Most husbands only learn that their wives had been secretly accumulating wealth either when they die or after a divorce. Patrick Wachira* lost his wife to cancer in 2004. The father of four sold some of his prime properties and his business suffered as he footed medical bills locally and abroad. By the time his wife was dying, he was financially drained.
But three months after his wife’s death, Wachira came to learn that his wife of 30 years had left a wide range of property to their children.
“It’s the children who told me their mother had Sh10 million invested in the money markets and a further Sh5 million in a life insurance policy,” says a shocked Wachira.
Ayub Odongo, a crisis communication officer, reckons women make and save money from spousal remittances and their many chamas.
“I checked my mobile money transfers and realised I send 70 per cent of my income to her. In the last three years, I sent her more than Sh6 million. I don’t see any of that money in my house.”
Ayub’s wife is in four chamas where members contribute between Sh2,500 to Sh10,000 monthly.
“I don’t know how much she gets or when she gets but I let it slide because I don’t want to look petty asking about chama za wamama.”
Frank Sabwa, a finance consultant with Achievers Kenya, says “men are risk takers, but women are very careful with finance matters.”
Citing data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Sabwa says women save more than men although they earn less. According to the data, with regard to Kenyans who earn a monthly salary of Sh50,000, over 60 per cent are men compared to only 38 per cent of women while over 80 per cent men earn a monthly salary of Sh100,000 compared to women at 45 per cent.
“Men being providers, spend more on their families while women save their money.”
Even in divorce cases, apart from infidelity, the second most popular reason was that wives hide money.
In a divorce case in Western Kenya, a man with four fishing boats divorced after discovering that his wife secretly owned 12 boats.
In another case, a petitioner identified as DGN sued for divorce from ENN on the basis that apart from their joint businesses, she also secretly ran other businesses which made millions.
Part of the judgment reads: “He has made several serious accusations against the petitioner including stealing large sums of money (Sh3.5 million) from his companies; running some business secretly, that is, a fleet of matatus and retail business at Gikomba.”
In another case, a husband, ANM was granted a divorce from PJWM on the grounds “that the respondent lied about her income stating she only got a net of Kshs.30,000 while earning Ksh90, 000 which concealment he terms as cruel as he was forced to fend for the family single handedly even when he had no job.”
The Kenya Association of Investment Groups estimates that the over 300,000 chamas manage a total of Sh300 billion in assets. Most of them belong to women.
Vincent Abwao, the vice chair of Kenya Association of Investment Groups, says according to their data, more women borrow with structured thoughts on how to invest and pay back, while most men borrow just because the loan is available, or borrow to pay for things that won’t give them any dividends.
“Men borrow to buy land, to build a house or to buy a car. Those things are in no way giving them money to repay the loan. Men borrow to fulfill their obligations as providers and protectors, while women borrow to fulfill their desire to be financially independent from their husbands,” says Abwao.
Daniel Kimaita, who co-owns one of Kenya’s mobile loan Apps says “data shows that it’s safe to give a woman a loan, especially a woman in the village. They borrow Sh2,000 in the morning and by 3pm repay plus interest. Over 15 months, she borrows up to Sh20,000. Now, at a larger scale, imagine the women who borrow from banks and pay diligently? They are millionaires! It’s safer giving them money,” says Kimaita!
Pius Mwarandu, an elder based at the Coast, argues that a bright woman will always plan for the day the man won’t be available.
“Men should stop whining. If a woman has money, or has been saving money, there is no way on earth you can drop dead and your children will sleep hungry or drop out of school. The money will take care of them. “There is nothing wrong with a woman keeping some money aside for a rainy day, and she doesn’t have to disclose to you. It’s hers and her children. You are the man, take care of yourself. Keep something aside for your old age,” says Mwarandu.