Born in 1944 in Kilimanjaro, Northern Tanzania and living in a mud hut he shared with livestock, Reginald Abraham Mengi rose to become one of Tanzanian’s wealthiest men.
Forbes estimated his net worth at $560 million in 2014.
Living on a one meal a day plan, young Mengi struggled to get an education at the time. However, he ended up winning a scholarship to an accounting college in Glasgow, Scotland.
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He took night classes and worked as a bus conductor and cleaner to pay his bills. He became an accountant and then returned to his home country to work with Coopers & Lybrand Tanzania.
He became one of the company’s chairmen and then left to create his own business, which then became one of the country’s largest.
His road to success
Mengi was one day searching the streets of Dar es Salaam for a pen when he bumped into a friend who linked him to someone who could export pen parts to Tanzania.
It was the want of a pen that began his road to fortune. In the socialist days of Julius Nyerere’s Tanzania, there were often shortages of mundane items like pens and pencils, according to Forbes.
Mengi started to assemble pens on his bedroom floor and he soon earned his first million dollars. He expanded his trade to include items such as shoe polish, toilet paper, soap, detergent and natural skin exfoliator.
His products soon caught across Tanzania. He later founded the IPP Group, a Tanzanian conglomerate that bottles Coca-Cola and manufactures the bestselling ‘Kilimanjaro’ water brand in the country.
The IPP Group, which also includes mining and real estate, has employed over 5,000 people. IPP Group is purportedly one of the largest corporate taxpayers in Tanzania.
Mengi also bought a host of media channels that made him one of the most valued figures in East African business circles.
Mengi, in 2015, became the talk of the town when he married a woman who was 36 years younger than he was. They got married in a colorful wedding ceremony on March 28, 2015, and have two sons together.
His wife, Jacqueline Ntuyabaliwe, previously known as K-Lynn, was a music hitmaker back in the 2000s. Now a businesswoman, she also won the Miss Tanzania title and represented Tanzania in Miss World in 2000.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli recently acknowledged Mengi as one of the country’s most illustrious capitalists and humanitarians during a ceremony to officially unveil the latter’s book “I Can, I Must, I Will” in Dar es Salaam.
One of the wealthiest people in Africa and a pioneer in the area of privately-owned media in the country, Mengi died in Dubai earlier this year at the age of 75.