The immortals: Why the Ng’wenos are sharp and creative geniuses

The Ng'wenos: Hillary, Fleur, Amolo and Bettina

The Ng’wenos are a family of high achievers - father, mother and their two daughters.

Their forays encompass journalism, media ownership, publishing, nature conservation, technology and academia.

Hillary Ng’weno: This distinguished journalist, editor, publisher, broadcaster and documentary filmmaker was the first Kenyan to attend Harvard University in 1957. He chose a nuclear science course when Kenya had no factories! After a year’s sabbatical in Russia, Ng’weno returned and finished his studies at Harvard. He would later return to Kenya in 1962, becoming Kenya’s youngest editor-in-chief at Nation in 1965. Ng’weno (whom we have previously profiled on this space), was 25 at the time. He, alongside the late Terry Hirst, started Joe, a satirical comic in 1973. The Weekly Review followed in 1975 and the Nairobi Times (later sold and renamed Kenya Times) in 1983. His broadcasting station, STV, was later sold to TV Africa Holdings which acquired K24. Ng’weno, author of Men from Pretoria, a novel, With a Light Touch, collection of newspaper articles and The Day Kenyatta Died, returned to media with television documentaries; The Making of a Nation, Makers of a Nation, Kenya’s Darkest Hour and Kenya at the Olympics as testaments of his staying creative power.

Fleur Grandjouan Ng’weno: The native of France is Ng’weno’s wife whom he met when she came to visit her parents, UN staffers, in 1963. The mother of Amolo and Bettina Ng’weno is an editor (of Rainbow children’s magazine), author of Focus on Kenya and naturalist who for years was Honorary Secretary of Nature Kenya. The holder of a Bachelor of Science degree in conservation is famous for popularising weekly bird-watching walks for over 40 years and still counting.

Amolo Ng’weno: Attended Harvard (BA in psychology and social relations) and Princeton University (masters in Economics and Public Policy) before founding Kenya’s first, and Africa’s largest internet provider, Africa Online with Karanja Gakio and Ayisi Makatiani in 1994. The founder of also worked for the World Bank for four years in Washington DC and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, before a stint at Digital Divide Data, a Business Process Outsourcing company in Kenya. Amolo is currently the East Africa Regional Director of Bankable Frontier Associates.

Bettina Ng’weno: Has a PhD in Cultural Anthropology (Johns Hopkins University), Masters in Cultural Anthropology (Stanford), and a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Science Management from the University of California, Davis, where she’s an Associate Professor of African American and African studies.