest non-listed lender with total assets of Sh100 billion that last year posted a net profit of Sh2.6 billion. The bank is ranked Kenya’s ninth largest with a market size index of 4.08 per cent.

Others are Brookside Dairy—where the President’s younger brother, Muhoho, sits as executive chairman, and the upmarket and chic hotel chain, Heritage Hotels East Africa.

The family is also linked to Media Max Company, which owns K24 TV, Kameme Radio and The People newspaper.

It also owns thousands of acres of prime land across Kenya that was acquired by the late President Kenyatta in the ‘60s and ‘70s under a settlement transfer fund scheme that allowed government officials acquire land from the British cheap prices.

But the wealth of Kenya’s billionaires is small compared to that of Africa’s richest man: Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote, with a fortune of $20.2 billion (Sh1.7 trillion).

The Africa’s list is likely to reignite debate about inequality between the rich and poor.

Ventures editor-in-chief Uzo Iweala told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme that its estimate of 50 billionaires was probably conservative.

“There is this culture of you don’t necessarily want to show your wealth, considering the gap between rich and poor,” he said.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.