Top 25 Most Transformative Leaders Impacting Business

Judging from his detailed account of his vision for BAT in East Africa, it is obvious that Crispin Achola is glad to be back at BAT and has embraced his new role with vigour.


Crispin Achola


“I am excited to be leading the transformation of BAT’s business in East Africa and building the enterprise of the future to deliver a better tomorrow.”

Crispin Achola

Crispin Achola is a seasoned and versatile business leader who this year made history as BAT Kenya’s first Kenyan Managing Director. He is also an Executive Director on the BAT Kenya Board.

Crispin’s journey with BAT started in 1999 when he joined the Company from Unilever. He subsequently held various senior roles within BAT Kenya and the Group; including Managing Director Mozambique, Cluster General Manager- Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and Managing Director, Sudan. He left BAT in 2017 and joined the Kimberly-Clarke Corporation where he was General Manager, West, East & Central Africa (WECA) and Managing Director Nigeria, until his return to BAT Kenya in January 2021.

Crispin is responsible for driving overall business strategy for the NSE-listed company, BAT Kenya, which is one of BAT Group’s global manufacturing hubs. He also oversees BAT operations in the East African region, covering more than 13 markets including Uganda, Rwanda, Somaliland, Mauritius, La Reunion, Comoros, Madagascar, South Sudan and Tanzania.

“I am immensely proud to be taking over the leadership of a company that has a rich history and heritage in the region. BAT is living proof of the great strides that we are making in Kenya and the wider East Africa, with more and more global companies choosing their leaders from a diverse and talented pool of homegrown executives. This is a solid testimony to the maturity and high-quality local talent that we have always known existed within us.

“This is a time of immense change for BAT. And while this feels very much like a homecoming for me, I am absolutely delighted for the opportunity to lead the transformation of our business and industry, through an evolved strategy and purpose: to build A Better Tomorrow for our stakeholders. Essentially, for our consumers, we want to offer a range of viable and responsibly marketed products in tobacco, nicotine and beyond; for society, we aim to reduce the health and environmental impacts of our business; for our employees, we want to create a dynamic, inspiring and purposeful place for them to work; and for our shareholders, we want to deliver superior and sustainable returns.”

Judging from his detailed account of his vision for BAT in East Africa, it is obvious that Crispin is glad to be back at BAT and has embraced his new role with vigour.

“BAT is becoming a business that defines itself not by the products it sells but by the consumer needs it meets. Anchored on our renewed purpose, we are accelerating the transformation of our business and industry through our ambition to reduce the health impact of our business, by offering a greater choice of viable and potentially less risky products for our consumers. At the same time, we understand our impact, the importance of high standards of integrity and our evolving societal responsibilities. We are therefore moving from a business where sustainability has always been important, to one where it is front and centre in all that we do. In this regard, we remain committed to addressing the environmental impact of our business, delivering a positive social impact and ensuring robust corporate governance across the business, through our robust Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) agenda.

“I am determined to see Kenya and the region, benefit from BAT’s evolved strategy and the possibilities it brings. Already, as part of a KSh 2.5 billion investment, we have injected KSh 0.6 billion in a new world class factory for the manufacture of tobacco-free oral nicotine products. We also completed a major Ksh 600 million refurbishment of our head office in Nairobi’s industrial area and Ushs 1.3 billion for our Uganda office, as well as overall investment of over KSh 5 billion in our value chain over the last five years.

“Our unwavering commitment to Kenya and the region notwithstanding, we continue to face significant challenges within the operating environment. Most notable is the increasing incidence of illicit trade in tobacco products, which as at the end of 2020 was at 23% in Kenya, up from 11% in 2019. We also face a challenging regulatory environment for our new category products and an unsustainable fiscal regime for our tobacco products. To address these issues, we are engaging with the relevant authorities to contribute to a sustainable regulatory and fiscal environment which supports socio-economic growth and development.”

On the question of the future of business, Crispin asserts his belief that this is anchored on consumer centricity, driven by innovation and technology.

“As we work to build the enterprise of the future, my focus is on simplifying the business to fuel investment in our new category portfolio and sustain growth of our combustibles business, which will be at the core of our business for some time to come. This will be achieved through accelerating innovation in our operations, on the back of data-driven insights and foresights as well as leveraging state of the art digital technologies.”

As a result of his immense Pan-African experience, expertise, and interaction with diverse groups of people and environments, Crispin has established himself as an authority within the realm of business and corporate leadership. Given this colourful track record, his people-oriented approach to delivering business success is no surprise.

“I am committed to building a great place to work for our people and I have a very able team walking alongside me to deliver this ambition. Significant progress has already been made in attracting and retaining an increasingly diverse workforce and providing a welcoming, inclusive, and modern working environment. This is a key driver for BAT’s transformation journey.

“Despite our global profile, we are a proudly Kenyan and East African business with a rich history and heritage, collectively spanning over 200 years in the region. As part of our People agenda, we are building a legacy of leaders with a major focus on next generation talent as well as diversity and inclusion. I am proud that today, around 40% of our total workforce is female and we are working hard towards our 50/50 ambition in gender representation. Our annual internship and Global Graduate programmes have also consistently registered a high intake of female talent. But it is not only about gender. We have a clear 3600 diversity strategy that covers a wide range of generational aspects, experience, cultural backgrounds, disabilities and pay equity, amongst others.” When not engrossed in matters business, Crispin enjoys spending time in the outdoors, reading a good book, jamming to some rock music and spending time with his wife Mercy, son Sean and the family dogs. He is also currently undertaking a master’s degree in business administration at Strathmore University and due to complete this early next year.


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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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