Mwale Medical and Technology City, a community-owned sustainable metropolis located in Butere sub-county, Kakamega, has been the talk of town for the past three or so years. The city, which is associated with American-based investor Julius Mwale, is a $2 billion (Ksh200 billion) sustainable metropolis anchored on a large medical complex with a 5,000-patient capacity Hamptons Hospital, with a research and innovation park.
Mr Mwale has recently captured the imagination of many Kenyans with his daring pan-African exploits. In May this year, he announced a partnership with an American firm to build a battery plant in the mineral-rich Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to power smart cities. The battery plant, which is to be constructed by the US Engineering and infrastructure firm, KE International, has enlisted Mr Mwale as one of its key partners. The plant will manufacture electric power storage batteries to power smart cities — which use technology to provide services and solve city problems — in Africa.
The billionaire, in 2021, hit the headlines after he topped bids to run the troubled miller for 20 years with a Ksh27 billion offer through his Tumaz & Tumaz Enterprise, trouncing steel billionaire Narendra Raval, who through Devki Group offered Ksh8.4 billion while Rai under his West Kenya Sugar placed Ksh3.5 billion. He proposed a Ksh2.2 billion to farmers in a bid to woo them back into sugarcane farming.
Meanwhile, Mwale City is his flagship project in Africa. The city is built with 100% sustainable sources of energy including hundreds of solar-powered streetlights already brightening up freshly paved roads, as well as the completed solar power plant that produces clean electricity for the city from the sun.
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It also hosts a 36-hole golf resort with 4,800 private residences along the golf course. It’s the first fully integrated development plan of its scale, and it is being implemented without relocating the local community. Instead, the homes of local community members are being upgraded to international standards with running water and electricity.
It has a 5000-bed state-of-the-art hospital, Hamptons Hospital, which will be able to serve 12,000 patients daily. Hamptons Hospital is currently open and treating patients.
Recently, he caught public attention when he met President William Ruto at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, United States. Besides, he met other world leaders and top corporate businessmen to discuss investment in the city situated MMTC.
Humble beginning in Butere
The story of Julius Mwale is one of rags to riches, rising from humble beginnings to the top of corporate America and Kenya. Today, the billionaire founder of Mwale Medical and Technology City stands out as one of the most well-known African businessmen with significant investments in the United States and the rest of the world.
Julius Mwale was born in 1976 Lunza village in Butere, Kakamega County in Western Kenya. His parents were business owners who died when he was young. Mr Mwale has revealed in interviews that his childhood was not pleasant and that he went to school barefoot.
Mr Mwale attended a local primary school in his hometown of Lunza before joining Mukumu Boys Secondary School. Later, he enrolled in college to study a diploma in telecommunications engineering. Technology wasn’t popular among his peers, but he saw it as having a larger market.
“I knew by getting that (technology) qualification, I could compete with any person in the world. While being a dentist or a doctor is good, I knew being a doctor in Kenya would limit me to the Kenyan environment only. However, being a telecommunications engineer, I would be global; I would be able to access resources globally,” said the Kenyan US-based tycoon
After his studies, Mr Mwale joined the Kenyan Air Force, where he worked in technology research and internet infrastructure. Later, he was forced to flee Kenya to Uganda after an altercation with authorities for allegedly being involved in an intellectual property dispute with some influential Kenyans. From Uganda, he relocated to Zimbabwe then moved to the United States in 2000.
‘While being a dentist or a doctor is good, I knew being a doctor in Kenya would limit me to the Kenyan environment only.’
With difficulties in getting political asylum, Mr Julius Mwale became homeless and spent nearly a year living in a low-income shelter. His laptop, his only asset at the time, was stolen. Regrettably, he lost all of the large amounts of research data for projects he was working on.
Mr Mwale would use public library computers, even though they only allowed one person to use them for 30 minutes. “The homeless shelter is halfway off the people coming from jail; you meet people that are not mainstream people in the society, but my focus was to work on my technology – the environment wasn’t very important,” said Mr Mwale, now ranked among the richest people in Kenyan.
Two-factor authentication breakthrough
Despite his difficulties, Mr Mwale enrolled at Columbia University to study electrical engineering and later founded SBA Technologies company. The startup’s concept was to address security in online transactions. SBA Technologies introduced a two-factor biometric authentication system, which meant users could include biometrics as a secondary security feature in addition to usernames and passwords.
According to reports, Julius Mwale raised $2 million (Ksh200 million) in seed capital after marketing the technology, and hired experts from all over the world. After pitching their ideas to local New York leaders, legislation requiring banks to use biometrics was passed. As a result, they gained reputable clients such as the Bank of New York and JP Morgan Chase. SBA Technology received a patent in 2005. This technology was extended to universities and researchers who used his patents to develop biometrics, which is now used worldwide.
Peak of milestones
It’s been milestone after milestone for Mr Julius Mwale, which peaked with the construction of MMTC, which is divided into five sectors: the plaza district, which includes a mall and the Hampton’s hospital; the golf course district, the great district, which primarily focuses on home improvements for the people who live nearby; the airport, and the industrial district, which includes a 10-megawatt solar power plant and a KES 28 billion investment in a data center.
Hampton’s Hospital has a capacity of 5000 beds. Its mission is to provide Kenyans and East Africans with affordable, world-class medical services, relieving them of the burden of traveling abroad for proper medical attention. The hospital has created at least 5000 jobs in addition to providing high-quality medical care. Mwale estimates that the number of employees will reach 20,000 by the end of 2022.
So what drives him to do all these? “When I am gone,” Mr Mwale says, “I want to be judged by the number of lives I transformed.”