Top 25 Most Impactful Women in Corporate Communications

Nelly’s impressive career trajectory spans across various positions in esteemed multinational corporations, where she has meticulously honed her networking skills and expertise critical in stakeholder engagements.




“My purpose is to find young people who are hungry enough and give them a platform to change the world in their own way,” declares Nelly Wainaina in her cool and poised personality. With a profound passion for Africa, Nelly possesses close to 25 years of Brand Marketing experience in both local and international organisations shaping corporate communication narratives.

Nelly currently holds the position of Group Director – Marketing, Communication, and Citizenship at NCBA one of the Leading Financial Services firms in Africa. In this capacity, she plays a crucial role in leading the development of brand and communication strategies. She oversees the formulation and execution of Brand awareness initiatives and corporate communication affairs through multiple stakeholder management. Additionally, Nelly takes the lead in creating value-driven citizenship and sponsorship programs, which contribute to the bank’s positive impact on the community and foster meaningful connections with stakeholders. Demonstrating tunnel focus, she aligns NCBA’s initiatives with its overarching goals, driving growth, and enhancing brand visibility through strategic acumen and unwavering dedication.

Nelly’s motivation originates from her upbringing as the eldest child largely raised by a single mother, where adversity and a keen sense of responsibility acted as the catalysts for her growth. Every morning, she rises with the firm belief that success is not an option but a must, propelling her unwavering pursuit of excellence in every aspect of her life.

After her time at the renowned Alliance Girls High School and with a plan to pursue a career in Finance, Nelly embarked on her academic journey at Strathmore University (then Strathmore College), where she pursued Certified Public Accountant (CPA) studies. Following this, she proceeded to the University of Nairobi (UoN), graduating with a Bachelor of Economics degree.

As life is not a straight line, Nelly would stumble upon marketing as a career while in University through AIESEC – a student’s organisation interested in Business and Economics – which led her to further her studies with a postgraduate Diploma at the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).

Years later, recognising the importance of building the right type of leaders for Africa in the 21st Century, Nelly sought to refine her skills at the African Leadership University (ALU) Business School in Kigali, Rwanda, where she earned her Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree with a specialised focus on Leadership.

Nelly’s impressive career trajectory spans across various positions in esteemed multinational corporations, where she has meticulously honed her networking skills and expertise critical in stakeholder engagements. Beginning as a Brand Assistant at Mondelēz International, she gained invaluable hands-on experience in media, product promotions, and the establishment of new trade channels. Advancing to Brand Manager and Marketing Manager roles in East Africa at Reckitt Benckiser, provided opportunities for Nelly to build her proficiency in strategy implementation, product innovation, and spearheading corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, such as the Dettol Heart Run. During her subsequent tenure at the same company as a Category Marketing Manager in both East and West Africa based in Nigeria, Nelly adeptly managed brand portfolio planning, facilitated market share growth, and orchestrated successful product launches.

Successful communication requires multicultural leadership capabilities that bring together collaborative efforts from diverse individuals. This is the wealth of experience Nelly was equipped with by venturing into positions in South Africa and Switzerland with Colgate-Palmolive. Nelly would then join Coca-Cola, where she further enriched her leadership skills: facilitating portfolio development and execution of marketing strategy together with Franchise and Bottling operations across Africa.

uFacing her best challenge yet at the post-merger brand NCBA, Nelly has risen to the occasion, and as quickly as fish would take to the water, she demonstrates her expertise and capabilities. NCBA’s brand equity has been significantly enhanced, cementing Nelly’s position as probably East Africa’s top corporate communications honcho.

 Nelly’s professional sojourn has taken her to more than 40 countries, with each destination enriching her global perspective and moulding her into the visionary leader she is today.

 She has received numerous accolades throughout her career, including being honoured as a Global Award Winner of the Colgate Chairman and CEO You Can Make a Difference Award in 2014, and being recognised as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Women in Kenya in 2010. Additionally, Nelly was voted among the Top 25 Most Influential Women in Marketing Impacting Businesses in 2022 by Business Monthly East Africa.

 Beyond her executive roles, Nelly has contributed her expertise to various boards and led numerous women’s leadership initiatives, championing empowerment and equality in the workplace and beyond.

 Nelly revels in a loving and committed relationship, embodying multifaceted roles as a mum of the future, a cherished aunt, a proud pastor’s daughter, a loyal friend, a nurturing firstborn, a resilient cancer survivor, a supportive sister, and a guiding mentor. Her passions extend beyond her personal connections to include indulging in enriching travel experiences, communing with nature, particularly walks in Karura Forest in Nairobi, Kenya, and occasionally savouring the delightful complexities of fine red wine.

 Her journey underscores key career insights: Hard work leads to success, the importance of visibility, the evolving nature of career goals and the commonality of facing challenges. These lessons, grounded in sheer grit, resilience, agility and adaptability, shape Nelly’s role in corporate communication, crafting a narrative of dynamism, a growth mindset and enhanced brand equity.


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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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