CEO, WPP-SCANGROUP PLC
Patricia Ithau is the CEO of WPP-Scangroup PLC, the largest marketing and communication group operating in sub-Saharan Africa, using a multi-agency and a multiple discipline model across the region.
The Group aims to push new frontiers as Africa’s leading marketing and communication group through culture-centric innovation, creativity, and collaboration.
Patricia’s passion lies in nurturing female role models within the corporate realm, a voyage ignited during her time as a Loreto Convent student in Mombasa, Nairobi’s Loreto Convent Valley Road, and eventually Loreto Convent Msongari. These all-girl Catholic institutions ingrained invaluable traits: self-confidence, the power of diction as you speak, the pride of being a woman, and, above all, the discipline to achieve dreams.
Ms Ithau’s education significantly shaped her identity, revealing her ambitions. Fond childhood memories include engrossing newspaper reads, especially in business sections. Corporate pages, displaying annual reports and board portraits, held a magnetic charm. The image of predominantly older men on these boards left a lasting impression. This sowed the objective of fostering diversity-driven change, with a focus on African women’s inclusion.
Patricia pursued this objective across global entities, discovering a penchant for enduring consumer and commercial insights, pivotal in nurturing brand evolution and business expansion. This passion bloomed over three decades, during which she contributed her expertise to esteemed global enterprises such as Unilever, Diageo/East African Breweries (EABL), and L’Oreal, working in a number of geographies.
During the last 8 years of her career, Ms Ithau dedicated her efforts to pioneering new ventures and expanding horizons. As Managing Director (MD) of Uganda Breweries, she paved the way for novel enterprises, followed by her role as MD of EABL International, where she continued to push boundaries. Her crowning achievement came as the inaugural MD of L’Oreal East Africa, a subsidiary of the global multinational. In this role, she orchestrated a groundbreaking feat – the acquisition of a local business, a remarkable first of its kind in the market. This strategic move not only marked a significant milestone but also propelled the growth trajectory of the business she played an instrumental role in founding.
Patricia pivoted her life-transforming passion toward propelling the growth and metamorphosis of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the largest job creation sector in emerging economies. As the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies – Seed’s Regional Director, she orchestrated the assembly of a global network, uniting minds from Silicon Valley to sub-Saharan Africa. Together, they tackled regional hurdles encompassing leadership, strategy, and value-chain innovation, nurturing sustainable businesses through the year-long Stanford Transformational Program tailored for local leaders. Throughout, Ms Ithau has unwaveringly championed her homeland, Kenya, advocating for the harnessing of human capital to catalyse transformation both within the nation’s borders and on the global stage.
In 2003, as Chair of the Marketing Society of Kenya (MSK), Patricia led the inception of the BrandKenya (BrandKe) initiative. Her vision was to strategically reshape the nation’s image. Over time, this initiative transformed into the BrandKenya Board, affording Patricia the esteemed privilege of serving on its inaugural Board, under the Founder Chairman, Dr Hanningtone Joel Gaya.
Ms Ithau’s corporate journey has been marked by bold initiatives. One of the earliest was at Unilever, where she ingeniously married Sunlight’s brand colours to cultivate a distinct Kenyan national dress, fostering a unique identity through our attire.
Her second notable endeavour involved conceptualising the Tusker Project Fame TV Program, elevating Kenya’s creative sector. This visionary platform empowered nascent talents, providing them not only a voice but also a chance to hone their skills within the multimedia production realm.
One of Patricia’s most challenging life moments unfolded when she was crowned Miss Kenya in her first year at the University of Nairobi (UoN). Navigating through judgments and prejudices during this period profoundly shaped her perspective, ultimately fortifying her leadership acumen. This strength in guiding and mentoring others, which she takes delight in, draws from these experiences.
Ms Ithau’s greatest pride and joy are her two daughters, Mueni and Makena. They embody everything she espoused through her life – making the most of every talent that you have been blessed with.
Patricia completes the circle she envisioned as a young girl, challenging the male-dominated face of Corporate Kenya. Her role as an Ambassador for the Women on Boards Network (WOBN) in Kenya, alongside her board commitments, exemplifies this transformation. Currently, she holds positions on numerous boards: ABSA Bank Kenya, the British Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jambojet, and Vivo Fashion Group.
She brings to life her desire to connect corporate businesses with social sustainability as a Trustee on the Boards of the Vodafone Foundation, UK and the M-PESA Foundation.
Patricia is a certified Executive Coach and Emotional Intelligence Practitioner.