Top 25 Most Impactful Chairs of Boards 2024

In 2023, Airtel, under Louis’ leadership, marked substantial progress, increasing its market share from 27.2 percent to 28.2 percent, resulting in a customer surge to 18,932,398.

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LOUIS ONYANGO OTIENO

CHAIR AIRTEL KENYA

Taking on the role of Board Chair for Airtel Kenya in 2022, Louis Otieno Onyango guides the telecommunications giant, strengthening its standing as the nation’s second-largest and leading telco.

In 2023, Airtel, under Louis’ leadership, marked substantial progress, increasing its market share from 27.2 percent to 28.2 percent, resulting in a customer surge to 18,932,398. Mobile money subscriptions concurrently reached 38.1 million, with a penetration rate of 75.2 percent, reflecting a 0.1 percentage point increase from the previous quarter.

 Notably, the launch of Airtel’s 5G network in July 2023 marked a significant milestone. Plans unveiled in November of the same year indicated an ambitious expansion strategy, aiming to deploy an additional 100 5G sites across the country by year-end. This expansion increased the network’s reach from 180 to 221 wards and from 15 to 32 counties. Post-rollout, Airtel’s 5G presence now spans key regions, with ongoing efforts to extend this technological advancement to all counties. This strategic initiative is aligned with Airtel Kenya’s commitment to ensuring broader accessibility, allowing more Kenyan individuals, homes, and businesses to leverage the limitless possibilities offered by the 5G network.

 With over three decades of experience as a business and Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) leader, Louis has amassed a distinctive range of experiences spanning both public and private sector decision-making in both the United States (US) and Africa. His extensive background fuels a deep-seated passion for leveraging ICT for developmental purposes.

 Louis earned his Bachelor of Science (BSc.) degree with Magna Cum Laude Honours in Computer Information Systems from Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York (NY), with a minor in Business Administration. Subsequently, he pursued and successfully completed his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in Business Administration at Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY.

 He embarked on his professional journey in the US, ascending to the position of Assistant Vice President at EEC Financial Services in New York and New Jersey. In this role, he played a pivotal role in orchestrating IT systems integration during the firm’s expansion through mergers and acquisitions.

 Returning to Africa in 1997, Louis assumed leadership roles for Microsoft’s expansion across West, East, Central Africa, and the Indian Ocean Islands, based in Nairobi and Johannesburg. Holding senior positions such as Director for Marketing, Business Operations, Enterprise Sales groups, and serving as General Manager (GM) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for East and Southern Africa, he drove some of the company’s most rapid global business growth.

 In 2013, Louis became a Founding Director of Microsoft 4Afrika, a strategic initiative focused on propelling Africa’s economic growth and global competitiveness. He championed innovation, including leveraging TV Spectrum for high-speed, affordable broadband connectivity in underserved rural areas. Additionally, Louis played a crucial role in anticipating and influencing ICT policies at regional levels, collaborating with organisations such as the African Union (AU), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

 Having held esteemed leadership positions, Louis is a former President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Kenya. His influence extends as an ICT and private sector advisor to the Presidents of Tanzania, Uganda, and Mozambique.

 Louis’ commitment to national development is evident through his service on various boards, including Kenya’s Vision 2030, Enablis (East Africa), Red Media Africa (Nigeria), Fintech International, and the COMESA Business Council. Currently, he contributes his expertise to the boards of Nation Media Group (NMG) and Absa Bank Kenya (as Chair of Absa Asset Management).

 Driven by an innate passion for Africa, Louis takes on a mentorship role for emerging professionals, many of whom have risen to leadership positions in prominent ICT companies across the continent. He emphatically asserts that the power of African innovation extends far beyond regional borders, emphasising its potential to catalyse transformative change on a global scale.

 His distinguished career in ICT is marked by prestigious accolades. Notable achievements at Microsoft include the CELA EMEA Star in 2014, the WECA Leadership Award in 2012, and the Africans@Microsoft Leadership Award in 2011. Recognised globally, he received the Circle of Excellence in 2008 and 2004. Additionally, in 2023 Louis was recognised by the prestigious Business Monthly EA among the Top 25 Most Impactful Chairs of Boards Influencing Business.

 Beyond advancing ICT for development, Louis actively contributes to youth and social development. His involvement spans innovative farming, and initiatives to construct dormitories, classrooms, and ICT labs in rural Kenya. Additionally, he serves as the Patron of the Kisumu Rugby Football Club (RFC).

 Louis’ influence transcends professional roles, evident in his publications. For example, in 2017, he delved into the intersection of Africa and intellectual property rights with a thought-provoking article titled ‘Africa and intellectual property rights: Where do we stand?’

 Louis is married and has four daughters, bringing joy and fulfilment to his personal life.

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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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