One of the co-founders of Wananchi Online, a once-popular Internet Service Provider (ISP) is dead.
The circumstances under which Njeri Rionge died remain unclear but a family source said she fell victim to suspicious religious teachings that emphasized intensive religious fasting, prayer and repentance above her health and work.
This led to depression and death on Monday October 2. The matter is under probe. Her former partner and former ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru mourned the death.
“Goodbye Njeri. We will miss you greatly,” he made a post on X formerly Twitter.
Rionge was also a lawyer.
She had moved to Canada to stay with her husband but was lately going through divorce, a friend said.
In 1999, Rionge, together with Mucheru co-founded multi-million dollar firm Wananchi Online which grew to become today’s Wananchi Group, Zuku’s parent firm.
Rionge and her team saw the company from idea to conceptualization, to their final exit. Rionge and her team saw Wananchi Online raise several rounds of both equity and debt financing from Private Equity firms such as Liberty Global, Emerging Capital Partners, Export Development Canada, Altice, and Prudence Holdings, among others to form what is now known as Wananchi Group with operations in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Zambia, Malawi, and Mauritius among others.
Her former colleagues say she used to yogurt to the International School Of Kenya and Loretto Convent Musongari High School students from her car trunk during their breaks and also moonlighted as a hairdresser.
She could later fly to London to bring in re-sale luxury merchandise for her growing clientele. Rionge joined Inter-Connect, a local ISP and after three years and working faithfully and growing up the ranks to become its marketing manager.
In February 1999, Rionge, then the marketing manager, and Mucheru, the ISP’s technical manager stepped out. In December that year, they incorporated Wananchi Online Limited (WOL) and in March 2002 the company began operations with a radical price war of up to 85 – 90 percent discounts.
By December 2005, WOL was a darling of both corporate, SME and individual customers making it the leading ISP services provider in Kenya.
She was also Co-Chair for Elevate Tech 2018 Toronto, and was well well-known events speaker globally, including attending the 2015 Oscars for Cadillac.
In Kenya, she 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.
She was also an advisory committee member of Sport at the Service of Humanity at the Vatican. Rionge was one of the few female pioneers in the technology sector in Africa and she was raising capital for an African private equity based in the Cayman Islands.
These plans were thwarted when Rionge went neck deep into newfound zeal into the alleged cult. Rionge has always been a staunch born-again Christian throughout her entrepreneurial life but was later consumed by the alleged extreme religious beliefs.
And her social media profiles attest to that. Many of her friends mourned her on social media.