As you may expect, it is hard to keep track of the rich and their wealth in Kenya, leave alone western Kenya. Unlike in other economies where an individual’s wealth is often a matter of public talk, in African culture private wealth is kept in secret. However, there are bits of public information that we can use to try and find out who the richest man in western Kenya is.
Ambwere, The Legend
If we are to consider old money as the criteria of being the richest, then the legendary Maragoli businessman Ambwere should be somewhere in the top 100 richest men in Western Kenya. The legend of Ambwere who has investments in real estate, farming and transport sectors is one that will be told in the barber shops for generations to come. So rich was the proprietor of the chain of Alliance Hotels, that dot big and small towns in Western Kenya, that it is rumored that he once offered (or in fact paid) the salaries of striking teachers in Western Kenya; an act of braggadocio that inflamed anger of then president, President Moi.
In almost every town in Western Kenya, there is a modern Ambwere building if not buildings. Ambwere’s empire may have waned as the old man has aged, but even in his sunset years, he keeps busy farming his thousands of acres farm in Kitale, Trans Nzoia.
Are these the richest land owners in western Kenya?
Speaking of Trans Nzoia, it would be a huge miss if we failed to mention some of the land rich moguls of western Kenya in our quest to find the richest man in western Kenya. This is because with an acre of land in Trans Nzoia averaging well over a million Kenya shillings, some of the large land owners we will mention here are nothing shot of billionaires given that they are said to own thousands of acres.
Famous names in this list include former Westlands constituency Member of Parliament Fred Gumo; Moi era power brokers such as Nathaniel Tum; Former Saboti constituency Member of Parliament Captain Davis Nakitare whose land holdings are said to include a conservancy. Mr Wanaina of the Eldoret Express fame should still feature even though his bus company is a pale shadow of itself. This is because Mr Wanaina is reputed to be lland rich with holdings around Kitale town totaling up to well over 650 acres.
Just in 2021, Eldoret Express regained ownership of its 640- acre land in Trans Nzoia that had been grabbed by a land buying company during the 2007 post-election violence. This means that our estimate of 650 acres may well be below the real acreage of the land empire of the Wanainas. Now that we have mentioned pioneer western Kenya entrepreneur Mr Wanaina, why don’t we talk a bit about rich businessmen in western Kenya?
Are these the richest businessman of western Kenya?
There is the Khetia family of Khetia Drapers, one of the largest dealers in fast moving commercial goods in Western Kenya and the North Rift. Their largest business installation in western Kenya is in Kitale Town, a row of go downs that also hosts the head office of their business conglomerate, situated just opposite Kitale Golf Club as one drives into the capital of Trans Nzoia County from Eldoret or Bungoma.
Though Mama Harris of Bungoma is old money, the fortunes of this libongobongo are said to have taken a turn for the worst recently. For what it is worth, the lady simply known as Mama Harris still deserves a mention for her role in developing Bungoma town through her business supplying building and construction materials. If wealth could be measured in reputation, she would stand as the richest woman in Western Kenya backed by her bankable name.
Before we talk of the politically exposed individuals thought to be among the richest men in western Kenya, let as mention some of the less known western Kenya moguls who like to keep their business on the down low. First in this list is the enigma known simply as Toto of Kakamega. His full names are Cleophas Shimanyula. Besides being the proprietor of Kakamega Homboyz Football Club, among other interests in construction, real estate and farming, Toto a former tout also runs the Kisumu-Kamamega route literally.
For Toto in Kakamega, there M’Big of Bungoma. From supply of liquor, to petrol stations to the hospitality industry (he’s rumored to be the proprietor of the magnificent Siritamu Resort) M’Big runs Bungoma.
Are these the richest politicians in western Kenya?
For the politically exposed wealthy of western Kenya, outside the Odingas and Nyachaes, The Awori family should top this list. The Atwolis shouldn’t fare badly either. Then there are the Oparanyas, and not to forget the Mwales of Mwale city in Butere, Kakamega. Speaking of Kakamega, whatever happened to Stanley Livondo? For Cyrus Jirongo, we know enough about his money troubles as they are well spoken of in the press.
We wind up this list that is no way complete, with a figure for one of the richest men in Western Kenya – 4 billion Kenya shillings! Ladies and gentlemen former Vice-President, Deputy Prime Minister, and now Chief Minister (to-be) Musalia Mudavadi of Mululu, Sabatia constituency, Vihiga County. The richest man in Western Kenya? Well, possibly. At the very least, the son of Mudamba could be the richest in Mulembe.
Know of the rich of western Kenya and their wealth? We invite you to help us compile a top 100 billionaires of western Kenya list by leaving a comment, correction as well as compliment in our comments section below.
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