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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Professor Bitange NDemo, STRATEGY COMMITTEE

Bitange Ndemo is Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Nairobi’s Business School.  His research centers on the link between ICTs and small and medium enterprises with an emphasis on how ICTs influence economic development in Africa. Professor Ndemo is the Chairman of Kenya’s Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence Taskforce that is developing a road map for the country’s digital transformation.  He is also an advisor and Board member to several organizations including Safaricom, one of the leading telecommunications companies in Africa, M-Pesa Foundation, Research ICT Africa that is based in South Africa.  Besides having been a Permanent Secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communication where he was credited with facilitating many transformative ICT projects, he is a Senior Advisor to the UN’s Global Pulse (Big Data) initiative and the UNCDF’s Better than Cash Alliance.  He is an Open Data/Big Data evangelist and dedicated to simplification (visualization) of data for ordinary citizens to consume. He writes two columns every week for the Business Daily and Nation on-line.

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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.


Ruth Levine, fundraising COMMITTEE

Ruth Levine, PhD, is a policy fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University for the 2019-20 academic year.  She was the program director of Global Development and Population Program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation between 2011-19.  Previously, Ruth was a deputy assistant administrator in the Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning at the U.S. Agency for International Development. In that role, she led the development of the agency’s evaluation policy.  Ruth spent nearly a decade at the Center for Global Development, as a senior fellow and vice president for programs and operations; she co-founded the Center’s Global Health Policy Program. She also designed and evaluated health and education projects at the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank.


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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

A passionate nonprofit leader originally from Galesburg, Illinois, Kyle Polite is the current Deputy Director of Development at San Francisco Opera and was formerly the Managing Director of West Coast Development at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. He previously lead the University of Sydney’s $1BN INSPIRED campaign – the first, and largest, fundraising campaign in the history of Australia education – and has had the privilege of working with the Global Fund for Children and the Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE) to empower community-based organizations that support women, children and education throughout East Africa. Kyle earned his bachelor’s degree in Music and Ancient Languages at Dartmouth College, studied Music History and Bassoon Performance at the Royal College of Music in London and held a Graduate Fellowship in Advanced Arts Leadership at the University of North Texas. In addition to Mawazo, he is a current board member of the Performing Arts Workshop in San Francisco, California and a past member of the Dartmouth Alumni Association of Silicon Valley, the Association of Fundraising Professionals International and the New York Regional Economic Development Council.

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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.