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Most powerful Kenyan women

By | October 16th 2010

Forbes magazine last week came out with its annual list of America's 10 most powerful top women. TONY MOCHAMA created our own top ten powerful celebs list

10. Ellen Degeneres

She’s a stand-up comedian whose TV talk-show is on its seventh successful season run in the USA.

In February 2006, she flew her 1976 Atlanta High School class to her show for their 30th graduation re-union, and gave all the women an LED TV with its own marquee.

Ellen married Portia de Rossi (Ally McBeal) in August, 2008, and gave her a three carat pink diamond ring. Some folk regard Degeneres as degenerate, with her gay lifestyle, cheesy jokes, corny show dancing, three dogs, four cats and vegan lesbian wife. She is worth about $ 65 million (Sh5 billion) in net worth.

Patricia Amira

She was a Capital presenter for five years, hosted the Coca-a-Cola pop-stars and others, before M-Net gave Amira this continental talk-show that was meant to be a mirror of society, especially for the women of Africa.

She is known for her sonorous laughter, glowing confidence, deep voice not forgetting the sympathetic nod, especially during woiye moments.

Beyonce Knowles

In the oh-ohs, starting as one of the two Destiny Child quartet turned trio, then from 2004 to now as a solo artist, Beyonce has sold over 100 million records worldwide — and was Billboard’s bestseller artist of the last decade. She is also married to hip-hop’s richest mogul, Jay Z. She even has an alter ego, ‘Sasha Fierce,’ who pierced the market with two fierce hits, Single Ladies and If I were a Boy.


If Beyonce blew up the world in the last decade, then here in Kenya, Wahu made it her decade. From a fashion model and dancer in the late 1990s after high school, Wahu Kagwi became a musician officially in the year 2000, and set about producing a single a year — each a bigger hit than the last one.

In 2001, she called attention to herself with Niangalie, and sang Esha in 2002. In 2003, raging against a man, she unleashed Liar, followed by Sitishiki in 2004, directed at a romantic rival. In 2005, she had a dream wedding to the famous, well-liked musician, David ‘Nameless’ Mathenge.

In 2006, Wahu gave birth to their daughter, Tumiso, who so softened her she wrote Sweet Love in 2007, that was crowned with the MAMA award in Abuja, Nigeria, in the November of 2008.

Wahu is not just an artist, though. Just like her architect-musician, Nameless, the damsel also holds a Masters in Communications and a Bachelors degree in Mathematics and certainly calculated the curve of the oh-ohs, oh so well.

Gail Kelly, Westpac Bank

Born in 1956, Australian Gail was married by age 20, and was a bank teller at 24 for Nedcor Bank. Taking advantage of the bank’s ‘fast-track’ internal policy, and while pregnant with their first child in 1986, at age 30, she got an MBA.

By 1992, two years after getting triplets, she was head of HR of Nedcor Bank. Five years later, at 41, she jumped ship to the Commonwealth Bank.

And she was head of their Customer Service five years later!

Two years later, in 2004, she became an executive VP with an ailing St George Bank, that needed St John’s ambulance for its ailing finances. But Gail Kelly nursed it back to $ 3 billion (Sh240 billion) capitalisation in two years. With the bank healthy, she thought she would be made CEO, but the Old Boy network brought in Air New Zealand’s former boss as CEO.

So, in 2007, Gail Kelly moved onto Westpac Bank as CEO. And a year later, in February, Westpac moved in like pac-woman, and took St George bank in a hostile takeover. Business, not personal!

NASSIM DEVJI, Diamond Trust Bank Group CEO

The Kenyan subsidary of Russian-owned capital firm, Renaissance Capital (K) read it fit to declare Ms Nassim Devji, Group CEO of Diamond Trust Bank, the ‘Banker of the Year.’

And we at Woman’s Instinct agree that she is indeed most distinguished in her field.

She joined Diamond Trust 15 years ago as their Head of Regional Finance, and in 1998, was put in charge of Debt Recovery, a role she excelled at.

By the year 2000, Nassim Devji had two more feathers in her cap — as the in-charge woman of their ICT and Administration.

In 2001, she was made managing director of the show, and the Group CEO in 2005. She sits on the Uganda and Tanzania boards of the bank too.

Nassim Devji literally brought a ‘wealth’ of experience with her to the Diamond Trust Bank Group. From 1970 until 1995, she was working as a full time accountant in the UK, and a part time tax specialist to oil companies there.

Lady Gaga

Angelina Germanotta is a quixotic Queen fan with queer videos, who has sold 15 million albums, 50 million singles and gone over one billion viral on the Internet, all in two years! Starting with Just Dance to Poker Face to Paparazzi to Bad Romance to Alejandro, her fame monster, and notoriety, just grows and grows.

She says Michael Jackson was the musician she most admired. We say she is the musician who finally finished off the fame monster called Madonna!


Avril, a young Kenyan musician, agrees that “Lady Gaga is a genius”. Avril even attempted to wear torn stockings on stage like her heroine (thank God our butcheries don’t make nyama dresses for Nzumari Awards, which Avril won, alongside her earlier Chat award).

But Kenyans don’t get the grunge look — so they just said “mbona Afril amevaa soksi zimeraruka raruka?”( Why is she wearing torn socks?)

Avril’s latest interest is Russian literature. And her favourite lines are from Coldplay’s ‘Viva la Vida,’ — “Revolutionaries wait, for my head on a silver plate. Just a puppet on a lonely string, oh who would ever want to be king?” But Avril wants to be queen of music — and her way of getting to be tsarina is by first being princess of local pop!

Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi was born in India, attended Yale University, joined Booze & Company, end of story? No! Indra joined Pepsi Cola in 1994, became its CFO in 2001, and shortly thereafter, its CEO. Under her Pepsi Cola has gotten into ‘Tropicana’ and other ‘nutritious’ snack brands like Yum Yum. While being a deep and driven woman, this Indian CEO also has a sense of fun — often coming to work barefoot; and has installed karaoke machines for Friday evenings at Pepsi-Cola headquarters.

Julianna Kagwa, Smirnoff Brand Manageress

In Uganda, Julianna was a one-woman force in promoting the Ugandan Waragi brand in that market. She then crossed borders two years ago to join the Smirnoff vodka brand in Kenya, and was an immediate hit! She organised the best parties in town, like the Smirnoff Vodka snow party in January.

And in the Coast, she mock pole-danced to psyche up the enthused VIP Smirnoff people. She has a potent cocktail mix of pleasant personality and brand business. Mid year, she went for a maternity leave, but there’s no doubt the Smirnoff brand lady will be stepping out soon.

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