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Dr. Githinji Gitahi: The Villager From Nyeri Who Was Mocked For ‘Shrubbing’ Now Amref Global CEO

Dr. Githinji Gitahi is a good vibe. Behind his infectious laughter, is a man who worked his way to the apex of his career without the help of a godfather. For the uninitiated, Dr. Githinji is the current CEO of African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), a non-governmental organization based in Africa focused on offering quality and affordable healthcare services to disadvantaged Africans.

In this article, WoK brings you the full journey of Dr. Githinji Gitahi. 

Dr. Githinji Gitahi Background

Dr. Githinji Gitahi was born on 7th August 1970 in Othaya village, Nyeri County. He was the lastborn in a family of nine children. One of his famous elder brother is the current Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi Prof. Stephen Kiama. Githinji attended Nyeri high school for his secondary education before proceeding to Mangu High School in Thika for his A levels.

He recounted on Capital FM how he became the butt of jokes when he joined Mangu. He was contributing in a student meeting when other students burst into laughter.

“I remember opening my mouth one day we had a meeting. Everyone was on the floor laughing and I was wondering why these guys were laughing. They told me to repeat what I had said and they burst in another bout of laugher. That is the first time I learnt the word ‘shrubbing’. 

After clearing his secondary school education, he joined the University of Nairobi in 1990 where he pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine and Surgery graduating in 1996. He then pursued a Certificate in Strategic Perspective for Non Profit Management from the prestigious Havard University graduating in 2016. He is currently pursuing a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) specializing in marketing at the United States International University (USIU).

Career Journey

Immediately after clearing his university degree in 1996, Githinji began his career journey at Avenue hospital where he worked as a Medical Officer and Quality Manager from 1996 to 2000. He went on to join Madison Insurance Limited where he worked as a medical services manager for one year. In 2001 he joined Glaxo SmithKline as a Medical Marketing Manager for Panadol and Hedex from 2001 to 2004 and later as a Marketing Manager at Glaxo SmithKline East Africa from 2005 to 2006.

He was then promoted to the position of Head of Marketing Expert Relations at Glaxo SmithKline Sub-Saharan Africa and Middle East, a position he served from October 2006 to August 2007. He would then join Monitor Publications Limited in Uganda as the Managing Director from 2007 to 2009 before joining the Nation Media Group as the General Manager for Marketing and Circulation in East Africa. In 2015, Dr. Githinji was appointed as the Global Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Amref Health Africa.


Since 2015, Dr Githinji has been serving as the Global CEO of Amref Health Africa steering the organization through difficult times like the 2020 Covid 19 pandemic. He also serves as a co-chair of the UHC2030 Steering Committee and speaks on matters health in global conferences such as the 2018 Health Systems Global Symposium Conference and 2019 Health and Climate Change Conference. He is a member of the Board of Directors of The Standard Group, Board member of the Women Lift and a board member at Amref Health Africa. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Safaricom Foundation and a member of the Governing Board of the Africa Centre’s for Disease Control and prevention (Africa CDC). In May 2022, he was appointed to the Board and Scientific Advisory of Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) – a body that aims to stop future epidemics by developing new advanced vaccines. Githinji has received several honors and recognition for his contribution to Kenya’s health sector including the prestigious Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear (MBS)    issued to him on 12th December 2018 by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Secret to Success

During an exclusive interview on Capital FM that aired on Friday 20th May 2022, Dr. Githinji revealed that his secret to success is being resilient, hardworking and having respect.

“What I think got me to where I am is adversity and resilience. And also the values that my mother taught me of good character and respect. Just those two, and those two combine to an attitude of you just want to deliver. As long as you just want to deliver, people see that and they would want to work with,” he said.