Kangema Billionaires: This feature on Kangema Billionaires who have put Murang’a County on the map and become some of Kenya’s wealthiest men was first published in the by John Cheruiyot in the Daily Nation.
It is said when you are in Kisumu City, do not throw stones indiscriminately because the chances of hitting and injuring a professor are pretty high.
This is an indirect way that the lakeside residents proudly tell the world that the region easily has the highest number of PhD holders in Kenya.
However, for Rwathia Village in Kangema, if you throw stones around aimlessly you are more likely to hit not a man of letters but one of money. Why? Because billionaires abound here.
Just sample this: Equity Bank chairman Peter Munga is from Rwathia. The bank’s CEO James Mwangi also comes from the village. Investment banker Jimnah Mbaru is from Rwathia too, so is Britam boss Benson Wairegi. Other billionaires from Kangema include businessman Gerald Gikonyo and industrialist Chris Kirubi.
What is striking about these billionaire is that they closely work together, particularly Munga, Mwangi and Wairegi. Their relationship is so tight that they own shares in companies that are cross-listed at the NSE. They also share board directorship in companies such as Equity, Britam and Housing Finance. Their joint investments cut across any sector you can think of. At the NSE, they run the show, owning shares worth billions.
The question that any entrepreneur would certainly ask is: How can one own even just a fraction of what these investment gurus have attained?
Mr Munga shared with Money the secrets of amassing fortune that this group has been applying to astounding success.
He says becoming wealthy is never a far-fetched dream when you have a clear vision and unshakable focus. “Just know what you want in business, stay focused and everything will neatly fall in place,” he counsels.
He vouches for joint ventures which he says have high chances of success because partners pool resources and help each other out by sharing ideas. He however says partnerships would only stand the tough test of time if they are managed transparently and the partners are people of integrity.
Underhand dealings and back-stabbing bring businesses down, he opines.
While many joint ventures suffer from destructive wrangles, the Kangema billionaires have stuck together through thick and thin, guided by these principles as well as the desire to succeed and demonstrate that Kenyans too can join the top league of movers and shakers in the investment world.
Mr Munga says honesty is the cornerstone of any successful business. When business partners have no dark secrets between them, he says feuds do not occur and all the energies and resources are spent on building businesses and quickly taking up opportunities when they crop up.
“No brokers (among us). We don’t undercut each other. We don’t sabotage or willingly do something to hurt each other’s business or establishments. It is an unspoken rule that guides how we relate with each other in both business and personal life. That is why you never see us quarreling in public,” said Munga.
The tradition of Rwathia sons working together in business started with the late Gerishon Kirima and Mr Gerald Gikonyo who co-founded Rwathia Distributors. Munga says that from then on Rwathia became a business community whose ideals were forged and shaped by their forefathers.
This pioneering group of entrepreneurs set the pace by designing goals that they resolutely worked towards. Not even limited education blurred their vision and compromised their business acumen.
This has been an inspiration to many entrepreneurs from the area: “If they did it with so many odds stacked against them I can do it as well.” This seems to be the guiding philosophy of any budding entrepreneur from Kangema and specifically Rwathia village.
Various studies show that having role models is essential for the success of start-ups. Experts invariably point out that one of the primary reasons new businesses fold up barely a few years down the road is that owners lack sufficient experience. This setback is compounded by the absence of old hands in the trade to guide them through the rough patches of the start-up phase of their ventures.