Fred Mbiyu Koinange Profile: How Veteran Journalist Jeff Koinange’s Father Became First Kenyan To Own A Petrol Station, Car Dealership

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Fred Mbiyu Koinange Profile: How Veteran Journalist Jeff Koinange Father Became First Kenyan To Own A Petrol Station, Car Dealership
Jeff Koinange Photo/Courtesy

By Prudence Minayo

Mention the name Koinange in Kenya and most people will immediately connect it to veteran journalist Jeff Koinange. However, the Koinange legacy spans over 100 years of success and leadership. The Koinanges have been trailblazers way before Kenya achieved independence. Their names are forever embedded in the history of Kenya including the larger than life Fred Mbiyu Koinange. 

Here is the story of the senior Koinange as told by WoK.

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Fred Mbiyu’s Business 

Fred Mbiyu Koinange was the very first black Kenyan to own and operate a petrol station. At a time when the industry was ruled by multinationals, he decided to take them on. The Koinange petrol station was opened in 1966 when he was 41-years-old. Prior to this, he had been detained for 7 years after the state of emergency was declared in 1952. 

Opening the petrol station was not his first major feat. In 1948 he also became the first African Kenyan to own and operate a car dealership. When Mr. Cooper was opening the Cooper Motor Corporation (CMC) in a wooden hut, Fred also opened his. 

Fred Mbiyu died in 1966, the same year he opened the petrol station. Although sold, the petrol station still maintains the Koinange name. 

Wife 

Frederick Mbiyu was married to  Hilda Wambui Ngoima. She was the first child of Mwaura wa Ngoima, a rich farmer who hailed from Githiga village in Githunguri. 

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Fred Mbiyu was at first in love with Hilda’s sister and even paid her dowry. Unfortunately, he was arrested before the customary rites were completed. Tired of waiting, Hilda’s sister ran away with another man. 

Hilda then began writing him letters. At first it was a bit awkward but as time went by their friendship blossomed into a romance. She would then begin visiting him in prison. Two months after the birth of their son, Jeff Koinange, Fredrick Mbiyu passed away from a brain haemorrhage. Hilda then brought up Jeff and his siblings single handedly while working as a teacher. 

Family Lineage 

Fred Mbiyu Koinange is one of the sons of Senior Chief Koinange who held key political seats in pre-independent Kenya. Senior Chief Koinange was appointed headman in 1921 and Senior chief nearly two decades later  He also served as the advisor on African Affairs to the DC unit. He had six wives and a number of children. Jomo Kenyatta’s third wife, Grace Wanjiku, was one of his daughters. On the other hand, Fredrick was Senior Chief Koinange’s son with his third wife. He passed away at the age of 95.

Fred Mbiyu’s brother Peter Mbiyu Koinange was a key political figure in president Kenyatta’s government. People have described him as Jomo Kenyatta’s bosom friend, confidante and most loyal advisor. He was also the first Kenyan to attain a Masters degree. 

Famous son

His son Jeff Koinange is one of the best journalists in Kenya. He is also the first African to scoop the Emmy Awards. This was in 2005 while he worked for CNN. In his book Through My African Eye, he says this is his best award.

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