Top 25 Most Impactful Chairs of Boards 2024

Charles embodies a commitment to exceptional corporate governance and ethical practices that drive business growth.

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CHARLES MUCHENE

CHAIR ABSA BANK KENYA PLC

Charles Muchene, 66, is a pivotal figure in Kenya’s corporate scene, having held significant leadership roles – both in executive management as well as board levels – in leading companies over the last three decades. He has contributed enormously to the development of leaders in the business sector in Kenya, with many of the current business leaders across all industries having undergone training or mentoring from him over that period.

At Absa Bank Kenya, he was appointed to the Board in August 2016 and assumed the role of Chair in October of the same year.

Charles embodies a commitment to exceptional corporate governance and ethical practices that drive business growth. His leadership and influence have been central in Absa’s recent milestones, the most notable of which was the company’s successful brand transition to Absa in 2020 – the biggest brand transition ever experienced in Kenya. This was a major milestone with several thousand touchpoints to be managed, with the bank coming out of it unscathed, delivering the successful separation in time, within budget and without disrupting customer experience.

The transition was achieved amidst a complex operating environment that featured a fast-evolving competitive landscape, changes in the regulatory environment, as well as a global crisis – the Covid-19 pandemic – which Absa navigated with resilience, emerging not just as a strong financial institution but as a beacon of hope, responsibility and compassion.

Under his leadership, in 2017, the bank rolled out its five-year strategy focused on growth, transformation, and returns, realigning Absa as a growth-focused business that is deeply attuned to stakeholder needs. The strategy was executed with diligence, propelling Absa’s growth in market share and delivering unparalleled efficiency and returns, a sterling reputation among external stakeholders and increased pride and dedication among employees. In 2023, the board approved a refreshed strategy for the next five years designed to deliver outperformance and increased market share growth. 

It is guided by Charles’ chairmanship that Absa embraced Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles and placed sustainability at the centre of its strategic and operational imperatives. As such, all three of the bank’s strategic business drivers – becoming a modern-day consumer financial services business, a market leader in business banking, and transforming into the leading corporate and investment bank in connecting ecosystems – are intricately linked to the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). As a result of these efforts, Absa was in November 2023 named the Best Bank in Sustainable Finance at the Kenya Bankers Association’s (KBA) Sustainable Finance Initiative (SFI) Catalyst Awards.

Under Charles’ direction, Absa has maintained a high ranking among organisations that adhere to the highest standards of corporate governance and ethics, as well as transparency in making disclosures to its stakeholders. For example, the bank was awarded in the Governance and Integrated Reporting Categories at the 2023 Financial Reporting (FiRe) Awards.

Beyond Absa, Charles serves as an independent non-executive director for various boards, including his Chairmanship at AIG Kenya. His past tenures on boards like East African Breweries (EABL) and Stanbic Holdings led to remarkable growth, strategic expansions, and job creation across various sectors.

For instance, during his tenure as EABL Chair, he facilitated the buy-back of Kenya Breweries’ (KBL) 20 percent stake, previously sold to South African Breweries. Additionally, he oversaw the expansion of the company’s operations in Tanzania through the acquisition of Serengeti Breweries (SBL), as well as the establishment of an environmentally friendly Senator Keg brewery in Kisumu, extending operations into Western Kenya. This latter initiative paved the way for sorghum farming in Western Kenya, resulting in the creation of over 100,000 jobs across the value chain.

As the inaugural Country Senior Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) after the Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand merger, Charles spearheaded the integration of both practices into a unified, distinguished entity. This process aimed to establish a cohesive culture and a robust, influential brand within Kenya. By the conclusion of his term, the firm had ascended to become the preeminent professional services entity in the country.

Charles’ engagement extends to pivotal technical leadership roles at the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK), where he previously chaired both the Professional Standards Committee and the Financial Services Committee. His contributions were integral in shaping and interpreting accounting standards in Kenya.

Additionally, he collaborated closely with regulatory bodies such as the Capital Markets Authority (CMA), the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), and the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA), specifically focusing on industry-specific disclosure standards and regulatory matters.

Charles has also in the past actively contributed as an examiner and moderator for professional accounting examinations in both Kenya and Lesotho, further solidifying his commitment to fostering excellence within the accounting profession.

Charles is a Member of the Institute of Directors of Kenya (IoD-K), the Institute of Certified Secretaries (ICS), and a Fellow of ICPAK, with a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) degree with Honours from the University of Nairobi (UoN).

Outside his professional sphere, Charles enjoys reading, travel, mentorship, and spending time with his wife, two adult daughters and his lovely granddaughter.

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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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