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Jennifer Riria – Biography of the CEO of Kenya Women Holding Group (KWFB)

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Jennifer Riria, is an entrepreneur, corporate executive, and banker. She is the CEO of Kenya Women Holding Group; microfinance, banking, and insurance group. In addition, Jennifer was voted twice as the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year (East Africa and Kenya respectively in 2013 and 2014).

See Also: Forbes Africa’s Richest in 2020 – Dangote, Adenuga, Rabiu, And Alakija Makes List

Jennifer Riria Background

Start Your Business in 30 Days Even If You Don't Have An Idea
Start Your Business in 30 Days Even If You Don’t Have An Idea

Riria was born in a poor household in rural Kenya. The forth-born of 10 siblings. According to her, “I watched my mother and other women in the village operate as donkeys. They would carry on their backs firewood, bananas, a bag of other stuff and a baby. I saw them get abused, beaten and work 24 hours a day”. In her words. “I remember kneeling by my bedside every night asking God to send me far away from this environment.” The environment inspired her to make something great in her life. She decided to embrace education as a way of escape and this has greatly changed her life.

Jennifer attended a primary school, where she travels to every day. The school’s distance from home was about 4 kilometers.

See Also: Charlize Theron – Biography Of One Of Forbes Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women In 2020

Fortunately, she got admitted to an all-girls boarding school called Precious Blood High School. The school is located in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital and largest city. At the end of high school, Riria became pregnant.

After putting to bed, she proceeded to the University of Da es Salaam on a Scholarship. There, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education. Thereafter, she obtained a Master of Arts degree in Education Administration from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.

In addition, Jennifer holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Women’s Education and Development from Kenyatta University.

She is a mother of three as well as a grandmother of six.

See Also: Kylie Jenner, the youngest self-made billionaire ever

Jennifer Riria Career

Dr. Riria began her career at Kabete Technical Institute as a teacher. After six months at the institute, she proceeded to State House Girls High School where she taught for a year. Jennifer returned to her native home; Kenya in 1979 to complete her Ph.D. at Kenyatta University. Before delving fully into women advocate empowerment, she lectured at Kenyatta University for ten years.

See Also: Arunma Oteh: Biography And Career Journey Of An Academic Scholar

Kenya Women Finance Trust

She joined the Kenya Women Finance Trust (KWFT) in 1991. KWFT is a microfinance financial institution established in 1982 to address the financial needs of women.  Before Jennifer joined the institution, KWFT was in bad shape, highly understaffed and was losing money. Hence, Riria had to take up several roles to ensure the success and transformation of the institution.

In her words, “I was the loan officer; I was the accountant; I was the auditor, I was everything. But I knew what poverty means; I knew what hunger means; I knew these women.”

Her relentlessness and determination paid off eventually. A one-time dead institution emerged as a model microfinance institution, providing 900,000 women with financial products such as loans, savings, and insurance. The institution is currently operational in 45 counties in Kenya.

Thereafter, in 2010, the institution was split into Kenya Women Microfinance Bank and Kenya Women Holding Limited. Afterward, in 2018, the holding company became Echo Network Africa Limited. Currently, Jennifer Riria is the current CEO of the holding company.

Go from idea to starting your business in 30 days
Go from idea to starting your business in 30 days

See Also: Richest Women Entrepreneurs In Nigeria 2019 And Their Businesses

Jennifer Riria

Jennifer Riria Leadership

Riria is a great leader at heart. She chairs the TUVUKE Initiative. The initiative advocates for peaceful and fair electoral process in Kenya. Under the TUVUKE Initiative, she coordinated 17 civil societies and delivered a peace treaty in 2013. However, she emphasizes that she does not belong to any political party but advocates for participation for all in the democratic processes.

See Also: Young entrepreneurs in Nigeria across different industries and their entrepreneurial stories.

Jennifer Riria Quotes

“You don’t have to know everything for you to embark on a task; you can take up the role, learn on the job, and seek knowledge, support, and advice from those around you. That is what I did.”

“In the beginning, I took on multiple roles such as CEO, loan clerk, and even office cleaner. There were days I would sit under trees to award women small loans to empower themselves and their households. Those were tough days but they transformed the institution into the bastion it is today.”

“Taking charge of my life at the age of 12 gave me a go-getter attitude in life, which was further reinforced by the school’s culture that instilled the value of responsibility.”

“During my early years at KWFT, the idea of women being drivers of the economy seemed impossible to the public but today the narrative is different as people’s thoughts and attitudes have changed.”

“As a leader, you have to identify people you can work with and then infect them with your passion.”

See Also: Biography of Judy Dlamini, Business Woman, and founder, Mbekani Group

Jennifer Riria

More Quotes by Jennifer Riria

“At the end of the day, a leader knows it is not about them but rather about the people you empower, and it is not about what you get from the organisation but more importantly what you give to the organization, the legacy that you leave behind” 

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for ALL.”

“No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others.”

“Financial inclusion must embrace a gender perspective for it to succeed.”

See Also: Folorunsho Alakija, one of Forbes Africa’s 50 most powerful women in 2020.

Awards and Recognition

  • Intellecap Inspiration Award for being a true inspiration in the development sector
  • Business for Peace Honoree by Business for Peace Foundation
  • Regional Winner and Lifetime Achievement Winner of the Financial Services Sector at Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business & Government.
  • One of Forbes 50 Most Powerful Women in Africa, 2020

See Also: Tara-Fela Durotoye, one of Forbes Africa’s 50 most powerful women in 2020.

Business Lessons From the Life of Jennifer Riria

1. Believe in Yourself

Coming from a poor background, Jennifer was obviously at a huge disadvantage. However, she decided to become what her parent was not. A saying goes thus: when you are young, you look like your parents, but when you begin to grow, you look like your decisions.

In the same vein, starting a business requires a large dose of belief. You must believe in yourself, that you can successfully run your business. Because success is first in the mind.

See Also: Biography, net worth, quotes and success story of Oprah Winfrey.

2. Develop A Growth Mindset

When Jennifer joined KWFT, the institution was in a bad shape. But, she didn’t allow that to discourage her. Rather, she took up several roles to ensure the institution remains functional.

Likewise, as a startup, you may not have all the required resources needed to grow your business at the beginning. But, with a growth mindset, you can start small and scale gradually.

See Also: Biography of the 45th President of the United States of America: Donald Trump.

3. Set The Pace

Normally, anyone would have thought that nothing good can come out of Jennifer’s lineage. But Riria proved them wrong. She made her society understand that it is you and not the circumstances around you that determine what you make out of life. More than that, she has set a very good pace for others to follow.

As an entrepreneur, there are unfamiliar businesses people may be running from. But, you must understand that risk-taking is part of running a business. You can decide to set the pace in that Industry while others come to join you.

Are you doing something big in your industry and you want the world to hear about it? Reach out to us today to tell your story.

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