The Standard Group Plc is a multi-media organization with investments in media platforms spanning newspaper print operations, television, radio broadcasting, digital and online services. The Standard Group is recognized as a leading multi-media house in Kenya with a key influence in matters of national and international interest.
  • Standard Group Plc HQ Office,
  • The Standard Group Center,Mombasa Road.
  • P.O Box 30080-00100,Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Telephone number: 0203222111, 0719012111
  • Email: [email protected]

My love for good causes: Norah Odwesso


When we called to enquire if we could feature her in our magazine, we expected to go through a rigorous process of first dealing with a personal assistant, but she chose to fix the day and the time for our interview.

Despite her busy schedule and a demanding docket, she promised to fix us a date as soon as we wanted and managed to spare some time for our interview on a Friday morning.

Norah Odwesso, 45, is an accomplished executive who has worked with both local and international companies in various senior leadership positions.

She is currently the Public Affairs and Communications Director for Coca-Cola Central East and West Africa Business Unit, a position she has held for the last six years. She handles 30 countries, which are split into four different regions.

Born and brought up in Mombasa in a polygamous family of 16 children, Norah never considered herself a public affairs person. But her upbringing played a big role in equipping her to handle anything life threw her way.

Freedom to succeed

“When I was young, I was motivated to be who I wanted to be,” she says. “I was never told that I couldn’t do this or that — I always felt the sky was the limit. My mother gave me the freedom to choose the sort of life I would live. She constantly prodded us to make the right decisions and to choose the freedom to succeed,” she says.

Armed with such powerful affirmation,  Norah eagerly took on new activities and projects and gave them her best.

“Coming from a polygamous family, it was fun growing up. We were one big extended family, which formed our social entity. It was a competitive family where everyone was competing for my father’s attention. We formed strong friendships right from a young age and that may possibly have contributed to what I do now,” she says.

But as the bond and love they shared in their family grew, a dark cloud arrived and hovered over her family.

“My father who was a businessman, passed on when I was only 13. It proved to be the lowest moment in our family. I was worried that I would not complete my education since at that time, my mother’s job could not sustain all of us. But she worked tirelessly to ensure we got everything we needed,” says Norah.

After completing her A-levels back in 1985, Norah embarked on pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Nairobi.

She later trained at the Government Training Institute (GTI) in Mombasa before joining the Capital Markets Authority in 1991, where she worked for four years.

In 1997, she joined the Standard Chartered Bank and took up the role of business planning and strategy manager, a position she held for four years. She left the banking sector and joined the East African Breweries (EABL) as the group’s strategy manager where she worked until 2003. She later joined Diageo Africa, a leading global alcohol beverage business as the corporate relations director and left in 2007.

She joined Coca Cola as the public affairs and communications director for Central, East and West Africa business unit, a position she has held to date.

Although her training is in Finance, she has continued to excel in public affairs.

“Back in school, I was very good in Math and Finance but because my passion is ‘people’, I made a conscious decision and joined public affairs. I love shaping and influencing people for good. I love championing good causes,” she says.


Reputation Management

Norah is in charge of  reputation management for Coca-Cola business and its brands across 30 countries. She is responsible for its public affairs and communications agenda as well as the community and stakeholder relations across the region. She is also responsible for managing internal and external communications in the company.

“It is a very challenging role because one cannot oversee the external environment. It requires us to think hard and always be on our feet all the time,” she says.

“You could have a crisis in one of the countries or a change in policy, consumer changes in tastes and preferences, hence the need to be able to understand our business in those countries.”

Her work also entails a lot of travelling.

“We often travel to meet our teams. Even when we don’t travel, our work is rigorous since we manage different types of audiences — people who love us and those who hate us too, we deal with all sorts of issues,” she says.

Being a busy bee that she is, Norah’s typical day starts at 7.30 in the morning and ends at 6.30 in the evening.

 “As a family woman, I do all my best to delegate where I can to also have time for my family,” she says.

Her success has, however, not come without challenges.

“ Challenges are always there. They are part and parcel of our lives. The loss of my father was my lowest moment but by God’s grace, I managed to overcome that difficult phase in my life. As a family woman, there are also many balls to juggle at the same time,” she says.

Norah’s advice to younger women yearning for such a career is to always prioritise what is important and to know that they have  divine roles as homemakers.

 “It is a matter of preference. Work is a means to livelihood but family is your life. With all these multiple balls, I know the ones made of rubber and glass; and I juggle between them consciously. I tend to separate my love life from my work life and I-pad. I give them my all when I am with them,” says Norah.


Does she feel she has achieved what she wanted?

“I have not even started. I have only made one step. I believe I have the potential to achieve more. I am determined not to switch off. As long as I am alive, there is still a lot to be done,” she says.

Her personal passion and ambition is to work with young people and inspire them to achieve their ultimate God-given potential.

“Together with some of my friends, we have started Sense of Worth, a social entity in Nairobi that seeks to reach out to young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who did not perform well in academics,” she says.

She believes every woman is in a positon to achieve what they desire.

“Everyone of us has a mountain and its time to start scaling the heights and climb that mountain. Success is not for a few. Its up for grabs to anyone willing to pay the price,” says Norah.




Related Topics


Similar Articles


Recommended Articles