Joseph Mucheru is the Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs. The 54-year old made it big in technology before finding his way into President Uhuru Kenyatta’s cabinet.
During his vetting before Parliament in 2015, Mucheru disclosed a net worth of Ksh500 million along with Ksh267 million in deferred income.
His professional rise was enabled by his skills in various internet-related fields and his understanding of Kenya and Africa’s ICT landscape. It was his understanding of the bigger picture on technology in the region that made him a valuable asset to big tech firms including Google.
After completing ‘A’ and ‘O’ Levels at Lenana School, Mucheru proceeded to City, University of London where he graduated with a Bsc. Economics and Computer Science in 1993.
Between 1997 and 1999, he had a stint at Internet Solutions (formerly Interconnect Limited) where he started as a webmaster and helped grow the firm’s web business in Kenya. He later Later took over the technical development of the internet infrastructure including dial up services.
But it was at his next stop that Mucheru really came into his own. He co-founded Wananchi Online with Njeri Rionge in 1999, a telcoms and media operator that bagged a sizeable share of the market as it provided internet for businesses and homes.
Wananchi Online tapped into the opportunity to provide the emerging African mass consumer market with high quality yet affordable home internet services. Between 1999 and 2007, Mucheru took on multiple roles at Wananchi including Chief Technology Officer and Chief Executive Officer.
In 2009, Wananchi sold a 50% stake to US private equity firm Emerging Capital Partners (ECP) for Sh2 billion.
The firm transformed over the years into Wananchi Group Holdings, a giant that currently controls internet and TV brands including Zuku. Between 1998 and 2007, he also chaired the industry lobby group Telecommunications Service Providers Association of Kenya (TESPOK).
In June 2007, Mucheru moved on to become Google’s first employee in Sub Saharan Africa as he was appointed East Africa Office Lead. In 2009, he was elevated to Regional Lead for Sub Saharan Africa.
In 2012, he was named Google Sub-Saharan Ambassador and East Africa Lead, and between 2014 and 2015 served as the firm’s Energy Access and Investment Regional Lead for Africa.
Mucheru was central to establishing Google’s presence on the continent as he played multiple roles, dealing with everyone from governments to regulators and consumers.
He has sat on the board of numerous startups and organizations including the M-Pesa Foundation Academy advisory board, payments platform Bitpesa (now Aza Group) and GiveDirectly which looks to have money from donors reach the intended recipients directly, cutting out the middleman.