She is not given to a lot of talk or media exhilaration. In fact, she is publicity shy. However, that is not near enough to drown her clout. In Kenya she is talked of as an embodiment of resilience and commitment, having endured the sufferings of the colonial times and the agony of abject poverty before it all that became a footstool for her.
Her children, Kristina Wamboi, Uhuru Muigai, Anna Nyokabi and Muhoho have since been educated in the best schools in Kenya and the United States.
“Mzee had no money, but I sold some land to help educate the children. I realised that education was the only thing that I could give them since with education and hard work, even without wealth, one can succeed” she said, during an interview, earlier this year. Her name is Ngina Kenyatta, wife of Kenya’s first president and today, East Africa’s richest woman.
Mama Ngina was born at Ngenda in Gatundu, Kiambu County. She is the daughter of senior chief Muhoho Gathecha and was 18years old when married 57 year old Jomo Kenyatta as his fourth wife in 1951, a union characterized as a “gift” to Kenyatta from his ethnic group, the Kikuyu. This became her reference as the “mother of the nation”, becoming Mama Ngina Kenyatta, independent Kenya’s prestigious First Lady when Kenyatta became President in 1963.
To this point, the road had not been an easy one; She was arrested soon after her husband had been shipped away to Kapenguria by the colonial masters, where she was incarcerated at the Kamiti Maximum Prison.
When she went back to her home in Gatundu, she found that her house had been demolished. She became a farmer, planting maize, beans and potatoes on her farm and selling them at the market in Gatundu just like any other rural woman. Matter of fact, there is no record showing that her husband Jomo Kenyatta, was wealthy before becoming the president of Kenya.
However by the time he died, Jomo Kenyatta was a very wealthy landlord owning thousands of acres of prime land across Kenya that was acquired in the ‘60s and ‘70s under a settlement transfer fund scheme that allowed government officials to acquire land from the British cheap prices. Today Mama Ngina holds over 200,000 hectares of land in trust of her family.
In 2013, according to Nigeria-based Ventures financial magazine, Mama Ngina, the mother of Kenya’s fourth President, Uhuru Kenyatta, was with a net worth of $1 billion (Sh86 billion) spread in real estate, banking and hospitality sectors and she was among the three women that made it to the Africa’s Billionaire Club.
As the matriarch in charge of the Kenyatta family’s vast business empire, Mama Ngina presides over an enterprise that is associated with well-known commercial brands and blue chip companies.
This includes Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), which is Kenya’s largest non-listed lender with total assets of about Sh. 100 billion. The bank is ranked Kenya’s ninth largest with a market size index of 4.08 per cent.
Others are Brookside Dairy—where the President’s younger brother, Muhoho, sits as executive chairman, and the upmarket and chic hotel chain, Heritage Hotels East Africa.
The family is also linked to Media Max Company, which owns K24 TV, Kameme Radio and The People newspaper.
It also owns thousands of acres of prime land across Kenya that was acquired by the late President Kenyatta in the ‘60s and ‘70s under a settlement transfer fund scheme that allowed government officials acquire land from the British cheap price.
Mama Ngina also superintends some of the top-listed companies at the Nairobi Securities Exchange, thanks to the alleged 10% acquisition by Jomo Kenyatta in all foreign companies that invested in Kenya during his leadership.
It was also widely rumored that in the 1970s, she and other high-level government officials were allegedly involved in an ivory-smuggling ring which transported tusks out of the country in the state private airliner. A May 1975 edition of New Scientist cited her as one of Kenya’s “ivory queens” but cowered and remarked that they could not be completely certain that these claims were true. However, New Scientist claimed that there was now documentary proof that at least one member of Kenya’s royal family had shipped over six tons of ivory to Red China.
Mama Ngina often accompanied her husband in public, and has even had some streets in Nairobi and Mombasa, as well as a Children’s Home, named after her. In 1965, she became patron of Kenyan Guiding.
Little is said about her education but she became a Roman Catholic and was known to attend Mass every Sunday in the Catholic mission with some of their children.