Biwott minister for energy and regional development commissioning Lake Basin

Nicholas Biwott was a true giant in the business community…very rarely do we speak of a person who was not just a great public servant, a great politician, but also a great businessman. The man’s industry was truly legendary…it provided employment to thousands of Kenyans and also contributed immensely to the economy of this country.

Kiprono Kittony Chairman of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (2012-19)

Following Kenya’s independence in 1963, the Government encouraged the first generation of independent Kenyans, many of whom were civil servants, to support and grow the country’s emerging economy.

Biwott had a great ability to draw people together in a meeting

Working with the nation’s banks, the state introduced a favourable loan scheme to incentivize Kenyans with incomes to purchase assets formerly held by British and European settlers, and to invest in agriculture and business.

To further boost growth in the nascent Kenyan economy, public servants were empowered to be active in the private sector. The state wanted to draw on their knowledge and experience, and also to avoid a mass exodus of the talented people building the new nation to the private sector by allowing them to supplement their public sector income with legitimate business interests, following a commission led by the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, Duncan Ndegwa.

Biwott formed part of this notable generation of prominent public servants who also invested in businesses, alongside names including Kenneth Matiba, Jeremiah Kiereini, Bruce McKenzie, John Michuki, Charles Njonjo, Njenja Karume and Philip Ndegwa.

Drawing on his experience working with his entrepreneurial father, Biwott started, bought, invested in and operated several business ventures, mainly in Kenya’s growing number of farms and small businesses, over the next few years.

Biwott, with his father, Cheserem who died at over 104 years old , his younger brother Edward who died in his 40s in a car accident and Mrs Postlethwaite (Mrs “P”), his Private Secretary from his time in the Ministry of Agriculture 1968 who worked for him for 20 years until she retired in 1986

In 1969, he purchased the Eldoret Town International Harvester franchise, as well as the Kipsinende dairy farm. About this time, he also began to build a real estate portfolio in Rift Valley and Nairobi, and invested in wheat and maize commercial farming. He started an import-export food and agriculture business in 1972, bought two wheat farms in 1974 (one of which was the locally renowned Karo Farm), and acquired a small safari aircraft operator in 1977, which became Air Kenya.

"Nicholas Biwott and I were friends for 40 years. He always saw the bigger picture and was a man who followed through on promises, a man who kept his word. He was a man of deeds. He spoke less and did more. When people were busy talking about how things should be done, and debating pros and cons, my friend, Nicholas, quietly went about getting the job done. In many ways, he epitomized action. He focused on getting things done - I am not surprised that he is still remembered as the “Total man”."

Pius Ngugi,Chairman of the Thika Coffee Mills

Over four decades, and even though there were some failures, Biwott’s development of his businesses, and his model of starting, buying and reinvesting in small or struggling Kenyan businesses run by professional management teams and independent boards, created jobs and increased prosperity for thousands of people. It also generated significant revenue for Kenya and opportunities for foreign investment in the country.

For example, in 1981, Biwott purchased shares in Kenol, an insolvent publicly listed oil firm, eventually becoming one of its largest shareholders. Over the next 38 years, the company was rebuilt and slowly grew to become one of Africa’s largest downstream oil companies, one of Kenya’s largest corporate taxpayers and a pan-African firm. Kenol’s significant growth coincided with the the re-rating of African equities and stock market boom following the 2002 General Election - when foreign investment poured into the country and exchange controls and foreign ownership restrictions were lifted. By the time French listed company, Rubis, took over the company in 2019, local and foreign institutional investors dominated Kenol’s ownership.

Biwott with a women’s group at a trade fair at the Kenyatta Conference Centre