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Leah Njeri: From a toilet cleaner to a diamonds owner


Leah NjeriWhen 35-year old Leah Njeri made the bold decision to venture into the lucrative business of gemstone mining, she never imagined that one day she would make it big.

It has been an incredible journey that has seen her grow in leaps and bounds.

On one corner of her office stands a glass cabinet in which a variety of gems are exhibited. There is also a stack of different stones neatly arranged on top.

“This is what keeps me on my toes every day,” Leah says.


“I must warn you that this kind of business is not for the frail. It requires you to always be on the move.”

Leah, the Founder of Wazaire Gems, has become a successful gemstone entrepreneur and her fame goes beyond Kenya.

From a young age, she developed the passion for beautifully cut and polished gems. Her interest in gemstone business started in 2004 in Congo in a mining bush called Mbuji Mayi and that’s how she was branded ‘Wazaire’.

She involved herself in buying and exporting diamond to Dubai, South Africa among other destinations for three years.

However, she has had to bear a myriad challenges to get where she is.

Born in Kitale in Trans-Nzoia County, Leah, the third-born in a family of eight, says they were subjected to crippling poverty, which saw them live from hand to mouth.

“My parents solely relied on farming for our upkeep. On several occasions, we were forced to go till people’s lands to get our daily bread because the produce from our farm could not sustain our needs,” says Leah.

Life proved to be tough for them and getting school fees was a challenge.

“As much as I went through primary school successfully, while in high school, life became difficult for us as a family. I enrolled in a nearby day school and I missed out on class several times after being chased away from school,” she explains.

While in Form Three, the situation became worse and at some point, her parents suggested that she should get married so that her husband would pay her school fees.

Leah was forced to drop out of school and since marriage was the last thing in her mind, she opted to travel to Nairobi in search of employment to enable her provide for her parents and siblings.

“I was ready to take up any job, even a house help and true to it, I became one after my cousin who was accommodating me fired her house-help and I had to take up the role,” she says.

 “I would wake up very early in the morning, carry out household chores and in the afternoon, head to GNLD office in town to carry out some odd jobs such as cleaning toilets to boost my earnings.”

This went on for a while until one day, her cousin introduced her to one of her friends from Congo who was involved in the mining business. She even suggested that they travel to Congo to see and have a feel of what the mining business was all about.


Once in Congo, with the help of their friend’s father, Leah developed interest in gemstone mining. At that time, she was only 18.

“He would tell me the names of the variety of gemstones and even take me on a tour of some of the mines. Since I had shared with him about my life and the challenges I had faced, he suggested that once I got back to Kenya, I should look out for clients, who would be willing to buy gemstones from him and once a deal had been sealed, he could pay me a certain percentage.”

Luckily, Leah met a white man who was impressed by her vast knowledge in the gemstones. This is when her endless trips to Congo began and she would take the clients she got to Congo to assist them buy gemstones from her father’s friend.

This saw her earn a reasonable amount of money that enabled her rent a house and buy her first phone. She made the decision to go back to the village and assist her parents in farming their land. However, after staying in her village for some time, she felt the urge to go back into gemstone mining, a decision her parents agreed to.

“In 2004, I officially relocated to Congo and became a broker in the gemstone mining business. In 2008, I had raised enough capital that saw me move to Dubai and expand my network. I no longer wanted to be a broker but chose to go independently into the gemstone mining business,” she says.

In 2010, Leah relocated back to Kenya where she camped at yet another mining in Voi, this time buying various coloured stones like green garnet, ruby, white sapphire, spinel, rhodilite among others.

 “The mine was situated in a bush and I was forced to stay there for a year.  During that period, I never knew what was happening in the country. It was an isolated place surrounded by wild animals and everyone around used to stay in a manyatta,” says Leah.

She chose to hold on. All this time, she remained prayerful and was thankful to God for keeping her safe and promised herself that once she came out of it safely, she would do something that would benefit the society.

At the end of that year, she started the Wazaire for Wajane Foundation, which seeks to uplift the lives of widows by empowering them economically.

“I was motivated to start the foundation as a way of giving back to society. Many people get into gemstone business because it brings in a lot of money but once they become rich, they start involving themselves in bad activities. But I chose to stand with the widows,” says Leah.

coloured stones

Her company has expanded to greater heights with a head office in Nairobi. She has ready markets in Tanzania, South Africa, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Dubai, China among others where she exports the various coloured stones.

She has a mine in Mkuki, Voi where she has employed 82 workers and another 25 in the Nairobi office.

She alludes to the fact that gemstone mining is not easy and calls for a lot of patience and endurance.

“Sometimes the miners dig for a year without getting anything. In addition to poor infrastructure and lack of equipment and funds, women also have to fight prejudice to venture into it, since for a long time it has been a male-dominated industry. They also give up easily,” she says.

What has been her secret to success?

“Apart from hard work, it has also taken discipline and a mix of planning, thinking, prayer and God’s grace to achieve what I have. Once you develop passion for it, you will never look back again,” she says.

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