Top 25 Most Impactful Chairs of Boards 2024

Francis’s commitment to environmental stewardship serves as a cornerstone in his role as Chair of Serena Hotels, where he ensures strict adherence to matters of Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices.




 As Chair of Serena Hotels in East Africa, overseeing a portfolio of luxury resorts, safari lodges, and hotels traded as Tourism Promotion Services (TPS) Eastern Africa on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), Francis Okello exudes a wealth of knowledge and experience.

 A charming man with a captivating smile, his confidence shines through, adding a charismatic touch to his leadership style.

 His diverse professional interests span Business Management, Leadership, and Environmental Issues, particularly in the realm of Environment and Sustainable Development, showcasing his versatility. This breadth of expertise has earned recognition through various publications and lectures.

Francis’s commitment to environmental stewardship serves as a cornerstone in his role as Chair of Serena Hotels, where he ensures strict adherence to matters of Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices. Under his esteemed guidance, Serena Hotels actively engages in monitoring and respecting the interests of local communities, preserving traditions and cultures. The hotel group champions responsible energy conservation, emphasising waste reduction, sewage control, and the reduction of harmful substances. Further, Serena is unwavering in its dedication to preserving environmentally protected areas, species, and scenic beauty. The commitment extends to enhancing landscapes with indigenous plant materials, exemplifying a prioritisation of conservation over the exploitation of nature.

 Hailing from the picturesque Nyangera Daho Village in Siaya County, Francis obtained his education in Western Kenya. He attended Maranda Secondary School, distinguished for its academic excellence.

 A Lawyer by profession, Francis holds a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) Honours Degree from the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.

 He is an Albert Parvin Fellow of Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (formerly Woodrow Wilson School) at Princeton University, and a Fellow of The Kenya Institute of Bankers (FKIB). It is worthy to note that he was among the first ten Kenyans to receive the recognition of FKIB, which is the banking industry’s highest honour.

 Previously, Francis chaired the Board of Directors of Absa Bank Kenya (formerly Barclays Bank of Kenya) from 2005 to 2016. His journey continued as an Independent Non-Executive Director of Absa Group in 2014 and Absa Bank (South Africa) in 2020. In these roles, Francis chaired the Board’s Social, Sustainability, and Ethics Committee and the Directors Affairs Committee. He stepped down in 2023 following the end of his term, but remains on the Absa Africa Foundation Advisory Board.

 Francis also serves as a Non-Executive Director of the Nation Media Group (NMG), where he chairs the Group’s Editorial Board Committee. Additionally, he contributed to the Strathmore Business School and the Aga Khan University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences – East Africa from 2010 to 2022.

 Beyond boardrooms, Francis served as a Trustee on the Board of Trustees of the President’s Award – Kenya (PA-K) from 2006 to 2018. PA-K, affiliated with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award International Association, focuses on youth empowerment.

 Now, engaging with the youth, he runs an informal mentoring and coaching program in Nairobi, guiding promising professionals and entrepreneurs.

 Between 2009 and 2012, Francis worked as a Consultant Volunteer with the Centre for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP), a distinguished faculty within the University of Nairobi (UoN). This postgraduate centre of excellence is designed to cultivate essential human skills in Environmental Law and Policy, to enhance Environmental Governance and contribute to the formulation of impactful environmental policies in Kenya and beyond.

 Francis briefly held the position of Chair at the Kenya Institute of Bankers (KIB) from 1996 to 1997. This tenure, along with his exceptional contributions to KIB, led to his recognition as a Fellow of the Institute.

 In acknowledgment of his exceptional and distinguished contributions to the nation across various roles and responsibilities, Francis was honoured with the Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear (MBS) by His Excellency Hon. Mwai Kibaki on December 12, 2008.

 In a peer review conducted by The Nairobi Law Monthly (Vol 1-Issue No: 2) and published in November 2010, Francis was recognised as one of Kenya’s 50 most influential lawyers.

 Further highlighting his outstanding service to the nation in various capacities, Francis received another national award, the Elder of the Order of the Burning Spear (EBS), bestowed upon him by His Excellency Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta on June 1, 2022.

 Currently, Francis is the Executive Director (ED) at Industrial Promotion Services Group of Companies (IPS), an affiliate of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED). 

 Francis finds joy in the rhythm of good music and the art of dance, showcasing his vibrant spirit. He is a skilled swimmer, effortlessly navigating the waters with finesse.


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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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