In Summary
  • 105 people have more than Sh2.5bn — and control more than half of the wealth in private hands.
  • 8,200 Kenyans are dollar millionaires, and the number is expected to rise to 10,700 in four years.
  • With jobless rate at 40 per cent, fabulous wealth likely to raise jitters over inequality.
  • The Nairobi bourse has proved to be a good grooming ground for Kenya’s billionaires, having been the main source of wealth for Mr Mwangi and Mr Munga and Scangroup chief executive Bharat Thakrar, who made billions with the listing of their companies at the bourse.

A small but growing elite of super-wealthy Kenyans are putting the country top on the continent’s rich list, a new report shows.

The super-rich are dollar millionaires, some of them many times over, and control about half of the country’s wealth.

And the group is growing. In 2007, there were 6,600 super-rich people; today there are 8,200. They are projected to grow by 28 per cent to 10,700 by 2017.

Consumer goods maker Bidco’s chief executive Vimal Shah tops the list of the super-rich with Sh144 billion ($1.7 billion) to his name, making him Kenya’s first dollar billionaire, according to a survey by London-based New World Wealth group.

He accounts for 36 per cent of the Sh404 billion ($4.7 billion) worth of assets controlled by the 25 richest Kenyans.

This is the second survey to rank him as Kenya’s richest individual after Forbes Africa’s 2013 list, which ranked him as Africa’s 18th richest individual.

PRIMARY SHARE HOLDER

It was, however, not possible to ascertain how New World Wealth group picked him out as the principal beneficiary of the company that is owned by the Shah family.

Mr Andrew Amoils, the senior analyst at New World Wealth said Mr Shah stood out because he is the primary stock holder whose control of the wealth can only change in the event of inheritance or death.

“We only include wealth under primary stock holder. Wealth only passes on inheritance or divorce,” he said.

The list of the super-rich includes 16 enterprising individuals such as Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi and chairman Peter Munga, industrialists Manu Chandaria and Chris Kirubi and Prandeep Paunrhana, who are classified as centi-millionaires with assets valued at between Sh860 million ($100 million) and Sh86 billion ($1 billion).

The 16 have an average wealth of Sh1.7 billion compared to Sh100,620 ($1,170) for ordinary Kenyans.

Kenya’s super-rich have made their money from real estate and construction, a sector that has been booming in the past decade — helped by mega-infrastructure developments that have opened up new locations for investment.

New World Wealth has identified 105 Kenyans as ultra-rich individuals who control more than half of the country’s individually-held wealth.

Rich Kenyans have always held their wealth in secret, forming companies and nominee accounts to hold their stock market wealth.

This has resulted in deep differences as to who is the country’s richest or the variation in the ranking of the super rich produced by different surveys. 

“We only include people as centimillionaires if we have a good idea of what they own,” said Mr Amoils.

Last year, Mr Chandaria was ranked as Kenya’s richest man by Nigerian publication Ventures Africa with a fortune of $1.65 billion (Sh142 billion). Mr Chandaria, Mr Vimal Shah, and Mr Paunrhana of Athi River Mining have all built their wealth from businesses founded by their parents.

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