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UAP Insurance & other prominent businesses affiliated with ex-UoN Chancellor Joe Wanjui

Joe Wanjui was also involved in politics and was a close ally and advisor to the late former President Mwai Kibaki

The late businessman and former University of Nairobi chancellor Joe Wanjui during a UoN graduation in 2016
  • Wanjui pursued higher education in the United States, and became the first Kenyan to study industrial engineering
  • He held a 20.4% stake in UAP Holdings and had a corporate career at ExxonMobil, ICDC, and East African Industries
  • Wanjui's contributions extended to founding educational trusts, serving on boards, and authoring books

Joe Wanjui is a prominent Kenyan businessman and influential figure in the country's corporate and political spheres.

He has held various significant positions, including serving as the Chancellor of the University of Nairobi.

Wanjui has also been involved in several key businesses and organizations in Kenya, contributing to the economic development of the country.

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Joe Wanjui, also known as Joseph Barrage Wanjui, was born in 1937 in Kiambu County, a time when exact birth dates were rarely recorded in colonial Kenya.

He later chose to celebrate his birthday on May 24, coinciding with the British Empire Day. Wanjui attended Kabaa Mission School and graduated from Mang'u High School, Thika, in 1957.

He was invited to study medicine at Makerere University in Uganda but declined the offer. Instead, he pursued higher education in the United States, attending Ohio Wesleyan University on a full tuition scholarship.

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Wanjui graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree and became the first Kenyan to study industrial engineering and management at Columbia University, earning his master's degree in 1962. He completed another Master of Science degree in 1964.

Upon completing his education, Joe Wanjui returned to Kenya with Sh70,000, his savings from his time abroad.

His initial investments included purchasing a house on State House Road, two blocks of flats in Eastleigh, and his first car.

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He later sold these properties and invested in more significant ventures, including 20 acres of prime land in Kentmere, Limuru, where he established Strathbogie Farm and developed properties in Spring Valley, Gigiri, Upper Hill, and Mombasa.

Wanjui's business interests spanned various sectors, including insurance, real estate, hospitality, and agriculture.

In 2020, it was revealed that he held a 20.4 per cent stake in UAP Holdings through his investment company, Bawan Limited.

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This stake, combined with that of his business partner James Muguiyi, was partially sold to Old Mutual for Sh3.2 billion.

Joe Wanjui's corporate career began at ExxonMobil (formerly Esso) before transitioning to the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC).

In 1968, he joined East African Industries (EAI), now known as Unilever, as a Technical Director. Over his 19-year tenure, he rose to the positions of Managing Director and eventually Executive Chairman, retiring in April 1996.

Wanjui served on numerous boards, including as Chairman of CFC Stanbic Bank, UAP Holdings, and various other companies.

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He was instrumental in founding the Kenya Institute of Management (KIM) and the Kenya Association of Manufacturers. Additionally, he was the first African Chairman of the Rotary Club of Nairobi.

In June 2003, President Mwai Kibaki appointed Joe Wanjui as the Chancellor of the University of Nairobi.

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The following year, the university conferred upon him an Honorary Doctor of Science degree in recognition of his contributions to business and industrial development.

In 2004, he founded the Joe B. Wanjui Education Trust, providing university scholarships to over 500 bright but needy female students across Kenya.

Joe Wanjui was also an accomplished author, penning three popular books: The Native Son, My Native Roots, and From Where I Sit with Views of an African Executive.

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These works offer insights into his life, business philosophy, and perspectives on African leadership.

Joe Wanjui passed away on July 2, 2024, at the age of 87, after a long battle with illness. His legacy as a business mogul, philanthropist, and advisor to political leaders remains impactful.

He left behind a robust portfolio of investments and a lasting influence on Kenya's corporate and educational landscapes.

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