By Kimani Kamau
Western Kenya consists of four counties namely Bungoma, Vihiga, Busia, and Kakamega. According to the 2019 census, the abovementioned counties had a cumulative population of nearly 5,021,843. Kakamega is the richest county in the region contributing 2.4% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product while Vihiga is the poorest contributing 0.8%.
WoK has compiled a list-not any particular order-of the top ten richest people in Western Kenya and their investments.
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Ibrahim Ambwere is a tycoon from Western Kenya who offered to bail out the government by paying teachers salaries which had delayed to the tune of Ksh 48 million (equivalent to Ksh 4 billion today). He is a businessman with several rental houses, and commercial buildings such as Ambwere Furaha, Ambwere Plaza, Ambwere Complex and Ambwere Towers. The 86-year-old however does not disclose his wealth although residents say he is worth billions.
Julius Mwale is one of Western Kenya’s wealthiest individuals who have managed to keep a low profile in the country despite making big moves in the diaspora. He was born in 1976 in Kakamega county where he also schooled. The billionaire then joined the Kenya Airforce before relocating to the United States of America. He faced challenges in the US but he managed to overcome those early setbacks.
Picking up the pieces, he raised US$2 million (Sh200 million) which he used to set up his Biometric technology company in New York, next to The Empire State Building. His company had employed 60 people by 2003 and was serving big clients such as the Bank of New York and JP Morgan Chase. He is behind the Mwale Medical and Technology City worth US$ 2 billion (Sh200 billion) in Butere. He lives in New York where he calls fellow billionaires such as George Soros, Donald Trump, and Bill Gates neighbours. He also owns a ranch in the States where he rears 19 horses each worth Ksh1.5 Million. Julius Mwale has met several influential people in the world such as former US president Donald Trump and musician Akon.
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The former Nairobi city Governor Evans Kidero is another wealthy individual from Western Kenya who owns several properties and assets worth approximately Ksh 9 billion. Some of his properties include Yala towers worth Ksh 1.2 billion, Muthaiga Heights, Rental units along Riara Road, Ndege Road property in Karen, two houses in Gigiri, eleven high-end vehicles, Nyari Estate houses worth Ksh 800 million, and a multi-million house in Rosslyn near Runda. Moreover he owns Gem Suite apartments that was under the EACC’s scrutiny after Kidero was linked to a multi-million scam that robbed the Nairobi city administration. He also owns large tracts of land in Kisumu County and in Homa Bay.
The COTU Sec-Gen is a wealthy man who flaunts his wealth with abandon. He owns a fleet of luxury vehicles including a Mercedes Benz S300 Model and Mercedes Maybach 6 Cabriolet worth millions of shillings. He also adorns in designer clothes, expensive watches and accessories. His palatial home in Kumpa, Kajiado has a 100-car capacity parking lot, a helipad, 300-person capacity restaurant and several guest rooms. He earns a minimum of Ksh millions from COTU and rakes in allowances from the several boards he serves on. Francis Atwoli revealed in an interview that he once gave Cyrus Jirongo a soft loan of Ksh 110 million, which he has never repaid.
Eugene Wamalwa, a bespoke politician and entrepreneur is also among the wealthiest individuals in Western Kenya. During his appointment as Cabinet Secretary, he revealed his wealth to the board stating that he was worth Ksh 400 million. Aden Duale asked him why he wanted the position yet he was worth that much to which he responded saying he was not in it for the money but for service to Kenyans. Eugene Wamalwa owns several houses, tracts of land and a thriving law firm. He added that his law firm had in fact represented Uganda’s president – Yoweri Museveni in 2001.
Phillip Arunga Kisa
Philip Arunga O. Kisa is the Managing Director at Urgent Cargo Handling LTD, a company that was established in September 1985. The logistics company has its head office in Nairobi with branches in Mombasa, the JKIA, and satellite offices in Namanga, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kisumu, Malaba Busia and on the Kenya – Uganda border. The award-winning company offers warehousing, brokerage, sea and air freight, transport, and freight terminal services.
He is also a good polo player who enjoys his time with the sport. He imports the ponies preferring that to rearing them. Describing his entry into the sport, he says, “I was invited for a game of polo about 12 years ago at Rolf’s Place in Kitengela by a friend, and I got interested.” The late Rolf taught him how to ride a horse which evolved into playing polo after three months. Arungah owns twelve ponies that he has used to teach his teenage son Omwakwe how to play the sport.
He says that the sport gives his family time together on Saturdays and Sundays. Commenting on the opinion that the sport is expensive, he says, “Expensive is relative. I think it’s not as expensive as people think. This is the problem that we have had in the country. People have thought of it as a white man’s sport. I don’t think so. I believe there are a lot of Kenyans that can afford to play the sport and perfect it.”
Former vice president and ANC party leader Hon. Musalia Mudavadi is also one of Western Kenya’s wealthiest individuals. He is known by most Kenyans only politically although he has more to his profile. He is an insurance company’s co-owner and also owns a bank. Mudavadi has also invested in a Westlands commercial office block and residential units. While at the university, Mudavadi studied Land Economics and would later found a Westlands-based property management company.
Moses Wetangula’s wealth is estimated to be Ksh 2.4 billion. He is not only a politician, but also an entrepreneur. He is owns several property in Syokimau and along Ngong Road. He has residual shares in the Wetangula, Adan, Makokha & Company Advocates.
Moody Awori, alias Uncle Moody, is one of Western region’s wealthiest Kenyans. He is Kenya’s ninth vice-president and is a published author of a biography titled Riding on a Tiger. In 2018, the government allocated Ksh 149.2 million fot his office and staff after his inclusion in the list of former State officers receiving lavish retirement benefits. He was given a saloon car and a four-wheel drive vehicle each with a driver and set for replacement every four years. In 2013, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission put his gross pay including perks at Sh1.93 million.