The former Prime Minister and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) longtime flag bearer, Raila Odinga, has graced the political scene for approximately four decades. He has made a name for himself on the political scene as an aggressive opposition leader.
The incumbent leader has many nicknames, from Tinga, Hammer, Agwambo, Jakom, to Baba, among others. He was dubbed ‘Baba’ by his political cronies to loosely translate ‘a political father’ or ‘the enigma of the Kenyan political scene.’
The Business Empire
Raila Odinga has built a business empire for himself and his family. He is one of the wealthiest politicians in Kenya.
While politics is an obvious guess, Odinga’s business empire, which is vast and varied, has played an enormous role in generating his wealth.
His business empire spans land, oil and gas, real estate, and manufacturing, among other ventures.
In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the businesses that have made Raila Odinga one of the wealthiest men in Kenya.
The prolific politician owns a considerable stake in Be Energy, formerly Bakri International Energy, a local subsidiary of the multinational Be Energy Ltd. The firm was founded by Saudi Arabian tycoon Sheikh Abdul Kader Al Bakri in 1973.
The firm expanded to and registered in Kenya in 2004. It is one of the largest oil marketing companies in the country, recording the seventh-biggest oil retailer as per the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) data. It claims 3.1% of Kenya’s fuel market.
Be Energy also exports diesel, kerosene, petrol, oil lubricants, and jet fuel to Eastern African countries like Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, and DR Congo.
The firm operates in strategic towns like Kisumu, Mombasa, Busia-Malaba border, and JKIA, among others, making exporting petroleum products and selling jet fuel easier. Raila Odinga bags 35% of the company, approximately 2,801 shares.
Raila Odinga has frequently narrated how he started his business empire. To reiterate, he sold his German vehicle to raise capital to purchase machines from an Indian escaping Iddi Amin’s regime.
The machines went for Sh.12,000, but his salary was only Sh.2,000 as a lecturer. He began his East Africa Spectre, a private firm supplying gas cylinders to businesses in the Industrial Area. The former prime minister owns 90,000 shares of East Africa Spectre.
The company has become one of the largest Liquified Petrol Gas (LPG) dealers in the East and Central African region. The company was monopolistic in the East Africa region for years before foreign companies brought in competition for LPG gas cylinder manufacturing.
The Odinga family also owns Pan Africa Petroleum Ltd, where Raila owns 250,000 shares, the largest share, through Kango Enterprises.
The firm has increased its revenue by signing contracts and joint ventures with other oil companies like Kenya National Oil Company. It imports and distributes petroleum products, with more than Sh.500 million turnovers.
Agrochemicals and Manufacturing
Spectre International Ltd is one of the companies owned by the ODM supremo. The firm is in the agrochemical industry. Spectre International came to light in the mid-1990s when it moved to acquire Kenya Chemical and Food Corporation (KCFC) but was incorporated in 1989.
President Jomo Kenyatta formed KCFC to produce power alcohol, an additive mixed with petrol to fuel vehicles. It was aimed at weathering the hiking fuel prices.
At its prime, it produced over 60,000 liters of ethanol, which clocked in an average of Sh.1.6 billion annually.
The acquisition of KCFC was controversial following the death of John Robert Ouko, then Foreign Affairs Minister, who was fighting to revive the company.
The Odinga-owned holding company placed a Sh.570 million bid, the highest bid when KCB placed it under receivership.
However, it purchased KCFC for Sh.120 million due to its poor state in 2001. Spectre International Ltd acquired the company for Sh.400,000 less than it cost the government in 1976.
Energem Resources, an Australian firm, bought 55% of Spectre International shares, which is around 2,422,500 shares, to boost its capital. The Australian firm went bankrupt in 2011 but still has its shares intact.
Raila Odinga’s family owns 2,094,000 shares of Spectre International through Lennox Development Ltd, where Raila has 2,000 shares and his children 1,0000 shares each. The local community claims 237,500 shares only.
Real estate is another area where the former premier has made a fortune. He owns several properties in Kenya, including an upscale apartment complex in Nairobi and a beach resort in Mombasa, among other palatial homes for family and business matters.
Odinga also has interests in tourism and hospitality, with stakes in countless hotels and resorts across Kenya.
His Riat palatial home alone is worth Sh.1 billion.
The home comprises ten rooms, a helipad, Jacuzzis, conference halls, modern kitchens and a theater. The home is said to mirror the State House. He also owns a multi-million home in Runda, Karen, and Opoda farm– which reflects his culture.
In addition, he owns choppers and a fleet of luxurious cars, including three Toyota Land Cruisers SUVs gifted to him by well-wishers for his campaign last year.
The former premier’s wealth is evident in his stake in blue-chip companies, properties, and shares. Some of his companies, like East African Spectre, were monopolies in their sector, making them highly profitable. The fact that he is still active in politics, and his unrivalled influence, indicates that he will continue to grow his wealth in the coming years.