Top 25 Most Influential CEOs Impacting Business

Rita Kavashe always adds value to boards she sits on and brings high voltage networks, diversity in gender and infuses the often much needed skill set due to her exposure, experience and board background.

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Rita Kavashe

MD/CEO ISUZU EAST AFRICA

Going by the performance of Isuzu East Africa, the lessons from her father have borne fruit. Today, Rita Kavashe is the managing director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the largest commercial motor vehicle assembler in Eastern and Central Africa. Under her wings is a market share of over 44 per cent, up from 15 per cent when Rita Kavashe took over as the MD of the then General Motors East Africa in 2010.

Rita Kavashe holds a bachelor’s degree in Education from Moi University and Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Nairobi (UoN), a Harvard Business School leadership programme certification (2013). Rita is an Executive Coach certified by the Academy of Executive Coach (AOEC) UK. Due to her penchant of walking the talk in corporate governance and instilling ethics in the business she leads, Rita Kavashe is a much sought-after corporate honcho by numerous blue-chip companies, including those listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE).

Rita always adds value to boards she sits on and brings high voltage networks, diversity in gender and infuses the often much needed skill set due to her exposure, experience and board background. As a result, Rita is currently the Chair of the Board of the Kenya Roads Board and a member of the Advisory Board of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA).

Rita Kavashe serves as a member of the Kenya Vision 2030 Delivery Board and the University of Eldoret Endowment Trust Board of Trustees. She is a NonExecutive Director and the Chair of the Boards of Bamburi Cement and BAT Kenya Plc respectively, both firms are listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE). These and other accolades have earned Rita the coveted honour and rightly so, as the Brand Ambassador for The Women on Boards Network, Kenya.

World marathon record holder and Isuzu D-Max Brand Ambassador Eliud Kipchoge (L) with Isuzu EA MD Rita Kavashe (R) present the endorsed one-year partnership agreement at a ceremony held at Isuzu EA Plant on 22nd October, 2020.

Under Rita Kavashe, Isuzu recorded market share of 35.1%, taking market leadership for the 5th consecutive year in 2016. In 2020, the company closed the year with a historic 45.4% market share of new vehicles sold in the country. This success has been driven by the outstanding support of customers and business partners who continue to demonstrate confidence in Isuzu’s enduring legacy.

Isuzu EA’s Assembly Plant on Mombasa Road has a capacity of 14,000 units per year and employs in excess of 5,000 people along the entire Isuzu eco system and has assembled over 100,000 units since the first Isuzu vehicle rolled out of its Nairobi assembly plant in 1977.

“We are greatly honoured and very proud of the Isuzu fraternity that has supported the business to date and propelled us to the number one position in the market with 45.4% market share,” said Rita Kavashe, on the occasion of handing out the 100,000 Isuzu vehicle assembled since 1977 to the lucky customer.

The Isuzu bus is one of the top brands from Isuzu. In the city, in the country side, from home to work, ferrying students, employees and the general public, the bus of first choice is Isuzu. For whatever the destination, whoever the passengers, when it comes to reliable and dependable transportation, one bus features prominently as the number one choice…the ISUZU bus.

The powerful, low emission engines and amazingly low fuel consumption and engine combustion efficiency make the Isuzu buses environmentally friendly. It is avail – able in a number of derivatives, including as a 25-seater, 29-seater, 33-seater, 37-seater, 46-seater and the long-haul King of the Road, the 67-seater.

Isuzu EA, as the leading motor vehicle assembler in the region, has embraced community support initiatives that respond to societal needs. During interactions with customers and other stakeholders over the years, the company has found opportunities to support the community around its operations to the benefit of society and the environment. Isuzu EA’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program continues to sup – port the wellbeing of communities through various initiatives spanning Healthcare, Road safety, Education, and Environment.

Conservation of the environment has been a top priority globally with major focus on forests which support the earth’s ecosystem. In response to the need to increase Kenya’s forest cover from the current 7.4% to 10% by 2030, Isuzu has contributed 3,300 seedlings to the Muumandu forest in Machakos which have been jointly planted by Isuzu staff and the community forest associations. More than 1,000 seedlings have also been planted in Mua Hills and a communi – ty water project completed in Kyaani in Machakos County in 2019.

Access to education continues to be a challenge especially to rural populations that are largely dependent on meagre earnings from subsistence farming. Families living in urban areas who cannot make ends meet due to lack of employment and a reliable income have not been spared either. Isuzu has been extensively involved in the education sector through provision of buses for school transport and has come up with initiatives to give back to the community through education.

Ladies at Isuzu have set aside their own time to provide career guidance, social skills and academic motivation to the Embakasi girls since 2019. 205 girls have to date benefited from the program. The disruption caused by the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020 has brought about challenges in public engagement, public transport and other forms of social interaction.

Personal hygiene was singled out as the first line of defence against the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus, by way of frequent handwashing and use of alcohol sanitizers. Isuzu EA identified a shortage of handwashing facilities in public transport stations and highly populated and disadvantaged informal settlements.

To respond to the need, the company donated 16 1000 litre handwashing stations fully kitted with soap and water for use by the public. These were installed in Mukuru, Mathare, Kayole, Kibra, Mwiki, and Mlolongo. The beneficiaries are thousands of Kenyans comprising of traders, boda boda riders, PSV operators and commuters, living and operating in these densely populated areas. In addition, two buses were donated to the Ministry of Health to help transport frontline health workers. This was closely followed by a Ksh10million donation to the National Covid-19 Fund to support private sector efforts to fight the Covid-19 Pandemic.

MD Rita Kavashe hands over a 1,000 litre hand washing tank to Assistant Chief Charles Wachira and other community leaders at the Kosovo Chief’s camp in Mathare on 17th April, 2020. Isuzu EA has this year donated 16 hand washing tanks to various localities around Nairobi to combat the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic among densely populated and vulnerable communities.

Sports is a potential source of employment and an avenue for social engagement and recreation. In support of sports development in Kenya, Isuzu EA took an interest in the national women’s rugby team popularly known as the ‘Lionesses’ after they won the Africa Women’s Sevens Cup in 2018. The company proposed to reward them with a long-term and sustainable project to enable them establish themselves in life. The result was a two-year ‘Lionesses Arise’ CSR project sponsored by Isuzu EA and facilitated by the KCDF.

The goal of the project is to improve the livelihoods of the ladies through economic empowerment, and prepare them for life beyond their active sport career of rugby.

Since 2019, when the project began, 29 ladies have undergone training and graduated in 2020 after completing the first phase on Life Skills. The second phase focused on business skills development and commenced this year. Isuzu EA is proud to have been associated with the women’s rugby team that flew the Kenya flag at the recent Tokyo Olympics in July 2021.

2nd December, 2020: The graduating Lionesses team leaders with MD Rita Kavashe, KCDF CEO Janet Mawiyoo and Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) officials. Seated from L-R: Moses Ndale, Director KRU, Geoffrey Gangla, Chairman KRU, Rita Kavashe, Janet Mawiyoo, and Paula Lanco, Rugby Afrique Executive Committee Member & Chairperson, Women’s Rugby Advisory Committee.

In 2021, Isuzu EA signed an MoU with the NTSA to develop information and communication video clips from the Highway Code for online dissemination to road users on safety, good behaviour and responsibility when on the roads. The videos are available online and in driving training schools to support attitude change on road safety.

However, it is inevitable that accidents do happen due to human error or other extraneous circumstances leading to injury, damage to property and at times the tragic loss of life. To mitigate the impact, Isuzu EA supported the establishment of a pilot emergency response centre last year in Naivasha along the Nairobi – Nakuru highway next to the Delamare Centre.

Isuzu EA MD Rita Kavashe plants a tree at Muumandu hills in November 2020.

Working with ‘Nurse in Hand’ a donor supported organization, Isuzu EA funded the construction of the Naivasha Centre as a base for a rapid response team of paramedics that can be deployed rapidly to a scene of an accident on motor bikes. The primary function of this rescue centre is to get to the accident scene faster and stabilise accident victims before onward transportation to hospitals via ambulances.

The ‘Nurse in Hand’ team has trained paramedics on standby to help save lives and minimize the risk to casualties. Isuzu invested Ksh 3million to build the pilot response centre in Naivasha and digitally linked it to public service vehicles drivers and boda boda riders. Through a digitally enabled bracelet, the transport operators can send out an alert when an accident occurs in their vicinity. The system is capable of pin-pointing the exact location to guide the rescue teams.

These, and much more, are the hallmarks of the genial corporate top honcho, Rita Kavashe, MBS, AoEC. Rita Kavashe is recognized as 2022 Business Monthly East Africa Top 25 Most Influential CEO Impacting Business.

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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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