By Silas Nyanchwani and AW Magazine Correspondents
Ever since Barack Obama of Alego, Siaya County became the president of the United States, looks like nothing can stop Kenyans from reaching for the stars. In 2017, Kenyans continued to shine in various fields; art, music, academia, sports and we take this time to celebrate those who represent 254 the best, a world away from home.
- Levin Opiyo
In the last few years most Kenyans on Facebook have been receiving free historical lessons, priceless independence struggle pictures and rare video footage from Levin Opiyo.
Opiyo, whose story African Warrior Magazine covered in August this year, went to Nottingham Trent University to study Nuclear Physics, before he switched to Marketing at Anglia Ruskin University. In his words, Opiyo would later seek to sharpen his marketing and communication skills at London Journalism School. It is here he begun the journey that has transformed him into an authoritative historian and journalist, earning him a column in the Sunday Nation and cult-like following on Facebook.
Fiercely neutral, and independent, Opiyo has endeared himself to all sides of political divides in Kenya. We can only hope he can continue to unearth the archives and sharing. His generosity is not to be taken for granted.
2. Sophie Ikenye
Slightly older Kenyans will remember her infectious smile in her days as a news anchor at NTV. When she left, it was for big league (thank you Mr. Trump) things.
As the BBC’s Focus on Africa host, her audience is global. Kenyans miss days when anchors were mature; not emotional, selfish, and prickly driven by ‘celebrity status.” Sophie Ikenye is an embodiment of professionalism. Her passion for Africa and Africanism is worth emulating.
Together with Komla Dumor, they made such a formidable partnership until the Ghanaian sadly passed on in January 2014. Sophie still does her thing with grace and candour.
3. Victor Wanyama
He is the first Kenyan born footballer to play in the English Premier League, for a top-flight team no less.
The feisty defensive midfielder is at the centre of Tottenham’s recent incredible and stand out performances.
Currently he is sitting out injured and his absence has been felt by the team, perhaps demonstrated by the 4-1 shellacking Tottenham received at the hands of Manchester City a few weeks ago. Wanyama stays humble, with nary a scandal to his name.
4. Janet Wainaina
The PR consultant and marketer who runs the UKENTV and the president of Face of Kenya that operates in the UK, USA and Germany helps corporate companies that need to access Kenyan diaspora. She also runs a program on Sky 182 called Diaspora Speaks.
5. Elizabeth Kang’ethe
Her exit from Kenya was as a refugee, to escape a deteriorating political situation.
The former teacher at first had difficulty having her academic papers accepted in the UK, but she persisted and resumed schooling at the University of East London. After volunteering with the Labour PARTY, she became the first Briton of Kenya extraction to be elected as a councilor, for the Parsloes Ward. In 2014, she was elected as the mayor.
She volunteers in helping black and minority ethnic groups to adjust in the British society and also victims of domestic violence.
6. Vanessa King’ori.
She is the first female Publisher of British GQ and the first black Publisher at Condé Nast UK.
As Publisher she is responsible for British GQ’s commercial success. Kingori has been in the role for a year having spent seven years at GQ in total. She was Publisher of GQ Style Magazine, an offshoot of the main brand for six years prior to her promotion: In an earlier interview on her role, she said:
“I was initially tasked with turning one of the company’s smaller businesses to a larger more profitable brand. I worked hard to achieve that and sustain the success. I’m extremely proud of the fast growth we achieved. That success led me here.”
Kingori studied management and sociology at Royal Holloway University of London. After which it took some years and some experimental career choices before she found her career niche.
7. Lucy Gichuhi
Early this year, African Warrior Magazine first broke news to Kenya that Lucy stood a chance of being the first black person to serve in the Australian parliament. Lucy Gichuhi who was born in Nyeri, went to school in Lwak Girls and University of Nairobi before joining the University of Southern Australia. The lawyer won a special recount as independent that edged Bob Day for the South Australian senatorial seat. Kenyans never stop winning.
8. Ninny Zerah
She is a singer and songwriter whose rendition of Runtown’s “Mad Over You” has received considerable airplay in Kenyan radio. The soulful voiced singer is currently based in Australia where she works as a consultant, counselor and entrepreneur. We just wish she can churn out more songs.
9. Terry ‘Chocolate’ Atieno
The beautiful digital media personality is one of the most visible Kenyans in Deutschland. Her visual radio is quite popular.
Currently she has a following of over 13,000 on Facebook and has played hosts to some the big political players from her native Nyanza province. She was recently in Kenya campaigning for NASA presidential candidate.
Online radio talk show host, who hobnobs with the who is who in Kenya’s opposition. She often broadcasts from her kitchen for her social media project called Proud Chocolate Visual. As an entertainer, she scores a great deal for Kenyans in Europe.
10. Stella Mwangi
Arguably one of the most prolific musicians of her generation in Kenya. The rapper has churned some club bangers, some great sing-along since she burst into the scene with nightclub monster ‘Happy’ together with Kantai. She is also beautiful and sexy.
Her music has been used in films like the American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile and Save the Last Dance 2. She has a few awards to parade. Notably in 2011, she delivered a stunning performance at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2011 in Dusseldorf Germany, getting eliminated at the Semi Final. Despite living much of her life in Norway, she has not forgotten her roots, as she often raps in Agikuyu.
11. Nyakio Gioche
If there beauty products in the market taking the world by storm, then Nyakio Gioche is the brains behind such products.
While working at a talent agency in Los Angeles, Nyakio Kamoche-Grieco was exposed to beauty brands from all over the globe. Noticeably missing, she realized, were the rich ingredients of her parents’ homeland. In her mind, this was an underrepresentation of the sophistication of Africa.
After 7 years of climbing the entertainment industry ladder, Nyakio Kamoche rethought her life, and consequently developed a new masterplan: to bring Africa to the masses in pure luxury and old-age secrets, through a skin care line named after herself- Nyakio
Nyakio’s collection contains two products. The first, Nyakio Kenyan Coffee Body Scrub that blends naturally energizing and exfoliating Kenyan coffee with sugar to remove dull skin while providing antioxidant benefits. It leaves skin moisturized, smooth and soft. The second is the Nyakio Kenyan Coffee Face Polish. It blends Kenyan coffee with jojoba to gently remove dull skin while providing antioxidant benefits. It leaves all skin toned, moisturized, soft and immediately radiant.
12. Washington Osiro
One of the most notable voices in the Kenyan left.
Osiro writes on Huffington Post and Facebook, attracting admirers and detractors alike. The former Nairobi School student, attended UC San Diego’s John Muir College. He has penned a number of books among them his memoir, Wuodha and Malo’s Amazing Adventures, co-written with his son. He is a medical device executive with over 20-years’ experience. His commentary remains top-drawer.
13. Mukurima Muriuki
In an increasingly toxic social media space, it is increasingly difficult to find a centrist, moderate voice of reason. Perhaps his Conflict and Resolutions background helps him to be calm amid the storms that have beset Kenya in the recent past.
Mukurima informs and entertains Kenyans through his posts that are always engaging and full of historical gems. As a media enthusiast, Mukurima has broken some of the most important news pertinent to Kenyans, at home and abroad.
Once in a while he writes opinion columns in Kenyan dailies and last year, he collaborated with some of the well-known professors in the field of Conflict Resolution to co-author a book that focuses on de-escalation of violent narratives.
14. Victoria Kimani-Musician
You either love Victoria Kimani or you hate her. Africa’s version of Nikki Minaj, has been accused of being more Nigeria than Kenyan, but what most Kenyans don’t know is that she once lived in Nigeria as a kid.
The sassy, flamboyant ‘First Lady’ who comes from a musical family, his brother Bamboo was one of the greatest rappers of the 2000s. Currently she is riding high with her hit, China Love featuring the duo R City.
Victoria is also an activity who campaigns against male chauvinism in the entertainment sector. In 2015, she teamed up with a star-studded African female musician releasing a female-empowerment anthem, all over the world.
15. Calestous Juma
Sadly, as we were working on this piece, we learnt the sad news that the Harvard professor had died, while undergoing treatment in a Boston hospital.
Juma was the only Kenyan to have ever been listed in the Most Reputable people on earth alongside people like evangelist Billy Graham, Mark Zuckerberg and footballer Ronaldo. He has featured on the list thrice.
The Harvard Kennedy School Professor directed the Science, Technology and Globalization project.
His contributions to how science and technology affects developing countries won him a place in prestigious entities such as the Royal Society of London, the US National Academy of Sciences and the UK Royal Academy of Engineering.
Definitely, one of the most outstanding scholars of his generation.
16. Simon Gikandi
The quiet, Princeton professor of English and literature is another Kenyan widely celebrated for his literary criticism books. He has cemented his place in the African Literature criticism. He is also an authority in Post-colonialism and the best known authority on the nature of the African novel
17. Ali Badawy
The NASA North American spokesperson has endeared himself to the NASA supporters from his critical stance towards the Jubilee government.
18. Alex Karundu
The Dallas based motivational speaker is much sought after for his bare-knuckled approach to issues. Alex also owns arguably the biggest logistics company by a Kenyan, in America.
19. Lupita Nyongo
She was back in the news recently, after she sensationally claimed that sex predator Harvey Weinstein had forced her to massage her and she had to attend a lunch she was not willing to attend.
The 2012 Academy Award winner for the best supporting cast told us that all our dreams are valid, and as we have seen, Kenyans who have dared to dream are busy breaking the glass ceiling everywhere from Australia to the UK.
She has become a Hollywood bankable star who has also had a successful career in Broadway.
20. Peter Kerre
One of the most famous Kenyans in New York. The film maker and music producer has produced for and worked for artists like Alicia Keys and other artists such as his former classmate back in Nairobi, Wyre, who he did the ‘Big Tune.” Kerre has been credited with creation of Afro-Electron. He goes by the name DJ Xpect.
21. Benjamin Onyango
He grew up in the Eastlands, Ofafa Jericho, and he went on to be one of the fewest Kenyans who have conquered Hollywood.
It has been 30 years since he left the country but he occasionally sneaks back home, for a shoot. He has appeared in God’s not Dead and has appeared in hits like X-Files, General Hospital and Dysfunctional Organized. Onyango also had a dream to pursue music, as he played a lead guitar for the only Rock band in Nairobi. But he is more famous for his acting than music.
22. David Monda
The political science professor at the City of New York’s Guttman College is a regular political commentator in the media. A sober mind, he by far very moderated even when his political views can be interpreted differently.
23. Lilly Richard
She runs the Kenyan Women in the United States (KWITU) , a network platform that has been credited in uniting Kenyan women in the United States and Canada. The organization also bridges the gap between the Kenyan woman in the US and in the village. Her inspiring story, was covered in the African Warrior Magazine, August issue.
She is also an award winner, DEAR Awards 2016 Best Community Organizer and the Jamhuri Award 2016 presented by the Ambassador Robinson Githae, for dedicated service to the community through KWITU
They ruled the Kenyan airwaves in the 2000s with hits such as Makofi and Vuta Pumzi. They tried to stage a comeback in the mid-2000s, but never quite recaptured the glory of the previous years. And then they disappeared. And relocated to California. The descendants of the Congolese music legend, Vicky Longomba, and nephews of Awilo Longomba have since lived in the States.
Lovy went on to start a church, Revelation Church of Jesus Christ based in California which enjoys a young following drawn from different races. Lovy went on to write Change your Life for Iggy Azalea (featuring TI) that has been watched 117, 983, 841 times on YouTube. Christian underwent a debilitating brain tumour, that he survived.
25. Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Ngugi wa Thiong’o is distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at University of California-Irvine. Early this year, he was awarded an honorary degree by Yale University for his distinct achievement in the literary field.
Ngugi is a world-renowned Kenyan writer, scholar, and social activist. His diverse body of work includes novels, short stories, plays, articles, essays, and poems, which have been translated into over 60 languages. He has received numerous awards and now boasts 12 honorary doctorates.
Ngugi refers to himself as a “language warrior” because of his fight for the recognition of his native Gĩkũyũ and other marginalized languages. Some of the books he has authored and earned critical acclaim include: Weep not Child, The River Between, A Grain of Wheat, Petals of Blood, and Devil on the Cross.
26. Christine Wawira
Christine made headlines a few months ago for calling out comedian Chipukeezy for brazen lies premised on meeting fellow comedian Kevin Hart.
African Warrior Magazine interviewed Christine a while back, where she shared her never-say-die approach towards fulfilling her goal of making it as an actress in Hollywood amidst its attendant cut-throat competition. A down to earth, humble and humorous lady, Christine is well spoken and never hides her pride in Kenyan roots.
27. J. Karoki.
An Aerospace executive, Karoki is known by many as the “classy gentleman,” perhaps because of his stylish and elegant dressing.
In an interview with African Warrior Magazine, Karoki narrated about his past serving as an American Marine which shaped his later day accomplishments in the aerospace industry. Karoki embodies a success story: an immigrant now indispensable to America. He remains humble throughout his success, however, revealing a lesson that many native-born American citizens have yet to learn:
“This is America. America gives you a blank check. You do not have to do what everyone else is doing. Forge your own path. America rewards hard work, ingenuity, and persistence. It’s a guaranteed formula.”
28. Njeri Keziah/Mucheru Njaga
The power couple behind the online iDiasporan platform, that connects Africans in the diaspora with investments, diaspora banking, real estate and tourism sectors from their home country.
The two note that iDiasporan was born because they wanted to explore long term investment opportunities not just in Kenya but in other countries in the region:
“We wanted something different from the usual “ka-plot” or apartment that’s the norm with African diaspora investors. Out of every 10 people we talked to, at least 6 said that in a perfect world they’d want to retire back in Africa hence a vehicle to allow them to create that cushion was born. We wanted those who decide to relocate back home organically or are forced by circumstances to be fiscally independent when the day came.”
29. Makau Mutua
Professor Makau Mutua is a distinguished law scholar and former dean, University of Buffalo school of law. His incisive, albeit controversial column in local dailies as well as his views as expressed on his social media platforms are a thorn in the flesh of his antagonists. He maintains a stand that he does not recognize Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta as duly elected president of Kenya and is non apologetic about it.
Professor Mutua’s areas of focus include: constitution-Making, Human Rights, International Business Transactions, Post-Colonialism, Post-Conflict Societies, Public International Law, State Reconstruction, among others.
30. Fatima Alimohamed
Many will recall the Chipsy cooking ol advert in the late 90’s that featured a “muslim woman” saying “hio sio muhimu, nasokota mviringo mviringo….” Well, meet Fatima Alimohamed who is now based in Ghana where she has made a name for herself as the Afican Brand Warrior. In an earlier interview, Fatima told this publication:
“I have always wanted to make a difference on the Continent starting with my mother land and to fly the flag not only within but also outside. I was known in Kenya in those days, from being the lady in the Chipsy vegetable fat advert, to being the chair of the MSK and Governor on the Kenya Private sector Alliance. There were challenges everyday, those that make you feel alive and that you were worth every pinch of salt in your body. Once I travelled and lived in the Diaspora it became even more prudent for me to be known as a Kenyan first and not for what I used to do.”
Asia and Middle East
31. Mohamed Wehliye
Some said that he deserved a cabinet position in President Kenyatta’s 2013 cabinet. He is one of the most renowned economists, with one of the most colorful resumes. For about a decade leading to to 2014, he was the Vice President, Risk Management, Riyad Bank, Saudi Arabia. A senior vice president, financial risk management, Riyadh Bank, KSA, about the Eurobond issue and related economic affairs. The following are excerpts from the interview.
Currently, he is an advisor with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA). Previously he was a manager, Treasury Market and Operational Risk and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in Sydney Australia.
He is one of the most sober commentators in economic matter, if a bit critical of the Jubilee regime.
32. John Njoroge Mungai
Mungai is Financial Controller of Bayer, Japan. Bayer is the German Pharmaceutical behemoth. It is not everyday a Kenyan rises to head such a huge portfolio in a far way global power like Japan. But this ex-Mangu lad just does that.
He lives in Tokyo inspiring the growing number of Kenyans who have gone for their studies there.
If there is a Kenyan in Diaspora you think African Warrior magazine should interview, write to us; firstname.lastname@example.org