Top 25 CEOs setting the business agenda in 2021

From a list of 100 media submissions, it has not been easy ending with only 25 each celebrating each year this magazine has in published. It has been hard work of reading and researching and occasional getting permission from some of you or counter checking some facts to try to ensure accuracy.

By Dr Hanningtone Gaya PHD FIMI(UK) MKIM EBS

The Media is the public watchdog and often the barometer for all actions and omissions. The media also sets the public agenda and mediates the public discourse.

In this second business leaders’ awards issue, the media is bringing to the fore, public acknowledgements of 25 CEOs who have displayed tremendous leadership traits in their respective organizations, in addition to providing time and sterling service to the sectors, industries and institutions they have been made responsible. Beyond this, others have found time to serve the people of Kenya, giving freely their time and wisdom to cushion the life of the ordinary and on occasions very vulnerable members of the national fabric.

Entrepreneurship, like innovations, starts as a small but persistent dream usually past 3.00 am. In the next few nights, the dreams continue to nag past 4.00 am and germinate into sense of purpose, urgent desires to meet needs in the society, in communities and occasionally in solve debilitating environmental problems. At this stage, profitability is latent reason, not the main reason. Enter Peter Njonjo, the CEO and Co-founder of Twiga Foods. His dream has become a largescale solution to solving the plight of small-scale producers and distributors of food in the country and beyond the borders into the larger sub-Saharan Africa.

Most people strive for hard work. Other prefer upscaling themselves in their professions. This, they do meticulously while respecting their professional code of conduct and practice. Instead of disappearing into the thin air, overnight with clients’ money, they have chosen the right path of professional integrity: instituted corporate governance structures that steer them and the organisations they founded to multi-national blue chip company levels with strong brands, with sterling quality products and customer services. Enter Peter Nduati and Edward Kirathe, CEOs and founders of Resolution Insurance and Acorn Holdings respectively. These two operate in very difficult industries with all kinds of poor corporate practices and indulgences. These two are soaring high above the hawks.

Enter Covid-19 pandemic that has been creating havoc on the economic and social life of every Kenyan. The work ethics, energy, innovations, integrity, information, vision and leadership on display by Carole Karuga, Phyllis Wakiaga, Dr Githinji Gitahi and Dr Elizabeth Wala remain ingrained in the heart of Kenyans.

The most affected of all sectors by the entry of SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the Covid-19 disease is the aviation industry. For a new CEO taking over on April 1, 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, keeping the national airline afloat, through quick decision to turnaround the business from passenger to cargo transport as the main business model and subsequently preparing in readiness to distribute the Covid-19 vaccines globally and in particular to Africa makes Allan Kilavuka, the new CEO at Kenya Airways (KQ) a business leader to watch.

Most befitting, of course, are the words of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) Chairman, the amiable, focussed and witty Nicholas (Nik) Nesbitt in congratulating Mohammed Hersi for his latest award as the 2020 Winner Most Influential Digital Leader by, ‘@Mohammed Hersi fantastic recognition for how thoughtfully you share and shape insights into so much more than tourism. Your digital contributions make a big difference in the major discourse in the country. Thank you for always thinking and writing! Keep your digital engines firing away!

In recognition of the role of the public sector as an enabler to business, the BUSINESS MONTHLY magazine awards have been broadened to include CEOs in this sector who have discharged their responsibilities with distinction in improving the business environment. Enter Dr Wilfred Marube, Dr Macharia Irungu and Dr Naim Bilal of the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency (KEPBA) Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) and Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).

Of note, is the Kenya Pipeline Company, the leading state-owned enterprise (SOE) that has been turning a profit in the last 8 years and paying dividends to the National Treasury, in addition to being self-financing for all its capital expenditures, without needing government guarantee when taking out loans for its massive infrastructure undertakings. The KPC is one of the few SOEs that continues to benefit from sustainable good corporate governance practice, benefitting in the last five years from the chairmanship of John Ngumi, a respected corporate, enormously self-confident person possessing copious amounts of drive, determination, energy and will to win.

John, who holds a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from St. Peter’s College, Oxford University, United Kingdom, plays pivotal roles at the intersection of public and private spheres and was recently appointed on August 7, 2020 to chair the board of Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC) with oversight on the boards of Kenya Pipeline, Kenya Railways and Kenya Ports Authority. ICDC is responsible for the management of the State’s investments in ports, rail and pipeline services.

For those never been feted before, this is your time to shine in public. From today, you are marked men and women who have to continue to strive to excel in whatever led you to being noted and outed in the first place. Be humbled. Awards are public endorsements and appreciation.

From a list of 100 media submissions, it has not been easy ending with only 25 each celebrating each year this magazine has in published. It has been hard work of reading and researching and occasional getting permission from some of you or counter checking some facts to try to ensure accuracy.

The final ranking was done by a respectful team of business editors, past and present and a number of partners of leading public relations (PR) firms, editors at The Knowledge Warehouse and TIFA Research led by the MD Margaret Ireri. This is how we ended up with the list of the top 25 CEOs driving business, impacting policies and creating a business environment that is conducive, fair and competitive, while impacting the life of all Kenyans.


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Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Kenya’s Dr Hanningtone Gaya, holds a PhD in Commerce in Business Management from Nelson Mandela University (NMU), is viewed as an authority in country branding and is the founder chairman of the Brand Kenya Board.

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