Flora Wanjiru Mutahi
CHAIR OF BOARD: ANTI PIRACY AND COUNTERFEIT AGENCY
Joining the leadership role of the Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) from being the chair of the Kenya Association of Manufactures (KAM) is one of the hardest leadership tests in her career life since she was largely involved in the private sector.
Mrs. Mutahi was the first female chair of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers board since its inception in 1959, a position she held from July 2016 to 2018 when she joined the Anti-Counterfeit Authority.
During her tenure as chair of KAM, she initiated a private-sector led advocacy initiatives that focused on improving and championing business competitiveness and conducive environment for trade in the country.
Since taking the position of the chair of the ACA, Flora has been at the forefront of instilling a service mentality within the authority. To make the authority a service-oriented government agency in the 21st century, her first role was to bring together all stakeholders right from the private sector, government agencies and the consumer bodies into a partnership in the war against counterfeits.
Through her advocacy skills, the government realized that to curb all forms of illicit trade, it required the coordinated efforts of different government agencies. This led to the formation of the inter-agency anti-illicit trade executive forum and technical working group (the Multi Agency Team for combating illicit trade) in July 2018.
The Committee came up with ‘The National Action Plan and Implementation Framework to Combat Illicit Trade 2019/2020 – 2021/2022’. The team comprises of the State Department of Trade, Kenya Police, Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Bureau of Standards, The Anti-Counterfeit Authority, The Pharmacy and Poisons Board, The Kenya Copyright Board, Pest Control Products Board, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service among others.
Critical to the enforcement effort, the need to address the demand side of illicit trade was formulated. It came up with public outreach framework dubbed the “Multi Agency Anti-Illicit Trade Outreach”—(MAAITO) for public outreach programs coupled with leveraging different types of media including; social media (Twitter, Facebook), live chats (#kuwalegit chat platform), TVs, radio stations, print media and others, to pass the message.
Flora Mutahi’s success areas in the last three years after its formation in April 2018, the team seized illicit goods worth over Ksh13 billion across the country.
Illicit Goods worth over Ksh2.8 Billion have since been destroyed with the rest still in courts awaiting determination. Notable support has come from none other than HE President Uhuru Kenyatta participation in July 2018, where illicit goods worth Ksh1.6 Billion were destroyed in Athi-River, in Machakos County under multi-agency formation.
From the outreach efforts, over 225 judiciary officers have been trained on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property. This was done with support from the judiciary training institute (JTI) and US department of homeland security & customs border protection (CBP) and joint operation centre (JOC) training with the border management committee (BMC). The authority has also trained over 300 senior police officer station commanders at the Kiganjo Police College and over 1000 enforcing agencies in all major towns and entry points.
The multi-agency team, through funding from Trade Mark East Africa undertook the first Kenya’s national baseline survey on the extent of illicit trade. According to the survey conducted between October 2019 and February 2020, the government revenue lost in 2018 stood at Kes 102.99 billion up from Kes 101.23 billion in 2017.
Mrs Mutahi attributes her success as chair of ACA as an outcome of partnership and stakeholder support. We sought and responded to every stakeholder input towards making Kenya a counterfeit free country.
Back in the 1990s, Flora Muhahi noticed a gap in the fiercely competitive tea manufacturing, branding and packaging industry, and with little relevant background she decided to launch Melvin Marsh International, building a tea company from scratch.
Within the Melvin Teas label, Flora’s company produces flavored and herbally infused teas, which are sold not only in Kenya but around sub-Saharan Africa and indeed beyond in global markets.
In 2015 the company launched Melvin’s Tea House, with the aim of capturing the wider consumer market and making tea an “Out of home” refreshment. There is a plan to roll out many more outlets.
Melvin Marsh International has metamorphosed into a fully-fledged food processing company that blends and packages Kenyan tea, salt and rice products under the brand name Melvin’s, with Melvin, as a household brand, being the largest flavored tea company in Kenya.
A keen student of strategic management, Flora has structured Melvin Marsh International into a mature professional organization, complete with an independent board of directors to oversee and strengthen management and infuse strategic thinking and best practice in corporate governance and business ethics. As a result, Melvin Marsh International has scooped several awards such as the Top 100, Fire awards for financial reporting, and most promising entrepreneur.
Flora’s visionary nature saw her diversify into the real estate sector, under the name AZIZI Realtors, with an initial focus in and around Lavington. AZIZI Realtors deals in sales, rentals and property management.
Flora herself is of course an entrepreneur, but one who has gone way beyond what most business founders invest in by way of their own personal development. Her outstanding character has led her to acquire extensive local as well as international experience in practical strategic leadership and in business development—including in how to penetrate new international markets. She has a proven ability to innovate, conceptualize and implement new product development.
Flora remembers that “back in the 1990s, everyone thought you should choose a profession, like a doctor or a nurse. Business was for those people unable to find careers.” But given her own life journey since then she now spends much of her time advising young people to become business women and men as their first choice. For sure, when she was chairperson of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) (the first woman to hold that hitherto male-dominated position), under her leadership the body tried very hard to attract SME business owners in the manufacturing sector so they could be nurtured by KAM.
She is a passionate mentor, particularly relishing the opportunity to uplift women entrepreneurs and to help them prosper in the still male-dominated manufacturing sector. To cushion the upcoming women entrepreneurs from the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, Flora established the Melvin’s mentorship program in 2020. So far, 30 women have benefitted.
While she was chair of KAM, Flora spearheaded a new chapter for Women in Manufacturing (WIM) – whose current chairperson she is – whose mission is to encourage more women to join the sector.
Flora earned an MBA degree from the University of Cape Town, following her BSc degree in Finance and Accounting from the UK. She is also well grounded in corporate governance, having attended several training programmes on the subject, including with the Centre for Corporate Governance. And she holds a post-graduate diploma in Executive Business Coaching.
Flora also sits on the boards of the Kenya chapter of the UN Global Compact Kenya and in New York, of KEPSA (through having chaired KAM), and SBM Bank Kenya.
She is married to Mutahi Wariithi, an accomplished architect and co-founder with her of AZIZI Realtors. They are blessed with three children, and to take her mind off business, she enjoys playing golf and travelling.