Rita Kavashe, MBS
BOARD CHAIR – BAT KENYA
In September 2020, Ms Rita Kavashe, Managing Director (MD) of Isuzu East Africa, was appointed Chair of the British American Tobacco (BAT) Kenya Board. Since taking up the position, Ms Kavashe has continued to deliver firstrate leadership, as BAT progresses towards its renewed purpose of ‘Building A Better Tomorrow’, for its shareholders and the community at large.
Last year saw BAT Kenya achieve a strong performance, despite the tough operating environment characterised by inflation, recurrent excise tax increments, prolonged drought affecting plantations, and the weighty pressure on consumer purchasing power.
Effective leadership, sustained investment in its people, a customer-obsessed brand portfolio, cost efficiencies and productive trade partnerships enabled the pioneer consumer goods business to remain competitive.
BAT Kenya reported a 6.3 percent net profit growth, from KES 6.48 billion to KES 6.89 billion, in the year ended December 2022, recording an improved performance for the third year in a row. Total revenue rose by eight percent, from KES 25.43 billion to KES 27.38 billion, driven by growth in export volumes and a pricing benefit on domestic and export sales.
The Board of Directors, headed by Ms Kavashe, proposed to pay BAT Kenya shareholders a final dividend of KES 52 per share. When added to the interim dividend already paid, it brings the total payout to KES 57 per share, the highest BAT Kenya has ever paid in its history. The total dividend payout amounts to KES 5.7 billion, up from KES 5.35 billion in 2022.
Looking towards sustainability, BAT Kenya is accelerating the transformation of its business and industry. The company is on a path of offering a range of enjoyable, viable and responsibly marketed products in nicotine and beyond, reducing the health and environmental impacts of its business, and raising standards for everyone across its value chain.
BAT Kenya continues to create a purposeful place to work for its employees and deliver superior and sustainable returns for its shareholders. At the same time, the company remains committed to ensuring robust corporate governance across the business.
In 2022, BAT Kenya bagged a myriad of awards. During the Energy Management Awards (EMAs) 2022 themed #PathwayToNetZero, BAT Kenya’s sustainability efforts were recognised, with its Green Leaf Threshing Plant (GLTP) in Thika receiving an award in the Thermal Energy Savings category.
Additionally, the Top Employers Institute recently named the company a ‘Top Employer in Kenya and Africa’ for the fifth consecutive time, during a virtual award ceremony. The Top Employers Institute certification is based on an extensive review of employer practices across six human resource domains and 20 topics, including People Strategy, Work Environment, Talent Acquisition, Learning, Well-being, Diversity and Inclusion.
At the 10th Accenture Gender Mainstreaming Awards 2022, BAT Kenya was a category winner for Women Empowerment in the Workplace – East Africa, and a second finalist for Mainstreaming Gender and Disability.
As a responsible corporation, the firm is continuing to call for increased resources and enforcement to be deployed by the Government, against illicit trade in tobacco products. BAT Kenya noted that between November 2021 and November 2022, excise tax rates increased by 21.3 percent, piling pressure on consumers. This has subsequently increased illicit trade in tax-evaded cigarettes. Third-party research illustrates that illicit trade is now at 26 percent, denying KRA about KES 6.5 billion in tax remittance annually due to a shrinking legitimate market.
Guided by Rita’s vast enterprise knowledge, BAT Kenya remains on a fortified journey towards achieving its targets, with its Health, Environment, Social and Governance (HESG) agenda at the centre of its business.
In 2022, BAT Kenya re-entered the tobacco-free oral nicotine category, necessitating the company’s KES 2.5 billion investment in a new tobacco-free oral nicotine pouches factory in Nairobi. This undoubtedly supports the Government’s manufacturing and exports agenda.
Away from her role at the BAT Kenya Board, Ms Kavashe is a sought-after thought leader who prevails in a male-domineered top board leadership realm. She has held key board positions, including as Chair of the Kenya Roads Board, Non-Executive Director of Bamburi Cement Limited (Lafarge Group), Vice Chair of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and a Member of the Kenya Vision 2030 Delivery Board.
In terms of her education, Rita has a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) degree from Moi University in Eldoret, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Nairobi (UoN). She attended the prestigious Harvard Business School Leadership Programme in 2013.
In 2017, Ms Kavashe was awarded the Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear (MBS), by HE Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, for her exceptional service to Kenya as a business leader.
Naturally, Rita is a Champion of the Women on Boards Network (WOBN). She is an executive coach, certified by the Academy of Executive Coaches (AOEC), in the United Kingdom (UK). Ms Kavashe uses her credentials to mentor both young girls and fellow women, to inspire them to reach their acmes, both in life and career trajectory.