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Dr. Joe Wanjui: The 86 Year Old Billionaire Who Was World Bank’s Landlord In Kenya

The name Dr. Joe Wanjui is synonymous with wealth. He is many things in one; a business mogul, a philanthropist, presidential advisor who has vast interest in insurance, real estate, hospitality, equity, horticulture and agribusiness. 

In this article, WoK brings you all you need to know about this 84 year old powerful billionaire.

Joe Wanjui Background/Education

Joe Wanjui was born on 24th May 1937 in Kiambu County. He attended Kabaa Mission School and cleared from the famous Mang’u High School in Thika with a First Class in Cambridge School Certificate and was called to join Makerere University in Uganda to study a Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine.

He declined the offer and instead opted for the American Air Lift Scholarship to Ohio Wesleyan University-the same institution his twin daughters later studied.

After clearing his degree, Wanjui would later become the first Kenyan to study a Masters in industrial engineering and management after enrolling for the course at Columbia University in 1962.

Joe Wanjui’s Journey

After completing his Master’s in 1964, he came back to Kenya with Ksh 70,000, his savings while he was studying abroad.

His first acquisition was a house in Caledonia worth Ksh 45,000 along State House Road, two blocks of flats in Eastleigh and his first car which was a Morris Cooper. He was only 28 years old at the time.

He was to later offload the Caledonia house and for another in Lavington. He went on to buy 20 acres of prime land in Kentmere in Limuru after selling his Eastleigh flats.

He used the land to set up Strathbogie Farm and built apartment forays in Spring Valley, Gigiri, Upperhill and Mombasa. He would later enroll for a PhD at the University of Nairobi but dropped out. 

Joe Wanjui’s Career

Wanjui worked for ExxonMobil before leaving the multi-national company to join the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC).

In 1968 he left the company and joined East African Industries (EAI) now famously known as Unilever where he worked as a Technical Director.

The company is behind popular brands such as Omo, Kimbo, Cowboy, Blue Band and Mama Safi among many others.

He rose through the ranks to become the managing director and later the executive Chairman serving the company for 19 years before retiring in April 1996.

The 84 year old went on to  serve in different boards including the Chair of UAP board and was among the founders of the Kenya Institute of Management (KIM) and the Kenya Association of Manufacturers. He has also been a Chancellor at the  University of Nairobi (UON).

In June 2021, he officially resigned as the chairman of UAP Holdings board of directors after selling his shares in the company.

Dr Joe Barrage Wanjui interests

In 2020, when South African owned Old Mutual wanted to buy shares in UAP holdings firm, it was revealed that Wanjui held 43.25 million shares ( or 20.4 percent stake in the firm) through his investment company known as Bawan Limited.

In the deal, billionaire Joe Wanjui together with his friend businessman James Muguiyi sold a combined 6 percent stake in the insurance firm UAP Holdings to Old Mutual at a total cost of Ksh 3.2 billion. 

Dr. Wanjui was the first African Chairman of the Rotary Club of Nairobi. He sits as a board member in a number of companies including Kikuyu Highlands Tea Company, Tiwi beach hotel, Camp David Retreat, Olemonana Enterprises and Hakika limited.

In 2004, he founded Joe B. Wanjui Education Trust with the aim of giving university scholarships to bright but needy female students. The fund has so far given grants to over 500 students in various universities across Kenya. 

He is the author of three popular books – ‘The Native Son, My Native Roots and From Where I Sit with Views of an African Executive.

Wanjui through his company Bawan limited, has stakes in Hillpark Hotels (Hillpark Nairobi, Ol Pejeta Resort Nanyuki, Amare Resort and Vipingo Villa), Bawan Roses and Hillpark building where the World Bank was once his tenant.

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