Our Board

We are pleased to introduce the inaugural Mawazo Board, comprised of seasoned public and private sector experts. Our Board, which serves a renewable two-year time, is responsible for overseeing our institutional growth, ensuring we meet our mission, and providing oversight and guidance to the Mawazo CEO. Learn more about our Board Members below.



Rachel Strohm is co-founder and chair of the board at the Mawazo Institute. She is also a PhD candidate in political science at the University of California, Berkeley. Over the course of her PhD studies, she came to see that the voices of African academics were greatly underrepresented in social science research on Africa. She's passionate about leveling the playing field for scholars from low income countries. Rachel has previously worked as a research manager with Innovations for Poverty Action, where she managed a portfolio of more than 20 studies in development economics in Ghana, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. She has also worked in microfinance and small business development in the DRC and Rwanda. She holds a BA in geography and French from Dartmouth College, and an MA in international relations from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She is originally from Chicago.

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Mary Abukutsa-Onyango is a distinguished scientist who has conducted pioneering research in African indigenous vegetables (AIVs). Her work has had a tremendous impact on the utilization of indigenous vegetables in Africa and has led to her receipt of numerous, awards including Presidential, Africa Union awards and Edinburgh medal. Her work has inspired consumers, producers, students, young researchers and influenced governments to consider the importance of indigenous vegetables for nutrition, health and income generation. Her passion, coupled with her careful scientific multi- disciplinary research, have repositioned indigenous vegetables from a poor man’s crop to internationally recognized super vegetables. She holds a BSc (Agriculture), MSc (Agronomy) and PhD (vegetable crop physiology and nutrition). She currently serves as a Professor of Horticulture and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research, Production and Extension) at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya. In 2016, she released 9 varieties of AIVs and in 2017 she was nominated as a fellow of the African Academy of Sciences and in 2017 she was nominated by the Next Einstein Forum 2018, in Kenya as one of the 20 scientists representing the Faces of Science in Kenya during the Africa Science week.

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Joy Kiiru is the Deputy Board Chair, and Chair for Strategy Committee at the Mawazo Institute. She is Senior Lecturer at the University of Nairobi and holds a PhD from Bonn University - Germany. Joy takes cognizance of the fact that education, space and agency are some of the biggest tools for women empowerment. Research has shown that women empowerment not only bears dividends for individual households, but also for the whole economy. She is therefore passionate about women empowerment as catalyst for change and socioeconomic inclusion. Joy has researched widely in areas of women empowerment, inclusive finance, impact evaluation of development interventions, among others. Joy’s research has received international recognition. Among other awards, the Global Development Network (GDN) awarded First Prize Award for Joy’s research in Microfinance. Previously Dr. Kiiru served as communication director of the Association for the Advancement of African Women Economists.

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Wanjiku Kiragu is the Director of Partnerships for Donor and Grant Relations at Arifu, an Ed-Tech Social Enterprise. Wanjiku believes that real development can only be achieved through high quality research and that women play a critical role in development. Prior to joining Arifu Wanjiku supported the Partnership for Economic Policy where she focused on strengthening the organization’s Resource Mobilization, Partnerships, Program Management and Institutional Development. She previously held various positions at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) providing oversight for donor and host country relations, program management and operations. Before joining CIAT, she worked for Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and the Rockefeller Foundation where she managed grants for agricultural and population sciences and education programs. She spent many years supporting Ph.D. capacity building programs as well as building capacity of grantees and staff in proposal development, grant writing, financial reporting and quality assurance. She holds an MBA in Total Quality Management.

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A native of Canada, Kim has spent the last 20 years building up her experience in Europe (Paris, Luxemburg, Geneva). Kim is currently the Chief Operating Officer for Landolt & Cie SA where her central role is to drive digital change while creating new levers of development. Energetic and spontaneous by nature, Kim appreciates evolving environments where the status quo can be challenged. She is enthusiastic, practical and enjoys working in varied teams that strive to innovate. When she is not in a boardroom, she can be found travelling. A great lover of nature and wide open spaces, Kim’s trips are planned according to either 1) which wild animals she would like to observe in their natural habitat as well as 2) philanthropic actions on the field where she can put her skills to use by mentoring entrepreneurs and NGO founders.

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kyle polite, fundraising committee

Kyle Polite is the current Director of Principal Giving at the San Francisco Opera and was formerly the Managing Director for West Coast development at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Kyle is a passionate leader with 15 years of successful fundraising, management and nonprofit experience. He has worked with four organizations during $1 billion+ capital campaigns. Kyle has strong interpersonal, communication, public speaking and writing skills.

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Cosmas is a Public Sector/International Development specialist with over ten years’ experience in Financial and Grants management, Institutional strengthening, Capacity building and Project management. He has worked with African governments in Kenya, Malawi, Burundi and Ethiopia – and the International community in various sectors including Health, Security, Education, Research, Private Sector Development amongst others. He is experienced working with African Regional Governments including AU and COMESA, World Bank, USAID, DFID, DANIDA, Wellcome Trust, KfW amongst others. He has previously worked as a senior manager in Advisory Services at PwC, Kenya where he worked with development partners and governments to facilitate smarter investments and adoption of strong financial governance. He is passionate about solving socio-economic problems through lean and effective interventions such as technology. He holds a Bsc in Statistics from the University of Nairobi, Certified Public Accountant CPA(K), a member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK).



Christina is an advocate based in Nairobi experienced in advising on
a broad range of commercial matters with a particular focus on mergers and advising private equity firms on acquisitions of and investments in companies in Kenya. She specialises in assisting local and international clients set up business operations in Kenya within the regulatory framework while mitigating legal risks. She also has experience in Kenyan property law, real estate and joint ventures. She joined Coulson Harney as an Associate in January 2014 and was promoted to a Senior Associate in March 2015. Coulson Harney is
a top tier full service law firm based in Nairobi, Kenya and is part of Bowmans Law, a premier Pan-African law firm with six offices in four African countries and over 400 specialised lawyers. She holds an LLB from the University of South Africa, and a postgraduate diploma in Law from the Kenya School of Law.