Njeri Rionge, techpreneur co-founder of Wananchi Online dies

Renowned Kenyan-Canadian entrepreneur and tech icon Njeri Rionge, co-founder of Wananchi Online, a pioneer Internet Service Provider (ISP), is dead.

Rionge began her business career at a young age, selling yoghurt to students in Nairobi to make ends meet. She founded Wananchi Online, a pioneering internet service provider, in 1999. The company later merged with a cable television service, forming Wananchi Group Holdings. This group, of which 75% stake was acquired by three foreign firms in 2022, is known for its flagship brand, Zuku, which offers internet and satellite TV services.

The former ICT CS mourned her death tweeting “Goodbye Njeri. We will miss you greatly.”

In 2011, Forbes named Rionge as Africa’s Most Successful Woman, and described her as a ‘serial entrepreneur’. She continued to work at the intersection of international business, technology and governance, with industries spanning Africa to Canada.

Rionge always spoke of her belief in Africa as the world’s next economic frontier.

“I create companies serially because I believe that Africa is the next economic frontier and we must build indigenous organizations that will support this growth,” she once told the international publication.

Ignite Consulting, a firm that specializes in ‘coaching, strategy facilitation and organizational effectiveness’ is also one of Rionge’s most successful creations, among many other companies. 

Throughout her highly-decorated professional life, Rionge held board positions at Unilever Tea (Brooke Bond Kenya), the Institute of Directors (Kenya), the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA), and Ambulance Air Rescue (AAR) Holdings, and at Wananchi Group. 

In 2012, she was awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior (OGW) by President Mwai Kibaki for her contribution to entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment.

In 2019, Rionge was named amongst the top 100 women CEOs in Africa by a Ghanian publication. A year prior, she had been named one of the 25 richest women in Africa by a Nigerian publication.

She was also an advisory committee member of Sport at the Service of Humanity at the Vatican.

Rionge’s legacy will continue to particularly inspire women tech innovators and entrepreneurs in Africa.


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