Billionaire owner of Sabina Joy Club, Gerald Gikonyo Kanyuria has passed on.
Kanyuria passed away aged 111 years on Saturday, July 11 while receiving treatment at an unidentified hospital.
In 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta and the then Governor Evans Kidero awarded the billionaire with the ‘Key to the City’ award for his contribution to the growth of Nairobi City.
The billionaire, together with Gerishon Kirima, founded Rwathia Distributors in the 1930s and were among the first natives to own business in the city which was then populated by white settlers.
“Mzee Gikonyo and his generation are the ones who changed Nairobi from being a city of Wazungu to a city of Africans.
“The history of the men and women who built Nairobi must never be forgotten,” stated Uhuru in 2017.
Gikonyo and Kirima had left their ancestral Rwathia village, Kangema, Muranga county for Nairobi in the 1930s without education and settled in Nairobi in search of greener pastures.
They arrived in the city while wearing tattered clothes and dove right into hawking vegetables, selling charcoal and wattle bark.
They worked hard to open a hotel and once employed Equity Chairman Peter Munga as a casual labourer in one of their establishments.
“We would buy the vegetables from Marikiti (Wakulima) Market from traders from Limuru, and sell them to Asian families
“There was a wave of boys from Rwathia coming to Nairobi. We encouraged it because we all wanted to do business together,” Gikonyo stated in a past interview.
When their peers arrived in the city to look for wealth, the two billionaires embraced them and even set up seven savings groups in which a member could join.
So successful was the idea that the groups started acquiring buildings.
For instance, a group of 12 members could save enough money to acquire a shop and start a business.
In 1952, the groups started acquiring entire plots and constructing commercial and residential buildings.
The ride was not that easy as shortly after, the Mau Mau fighters disrupted the economy.
Today, Rwathia Groups own a sprawl of buildings in Nairobi including in the areas of lower Tom Mboya Street, Ronald Ngara Street and River Road among others.
For his advanced age, the billionaire retreated to spend his sunset years in his home and relinquished the day-to-day running of Sabina Joy to the son of one of Rwathia Group directors, Maina Muchai.
He was the father to 23 children and husband to four wives, three of whom are deceased.