The Multi-Billion Businesses The Top Five Richest Men In Kenya Control

By Kimani Kuria

The wealth gap in Kenya, according to Oxfam International, is at extreme levels. Less than 8,300 people in the country own more wealth than 44 million Kenyans (99.9% of the country’s population). Oxfam International went on to note that the richest 10% of Kenyans made 23 times more than the poorest 10% in income and the number of the super-rich in the country is among the fastest-growing in the world. With this data, they extrapolate that the current number of millionaires will increase by 80% in the next ten years. As this figure grows, a big chunk of Kenya’s super-rich is dodging corporate tax resulting in a mind-blowing US$1.1 billion loss in tax revenue. This happens in the same country where inadequate resources result in mothers facing a 1 in 40 chance of dying in childbirth.

Here is the list of the top five richest men in Kenya as told by WoK.

Oxfam International is a global movement of people that work together to end poverty injustice by challenging the factors that create inequality and keep people poor. 

Sameer Naushad Merali

The organization in a report updated as of November 30, 2021, ranked Kenya’s number one billionaire as Sameer Naushad Merali. Sameer Merali was born to the late Kencell and Vivendi founder, Naushad Merali who built his wealth by investing in Manufacturing, Telecommunications, Real Estate, Banking, and Agriculture. The serial entrepreneur passed away on 3rd July 2020 leaving Sameer Investments Group under his son Sameer Naushad Merali. The company is invested in various fields including the tyre business, owning Yana tyres, and commercial real estate ventures. Sameer Naushad Merali is worth $790 million (Sh89.6 billion) being Kenya’s wealthiest man.

Also Read: Naushad Merali Biography, Family, Education, Businesses, Net Worth, Philanthropy & Awards

Bhimji Depar Shah

Second on the list based on Oxfam International’s derivation from Wealth X, is Bhimji Depar Shah, founder, and chair of BIDCO Group of Companies. The Mombasa-born industrialist and entrepreneur was born in 1931 and established the giant family business in 1970 starting out as a garment manufacturing business. The company would later switch to soap production and in 1991 set up an edible oil manufacturing plant in Thika. Over the years, it has become a leading industrialist conglomerate in the country manufacturing detergents, soaps, edible oils, and baking powder raking in more than $500 million annually in gross revenue. Bhimji Depar Shah is worth $750 million (Sh85 billion) according to the report by Wealth X. Oxfam International went on to note that the top two richest Kenyans cumulatively have more wealth than 16.5 million Kenyans.

Jaswinder Singh Bedi

Jaswinder Singh Bedi is the third on the list valued at $680 million (Sh77.1 billion). Jaswinder Singh is similarly an industrialist vested in textile manufacturing, a leading exporter, and an international trade negotiator. He has served as the chairperson of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the African Cotton & Textile Industries Federation. Moreover, he is the Managing Director of Bedi Investments, vice-chair of the East African Business Council, vice president of International Textile Manufacturers Federation, and the governor of Kenya Private Sector Alliance. Bedi has also served as the Export Promotion Council chair over his career.

The Kenyatta Family

Oxfam International ranks the Kenyatta’s family as the fourth wealthiest Kenyan with a net  worth of $530 million (Sh60 billion). The report was however keen to note that the figure would be most likely in reference to the entire Kenyatta family just as when Forbes named President Uhuru Kenyatta to be worth $500 million. The Kenyatta family has invested in numerous industries around the country and beyond notable investments being in real estate, hospitality, milk processing, banking, media, and transport. The Kenyatta family’s most recent multi-billion shilling investment is in the establishment of Northlands City in the outskirts of Nairobi. Other investments owned by the Kenyatta family are Brookside Dairies, thousands of acres of land spread out in Gatundu, Dagoretti area, Kahawa Sukari, Nakuru, Taita Taveta, Naivasha, Karen, Rongai, and in the Rift Valley. The tracts are held under different family members including Kenya’s first-lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta, Grace Wahu – Jomo Kenyatta’s first wife, and Beth Mugo – the President Uhuru Kenyatta’s niece. 

Mahendra Rambhai Patel

Mahendra Rambhai Patel was ranked in the report as the fifth wealthiest Kenyan with a net worth of ($430 million/Sh48.7 billion) credited to various investments under Ramco Group. The Ramco Group of Companies owns more than fifty companies in East Africa focusing on six primary sectors namely Property, Hardware, Print, Services, Office Supplies, and Manufacturing. Operating in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania, Ramco Group has established companies under its areas of focus. This was from the humble beginnings of a small hardware store in Nairobi set up in 1948 and has grown into an international multi-billion conglomerate earning an annual turnover of more than $300 million. 

Africa’s Wealthiest and their Areas of Investment

In Africa, there are nineteen dollar-billionaires whose cumulative worth is US$73.4 billion (Sh8.3 trillion). Of these, South Africa has five dollar-billionaires, Nigeria has three, Morocco has two, and Zimbabwe has one dollar-billionaire. Kenya, however, does not have a dollar-billionaire yet. These Africans have been analyzed and found to have made their billions from natural resources and commodities such as minerals and industrialism.

The wealthiest African remains to be Aliko Dangote from Nigeria who is worth $13.5 billion (Sh1.5 trillion) attributed to his investments in sugar and salt milling, logistics, energy, mining, and cement manufacturing. The second-wealthiest is Nassef Sawiris from Egypt who is worth  $8.2 billion attributed to his firm Orascom Construction, cement, sportswear, and fertilizers. The third richest African is Nicky Oppenheimer worth $7.9 billion from South Africa whose wealth is attributed to selling his family’s De Beers diamond mining company stake in 2012.

Also Read: Top 10 Richest Billionaires in Africa 2021

Kenya’s Wealth Situation

Wealth is described as a person’s net assets covering business interests, equities, cash, and property minus liabilities like loans. According to a report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in 2020, over 24 million Kenyans live below the poverty line and in the same breath, 1,755 Kenyans are cumulatively worth $37.1 billion (Sh4.2 trillion).  

The report highlighted the fact that Kenya’s wealth concentration makes the country among the most unequal societies globally. However, Kenya’s richest people equally face challenging economic conditions, especially in Nairobi. In a report by Knight Frank in 2021, a millionaire worth Ksh 2.2 million faces the risk of hospital bills costing just as much and would barely afford a top international schools’ year’s worth of school fees. Why is Kenya’s wealth concentrated among a select few? This could be linked to the former central form of government which stipulated resource-sharing after independence before devolution was introduced in the new constitution.