Housing Finance Group Plc this week confirmed the appointment of Prof. Olive M. Mugenda as an Independent Non – Executive Director and Chairperson of the Board with effect from 21st October 2021. It is the latest in a long list of milestones achieved by the seasoned academic and administrator considered a trail-blazer.
At Housing Finance, she’ll be leading a mortgage-centered lender struggling to bounce back to profitability. The firm saw its half year loss expand by 17 per cent to Ksh346.1 million in H1 2021 from a loss of Ksh295.5 million in the first period last year.
HF’s balance sheet also shrunk with total assets falling by 6.2 per cent to Ksh53 billion.
“The Board is delighted to confirm Prof. Mugenda’s appointment as Board Chair of HF Group. Her wealth of expertise and outstanding transformational leadership track record will be a valuable addition for the Group at a time when we are on a transformation journey,” Housing Finance Group CEO Robert Kibaara stated while welcoming Mugenda to the firm.
Many Kenyans associate Mugenda with her decade-long stint as Vice-Chancellor of Kenyatta University between 2006 and March 2016, a period marked by expansion of the university including the construction of the 500-bed Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRH). She was the first woman to lead a public university in Kenya as Vice-Chancellor and still chairs the board of KUTRH.
Prof. Mugenda was named on a list of 100 Most Influential Africans by New African magazine in 2016.
She is also a Vice-Chairperson of the Judicial Service Committee (JSC), having been nominated as a Commissioner (Public Representative) by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018. She led the panel that appointed Kenya’s first female Chief Justice, Martha Koome in April 2021.
Mugenda also sits on the board of United Bank of Africa (UBA) Kenya and was appointed Chancellor of KCA University in 2020.
The 65-year old Mugenda came up in the world of academia. She grew up in Kikuyu, about an hour from Nairobi, and eventually went to the University of Nairobi (UoN) to pursue a Bachelor of Education degree.
After graduating with first-class honors, she secured a scholarship to study at Iowa State University, obtaining a Master of Science degree in family studies in 1983. She also obtained her PhD from Iowa State University in 1988 before returning to lecture at Kenyatta University.
“I had never thought of being an academic until I got a first class honours. At that time, a first class was such a big achievement and it helped me get to scholarships for a masters and PhD. That’s how I was introduced into the world of academia,” she revealed in a past interview.
It was at KU that she rose through the ranks and made a name for herself.
She specialized in women’s education, home economics, statistics and research methodology and was over time promoted from Lecturer to Head of Department, to Dean of Faculty and, eventually, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Finance and Planning.
The position of KU Vice-Chancellor was advertised in 2016 and she applied. Mugenda beat three other short-listed applicants, all male, to secure the position.