Aside from its vibrant cultures, Kenya boasts a range of companies that have stood the test of time, with roots dating back over a century.
These institutions have witnessed the country’s growth and transformation, making them a vital part of the nation’s heritage.
In this article, WoK takes you on a journey through time to explore the top 10 oldest and most enduring companies in Kenya.
Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB)
KCB has etched its name as one of Kenya’s oldest and most significant financial institutions.
Its history dates back to when it was started in 1863 in Calcutta, India. In 1864, it changed its name to the National Bank of India, opening a new branch in Bombay.
By 1893, the bank had branches in Pakistan, Burma, Ceylon, and Aden.
In 1896, a new branch was opened in Mombasa following the thriving trade in the region credited to the Imperial British East Africa Company.
In 1904, the bank opened a new branch in Nairobi with an increase in trade activity.
In 1970, the new government under president Jomo Kenyatta acquired a 60% shareholding, giving it a new name as Kenya Commercial Bank.
In 2016, KCB group PLC was registered to oversee all KCB regional units in East Africa and all associated companies.
Kaluworks limited is one of the oldest companies in Kenya. It was founded in 1929 as a cookware manufacturer. In 1988, it diversified into aluminium rolled products.
After a series of upgrades of staff and machinery, the company has grown to become one of the leading manufacturers of quality aluminium roofing products in the region.
It is recognizable for its King Lion and Lion Power brand mostly found on aluminium pots and pans.
Jubilee Insurance Company
Jubilee Insurance Company Limited was incorporated in 1937 as the pioneer incorporated insurance company in Mombasa.
Owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, It is the oldest insurance company in the region.
Over the years, Jubilee has grown to become the leading regional composite insurer, with operations in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and Mauritius.
It is listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, Uganda Securities Exchange, and the Dar Es Salaam Stock Exchange.
Kenya Breweries Limited
The story of Kenya Breweries Limited (now East African Breweries Limited) began in 1922 when its first Tusker beer was brewed.
It was founded by two Welshmen, George and Charles Hurst, and was initially owned by the Dodd Family.
In 1936, KBL acquired Tanganyika breweries and the two companies merged to form the East African Breweries Limited (EABL).
In 1954, EABL became among the first companies to be listed on the Nairobi securities exchange.
Today, the company has a significant presence in East Africa, with its products being sold in over 10 African countries and beyond.
Bamburi Cement Limited is one of the largest cement manufacturers in East Africa. It was founded in 1951 by Felix Mandi as a partnership between Cementia Holding and Blue Circle companies.
Initially, the company was known as British Standard Portland Cement.
It was listed on the Nairobi Securities exchange in 1970 and by 1981, it had grown to become the largest cement exporter in Africa.
In 2021, Bamburi Cement Limited was rebranded to Bamburi Cement PLC in line with section 53 of the constitution.
The Sameer Group was founded in 1969 by Naushad Noorali Merali, who is considered to be one of the pioneers of Kenya’s industrial development.
Dr. Merali started the group with a small tyre manufacturing plant, but he quickly expanded into other sectors, such as agriculture, construction, and energy.
The Sameer Group’s flagship company is Sameer Africa PLC, which is a leading manufacturer and distributor of tyres in East Africa. The company also has interests in real estate, construction, and energy.
Pollmans Tours and Safaris
Pollman’s Tours & Safaris is one of the oldest and most respected tour companies in Kenya.
It was founded in the 1950s by Karl Pollman, a German immigrant who had a passion for Africa.
Pollman started out by offering small-group safaris to tourists from around the world. He quickly gained a reputation for providing high-quality service and unforgettable experiences.
Over the years, Pollman’s Tours & Safaris has grown to become one of the leading tour operators in Kenya.
The company offers a wide range of safaris, from budget-friendly camping trips to luxury five-star experiences. Pollman also offers beach holidays, cultural tours, and other travel services.
Diamond Trust Bank
Diamond Trust Bank was founded in Dar es Salaam Tanzania in 1945 as Jubilee Investment Trust.
In 1965, the bank’s branches in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were split into three separate entities.
In 1972, the Kenyan branch was renamed the Diamond Trust of Kenya and listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange.
In 1977, DTK was converted into a commercial bank and renamed Diamond Trust Bank (DTB), focusing mainly on the corporate business..
DTB currently has over 130 branches in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Burundi.
Davis & Shirtliff
Davis and Shirtliff is a leading supplier of water related equipment in East Africa and is credited for building some of the best swimming pools in the region. It has been in operation in Kenya for over 70 years
The company was founded in 1946 and was named after its founders, Davis & Shirtliff. Its initial staff was composed of Italian prisoners of war.
The company was initially based at Westlands before moving to its current location in the Industrial area in the 1950s.
Kensalt Limited is perhaps the most recognizable household brand in Kenya.
The company was established in 1975 in Malindi by Patel Mansukh Shantilal and has grown to become the second largest producer of salt in East Africa.
In addition to salt, Kensalt also produces mineral water under the brand name Enkas Aqua. The company’s mineral water is sourced from a spring in the Malindi area.
Kensalt also manufactures flexible packaging for a variety of products, including food, beverages, and pharmaceutical products.