How Leah Wanjiku went from poultry farming to owning the multi-billion Waterfront Mall in Kenya

Mildred Europa Taylor July 10, 2023
Photos: The Waterfront Karen/Twitter/biznakenya

In Karen, one of the high-end areas in Kenya, is the Waterfront Mall set on 50 acres of land with a man-made lake. Described as the go-to lifestyle and wellness destination in East Africa, the mall was opened in 2018 by the Wanjiku Muguku family, who started their entrepreneurial journey as poultry farmers.

Leah Wanjiku was working as a teacher at the Kagaa Primary School in Githunguri, Kiambu County when she met and fell in love with Nelson Muguku, a lecturer who worked at a college not far from the Kagaa primary school.

Muguku at a point grew weary of his lecturing job so he left to start farming to the shock of many people. reported that with just Ksh2,000 ($14), two hens and a cock, Wanjiku’s future husband Muguku began a poultry farming business, which was not a very popular venture at the time.

He started his business in his mid-20s and married Wanjiku during this same period. Wanjiku later joined him in running the poultry business after quitting her teaching job in 1963. Two years after starting their poultry business, they were able to buy a 2-acre farm where they also created a hatchery with a 9,000-egg incubator. The farm, which moved from being called Star Ltd to Muguku Poultry Farm, supplied day-old chicks and eggs to people and big names like Kenya’s first Prime Minister Mzee Jomo Kenyatta (who reportedly consumed not less than two dozen eggs weekly) and the last Governor of the colonial era, Sir Malcolm MacDonald, said.

In 2010 when Wanjiku’s husband Muguku passed away, he had acquired a 6.08 percent stake at a local bank before it was listed, the news outlet added. The late businessman also became the bank’s largest individual shareholder for years.

Wanjiku herself didn’t do badly in business. Besides building the Waterfront Mall in Nairobi’s Karen estate, the former teacher also owned a 0.9 percent stake at a local bank, which was estimated at Ksh1.2 billion.

In the 2018 Knight Frank Wealth Report which listed 125 Kenyans who are worth over Ksh3 billion, only 23 were women. Wanjiku was one of them. What’s more, Wanjiku was “ranked second on the list of highly trading women on the Nairobi Stock Exchange market,” wrote in November 2021, adding that she was trading Ksh306.9 million at the time.

As Face2Face Africa reported earlier, Kenya is the leading economy in East Africa, with many High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) who are captains of industries, investors, business tycoons, and more. A few women in Kenya stand out for achieving so much and competing favorably with their male counterparts. Wanjiku is definitely one of these few affluent Kenyan women.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: July 10, 2023


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