Top 25 Most Influential CEOs Impacting Business

Crispin Achola is a seasoned and versatile business leader who was appointed to lead BAT’s business in East Africa in January 2021, making history as the first Kenyan in the role.


Crispin Achola


“Leading the transformation of BAT’s business in East Africa over the last year has been quite exciting and rewarding…”

Crispin Achola was featured in our June 2021 Edition – Top 25 Most Transformative Leaders. Given the milestones under his belt thus far, we shine a spotlight on him once again, as one of the 2022 Business Monthly East Africa Top 25 Most Influential CEOs Impacting Business.

Crispin is a seasoned and versatile business leader who was appointed to lead BAT’s business in East Africa in January 2021, making history as the first Kenyan in the role. He joined BAT in 1999 and earned his way up the ladder in various roles and markets within the Company, before his departure in 2017, and subsequent return, at the helm of the business in 2021. Over the past year, Crispin has spearheaded various initiatives as part of the BAT’s purpose to ‘Build A Better Tomorrow ‘TM.

According to him, key focus has been on advocating for a sustainable regulatory environment for alternative tobacco- free nicotine products, accelerating BAT’s Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) agenda and developing talent in an enabling internal environment that allows them to achieve their full potential.

“BAT has a long and proud history of sustainability achievements, but today, we are transitioning from being a business where sustainability has always been important, to one where it is front and centre in all that we do. While we are clear that reducing the health impact of our business is our principal focus area, we remain committed to driving environmental excellence, delivering a positive social impact and ensuring robust corporate governance across the Business.

“At the center of this ambition, are our People. The quality of our people is a major reason why we have been able to build a resilient business and navigate one of the biggest challenges of our time, the COVID-19 Pandemic. As such, we continue to enhance efforts to build a purposeful place to work, for which we have received local and global recognition, including being certified as a Top Employer four times in a row (2018 to 2021) by the global Top Employers Institute.

“On the back of our overriding priority to keep our People safe during the COVID- 19 Pandemic, I am privileged to have overseen a collaborative initiative with the Ministry of Health and industry bodies such as the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), to facilitate COVID-19 vaccination for our employees and local communities, in the environment we do business.

“On the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) front, we made bold steps in 2021 and aim to enhance this in 2022. In fostering inclusivity, BAT continues to respect and to value difference and will continuously work to build a supportive and engaging culture, now and for posterity.

We think of diversity and inclusion in its broadest sense, as those attributes that make each one of us unique. We have made good progress in several D&I areas, such as women’s empowerment (with women comprising over 40% of our total workforce), age, cultural and social backgrounds, amongst others. My goal is to get the representation of women in our workforce up to 50% in the medium-term.

“I am particularly proud of the gains we have made in strengthening our commitment to building a disability-inclusive workplace. Last year, we became members of the Kenya Business and Disability Network (KBDN), which speaks to our strategic goal to increase representation of Persons with Disabilities in our employee population to 5% by 2025. We believe that this collaboration will be instrumental in driving an expert approach to achieving our D&I goals and ultimately, build A Better Tomorrow. In the same year, we also launched the Women@BAT (WIB) network in our East Africa markets. WIB is a self-governed global network of BAT individuals who are passionate about diversity, engaging and championing women to realise their full potential.”

Crispin’s visionary leadership within the realm of environmental conservation received a deserving nod, when BAT Kenya bagged five awards at the 2021 Energy Management Awards (EMA). The EMA is an annual event championed by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), to recognise enterprises that have made significant and sustainable gains in energy efficiency.

BAT Kenya’s Nairobi manufacturing factory was named the overall winner, whilst their Green Leaf Threshing plant in Thika took the Overall Best Runners up award. Other accolades received include: Thermal Energy Savings award, Innovation and Best Practice award and the Best Energy Management Team award. In the area of the circular economy, BAT Kenya is part of the team that is shaping Kenya’s first Extended Producer Responsibility Regulation, through KAM.

Internally, as part of its reduce, recycle, and reuse programme, the Company rolled out an initiative dubbed ‘Give & Take’, where the BAT Kenya’s staff collected and recycled approximately one tonne of old branded company collateral and clothing, following its transition to a new corporate identity.

Under Crispin’s stewardship, BAT Kenya has also been feted as a frontrunner in innovation and technology. In November last year, the Company emerged the overall winner at the Africa CI0 100 Awards 2021. The technology content and insights awards aim to recognise and celebrate leaders and businesses driving change in their organisations through technology. BAT Kenya also received two “Gold mark’ awards for innovation in manufacturing. Just like any transformational leader, Crispin has earned his stripes by fighting his share of battles and coming out successful.

“BAT operates in a dynamic and challenging external environment. Our biggest concern is the current unsustainable fiscal environment characterised by unpredictable excise hikes, which result in unintended consequences such as illicit trade. In 2021, the incidence of illicit trade in tobacco products worryingly sat at approximately 23% and 28% in Kenya and Uganda respectively. To address this, we are collaborating with the relevant authorities, including the Kenya and Uganda Revenue Authorities who are making significant effort to curb the menace – to contribute to a sustainable regulatory and fiscal environment which supports socio-economic growth and development.”

Looking ahead, Crispin intimates that he is determined to see Kenya and the region, benefit from BAT’s evolved strategy and the exciting possibilities it brings. The Company has set ambitious ESG targets which it believes, makes it well poised to deliver its strategy and purpose.

“We are accelerating our transformation journey on various fronts. On the environment, BAT plans to be carbon neutral across its operations by 2030, reduce water withdrawal by 35% and water recycled to 15% by 2025 as well as make plastic packaging 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. From a social aspect, the company targets to achieve 50/50 gender balance in both senior positions and the entire organisation, by 2025.

“We believe that the future of our business is only as promising as the safeguards we put in place today. I am privileged to be leading a team that shares and embraces the same values as I do, which leaves me, with no doubt, that together, we can build the enterprise of the future. Away from business, Crispin is this year set to complete his master’s degree in Business Administration at Strathmore University.

“It has been challenging balancing work, family and studies; however, it has also been quite fulfilling. And I must say that this has only been possible due to an unwavering support system comprising my wife Mercy and son Sean, as well as an enabling work environment and a very capable leadership team.

“As we step into 2022, I look forward to even more exciting days as a leader, as I continue to navigate the future with both confidence and determination, to build a Better Tomorrow for BAT and its stakeholders.”


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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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