Gina Din is a Kenyan businesswoman specializing in strategic communication and public relations in Kenya. She is best known as the founder and executive chair of Gina Din Corporate Communications, which she started after leaving her job as a Communications manager at Barclays Bank of Kenya in 1997.
In honor of Women in Public Relations we had this insightful conversation with her. Read and Be Inspired !
Please tell us about the Queen of PR – you pretty much created the PR industry on the continent. Tell us about yourself
I am definitely not a Queen! I am an authority in the PR space and have been fortunate to work with a number of experienced qualified professionals to develop the PR industry in Africa. Fortunately I have worked with governments, captains of industry and humanitarian organisations who have trusted me with their brands. I built Africa’s most awarded PR agency over a period of 23 years following on from a successful 14 Year career as head of PR for Barclays Bank. My business was acquired by an international communications company three years ago. I currently chair the Brand Leadership Group and together with another outstanding African, Thebe Ikalafeng are helping businesses on the continent by providing African solutions to businesses. I am an entrepreneur, a humanitarian, a wife and my most important role is being a mother.
From the brands you handled, it’s clear you took your role as an advisor very seriously. What was it like to handle so many brands on a pan African basis?
It has been a magical and fascinating journey. My business has been collaborative and reciprocal. The brands have been premier brands who understood the value we brought to their businesses. It was also, at times schizophrenic, with us having to take on the persona of the brands, be it in the financial, aviation, energy, real estate or telecoms industry. To understand and represent these brands one has to learn and become an expert in the various fields. I feel very satisfied in the way we impacted so many brands in so many countries. I am proud of the business we created and as a pioneer we definitely disrupted the PR industry on the continent.
There are so many businesses and in particular women around the continent who want to be the next Gina Din. What would you say to them?
That’s the reality of being a pioneer. We lead, others follow. It’s an enormous compliment. What I think is hard to imitate, or copy is someone’s internal vision and I am happy that we weren’t simply a copy and paste of something that already existed. Once you show the world around you that it can be done, you realise and appreciate you can’t capture all the value for yourself and you welcome and encourage others to find their niche. I would hope that the women creating their own businesses want to be the best version of themselves and not the next Gina Din.
You recently wrote a book, your autobiography, Daughter of Africa that’s already creating conversations in many different rooms, including the prestigious Oxford University, about the need for more African women to tell their story. Tell us about that.
Yes indeed. The book, Daughter of Africa, is about my life but the purpose is much bigger. As I was writing, I realised so few of us African women tell our stories. Too often our stories are told about us but, not by us. Through a different lens. Very often it’s not our story.
Women of the continent don’t need to be saved or rescued, they simply need knowledge of their own power and how to access it. I hope by having these conversations I can encourage more women to tell their stories in their own words.
We must never forget, the story of the African woman is a strong story and we know the stories of some of our greats.
Let’s, for a minute look at the story of Taytul Betul, the third wife of Emperor Menelik of Ethiopia who led the anti-resistance during the 19th century scramble for Africa that ensured that Italy doesn’t colonise Ethiopia – the only country that wasn’t colonised because of her.
In my very own country, Kenya, we look at Wangari Mathai, who had the vision and the foresight of climate change before most of the world did. Who went on to win the Nobel peace prize.
In South Africa we look at Winnie Mandela, who for 27 years showed the strength of women by fighting the apartheid era and, many would argue, kept the Mandela name alive in South Africa and around the world.
In Nigeria the story of Chief Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti the Nigerian educator, political campaigner, and human rights advocate who was the power behind her great son Fela Kuti and who supported her son’s criticism of Nigeria’s military government, before succumbing to wounds after a tragic military raid on family property.
These are some of the stories that, luckily were told. There so many untold stories of strong, resilient African women that are doing incredible things every day and we don’t hear of them. My vision and my dream, is for other Daughters of Africa to tell their story.
From what we read or hear when you are speaking, you are consistently challenging the status quo
That is true. As women we must keep pushing the women agenda forward and challenging the status quo because we rarely are the status quo. It’s important not just for me but for so many women around the continent that want to leave strong legacies. I want to continue to move the ball forward for women on the continent in business and political spheres. Alone, as African women we have power, together and collectively we have impact. I want to live a life of impact.
Are you happy with the progress so far. Is there progress in the women agenda on the continent.
I actually don’t think the women’s agenda is simply women’s issues. They are issues of national importance and we simply can’t be arguing about that in the year 2023. There’s progress but it’s slow. In Kenya we have seen in the new administration more women in government and at policy level which is very good news. In Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa and Senegal there’s also been encouraging progress. We are still a long way away from an equal and level playing field. We must ensure women are at all tables where decisions are being made. As women we must raise our voices until that happens.
In your view, is Africa held to a different standard both politically and in the business world?
There’s no doubt in my mind we are definitely held to a different standard. The global narrative is often about the threat of Africa as opposed to the opportunity on the continent when in fact there has been remarkable progress. The continent is enormously diverse with a growing population and substantial resources, it’s sad that in the international media there’s often an oversimplified and distorted version of who we are. As someone who has run and built a business I have first-hand experience of being held to a different standard to someone who has built a business in a different country. Part of my reason for encouraging more Africans, in particular women, to tell their stories is so we can ensure there’s more equality and for us to realise the responsibility of shaping the African narrative lies with us. If we don’t take up that responsibility, we will continue to be treated differently. Similarly in the political sphere there has been more improvement than we often get credit for. There’s more political participation, enhanced adherence to the rule of law and improvement in transparency and accountability. There’s been democratic decline in Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific and in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, yet too often we only hear about the fragile democracies of the continent.
What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t writing books, advising businesses and winning awards?
I like to read, spend time with my family and travel. I really enjoy experiencing new places and am always in awe of the beauty of the world.
You have scaled many mountains in your life. What’s next for you.
Yes I have scaled many mountains. After climbing one, you suddenly find another one to climb and you train for your next mountain. What I had forgotten, was the climb I had climbed, the beautiful and sometimes challenging terrain. I am excited for my next climb. The unknown has never let me down.