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HomecareerFrom Touts To Billionaires: Humble Beginnings Of Kenya's Richest Men

From Touts To Billionaires: Humble Beginnings Of Kenya’s Richest Men

Blue collar jobs are not so attractive to most Kenyans because of the pay and poor working conditions. A section of Kenyans who are not so lucky to get white collar jobs have taken these lowly paying hustles and re-invented themselves to become who is who in Kenya. 

WoK has compiled a list of successful Kenyans who started out as touts and worked their way up the success ladder proving that it is possible to go from zero to hero.

Cleophas Shimanyula

He is a renowned entrepreneur and businessman who is arguably among the richest people in Kakamega. The man, famously known by Kakamega residents as ‘Toto’, started off as a matatu tout in the Kakamega main stage.

He saved the little money he was making and with the help of a loan from a local bank, he bought a second hand saloon car which he used as a taxi. He later bought his first matatu which he named ‘Homeboyz’ that operated in the Kakamega – Kisumu route.

The matatu became quite popular and he continued adding more vehicles and with time acquired buses to join the long-range transport industry. He currently operates over 50 matatus and buses employing over 1,000- people.

The Tycoon is the owner of Homeboyz FC – a football Club participating in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL). He is also the founder and CEO of Western Cross Express Company – a conglomerate with interests in real estate and construction sectors.

Simon Kabu

Simon Kabu is not a new name among many Kenyans. He is the co-founder and CEO of Bonfire Adventures – the leading tours and Travel Company in the country.

His journey began in the early 90s when he completed his secondary education. He began working at his aunt’s food kiosk where he would prepare and sell chapati and mandazi.

He would interact with matatu touts who would often come to eat at the food kiosk and it was not long before he joined them in the industry.

The entrepreneur was then promoted to a driver where he was able to save a few bucks which he used to go back to campus. He would later, together with his wife Sarah, establish Bonfire Adventures in 2008 and the rest as they say is history.

Oscar Sudi

He is the current Member of Parliament representing Kapseret constituency in the Rift Valley region. His stoy is that of a resilient man who began hustling at the age of 14 years selling charcoal in Kesses.

The legislator then transitioned to a matatu tout in Eldoret while still a teenager. He was making Ksh 800 per month and his life changed when his boss offered him 7 acres to farm which earned him Ksh 129,000 in the first season.

He would later become a broker buying and selling land across the rift valley region. He then decided to join politics whereby he was elected as MP in 2013 and successfully defended the seat in the 2017 general elections.

Jaguar

Charles Njagua Kanyi famously known as ‘Jaguar’ is the former Member of Parliament (MP) representing Starehe constituency.

Born and raised in the slums of Kawangware, Jaguar started off as a car washer before becoming a matatu tout. During a past interview with Radio Maisha the musician turned politician stated, “I worked as a matatu tout to pay my school fees.”

He would later join the entertainment industry as a musician where he made a name for himself releasing hit songs such as Kioo and Kigeugeu. He then tried out his hand in politics in 2017 and was successfully elected into parliament through a Jubilee party ticket.

He owns a fleet of luxurious cars including a BMW 5 Series, Bentley, Mercedes Benz, Toyota Mark X and Range Rover Sport.

Mwangi Kiunjuri

Mwangi Kiunjuri is the former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary (CS) appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from Moi University in 1994, Kiunjuri worked as a lorry driver and a tout at the same time.

During those days, the public transport sector wasn’t quite strict and so he used the lorry as a public service vehicle. He would later try his hand in politics in 1997 and was successfully elected as the Member of Parliament representing Laikipia East constituency.

He was then re-elected in 2002 through a NARC political party ticket. He has served in different government ministries including Water and Irrigation, Devolution and Agriculture.

In 2020 during the Cabinet reshuffle by President Uhuru, Kiunjuri was shown the door and replaced by Peter Munya. As at December 2015, Mwangi Kiunjuri put his net worth at Sh798 million. 

Mike Sonko

Mike Sonko is a household name among many Kenyans. He is the immediate former governor representing Nairobi County having served in the position from 2017 until 2020 when he was impeached over corruption allegations.

Sonko was a matatu tout in his youthful days when he first landed in Nairobi. He would later venture into the transport industry whereby his company was the first one to import double decker buses to the country.

He gained popularity through the transport industry and in 2010 he was elected as the Member of Parliament representing Makadara constituency while aged 35 years. In 2013, he was elected as the senator for Nairobi County before becoming governor in 2017.

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