James Njenga Karume (1929 – 24 February 2012) was a Kenyan businessman and politician. He was born in Elementaita, Nakuru District. Njenga Karume was born in 1929 on Lord Delamare’s Soysambu ranch in Elementaita. He was the eldest of 8 children to Joseph Karume (later changed to Karogo) and Teresia Njeri Karogo who were indentured servants working for colonial white settlers. Njenga’s amiable personality was always curious and deep. He had a very strong relationship with his grandfather whom he spent most of his childhood days with. Late Njenga Karume’s Sh50 billion empire
Unfortunately, there were no schools for Africans in Elementaita. Because of that Njenga had to go to school in Ndeiya, Limuru at a school called as Kahuho-Karing’a Primary school, at the beginning of 1942. Keen on pursuing further education, Njenga proceeded to Riara in Kiambu after 3 years at Kahuho, but not before being baptised. Even as Njenga pursued education back in Central Kenya, his parents moved to Elburgon and settled in Marioson Forest in 1944. He later joined them there.
As expected in the Kikuyu culture Njenga had reached the age at which he was expected to undergo circumcision. He was then admitted to the (njata) STAR age group in 1947. Now considered a full grown man, equipped with some formal education and eager to fend for himself, Njenga decided to start his life and moved back to Rift Valley closer to his parents.
Karume’s first exposure to business was while he was in school. He began buying and selling books, pencils and other school stationery from a wholesale shop outside the school and resell to his fellow students in school. In his book he claims to have put the school tuck shop out of business.
After his education Karume managed to get employment doing clerical work on a farm. A few days before beginning work when he attended a rally between the white farm owners and the workers. In the heat of a debate Njenga managed to ask a question which upset the whites. This saw him lose his job. It is from then on he decided not to be employed.
He then started trading in charcoal. He had asked his friend the late John Njenga to join him but he flatly refused claiming that it is dirty work and he is too educated to do such business. He continued on his own. He then began saving what he earned in the charcoal business to finance his timber business.
Karume held a diploma in business management from Jeans School (KIA). While Kenya was still under colonial rule, he formed a wholesale shop on Grogan Road (now Kirinyaga Road) in Nairobi. It was one of the few shops in Kenya operated by indigenous people.
Later he operated the Nararashi Distributors, which distributed the products of the Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL). Later Castle Brewing Kenya Limited, a Kenyan subsidiary of South African Breweries (SAB) was formed, with Karume appointed its director. Karume himself sought to distribute the products of both companies, but KBL was afraid of the competition and cancelled the distribution contract with Karume. Karume took the case to the court stating the cancellation of the contract was unfounded. The High Court first ordered KBL to pay KSh 231 million in damages (about US$2.9 million), but upon appeal the decision was overturned and Karume was told to pay KBL for the suit. As a result, Karume suffered severe financial hurt. He continued to distribute Castle Beer for a while until SAB left Kenya, finally ending his transport business. Before his death his empire was valued at close to $200 million and includes the Jacaranda Group of Hotels under Jacaranda Holdings Limited, Karume Holdings Limited and Cianda Holdings Limited. His empire is diversified into three main areas – hospitality, real estate and agriculture.
Here is a list of the late Njenga Karuma’s businesses in his billion shilling empire.
• Jacaranda Hotels in Nairobi
• Lake Elementaita Lodge in Nakuru The Village Inn in Kiambu
• Indian Ocean Beach Resort in Mombasa • Hotel along the Diani beach in Kwale
• Amani House, in Westlands,Nairobi
• Cianda House on Koinange Street, Nairobi
• Unity House, Nairobi
• Several apartment blocks in Nairobi
• Kiambu and Limuru
• 508-acre Cianda Farm
• 27.3-acre Lynton Farm
• Kachoraba farms
• 50 acres in the Masai Mara
• Parcels in Laikipia, Limuru, Molo, Nakuru and Ruiru
SHAREHOLDING IN 46 COMPANIES IN KENYA
• Gracia Limited
• Kenya Miraa Growers Limited
• Maziwa Transporters Limited
• Kiambu Sawmills Limited
• Cianda Estates Limited
• New Kenya Cooperative Creameries
• Kenya Wine Agencies Limited
• Standard Chartered Bank Kenya Limited
• Kentmere (1986) Limited.
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