OPINION: How ambassadors can be Kenya’s Bottom-Up Economic Model pillars

Kenya's Ministry of Affairs offices, Nairobi. Kenya has about 54 embassies and high commissions abroad and 31 consulates. PHOTO/Courtesy.
Kenya's Ministry of Affairs offices, Nairobi. Kenya has about 54 embassies and high commissions abroad and 31 consulates. PHOTO/Courtesy.

President William Ruto is busy constituting his government, and so far, he has chosen his cabinet; the PS nominees have been shortlisted, and other departments shall follow suit.

One of the other departments that President William Ruto shall nominate with his Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua is of members of the diplomatic force – The Ambassadors.

For the longest time, ambassadorial positions have been a preserve for political loyalists, or even worse, a soft landing for failures in the public service accused of corruption or ineptitude.

Sadly, their role is nothing more than welcoming the president when he visits their assigned countries and holding the title ‘Amb.’ before their names eternally.

If you disagree with me, please name five ambassadors off your head. Who is the Kenyan ambassador to South Africa?

If you can’t answer the two questions, don’t worry; neither can I nor can 99.9% of the country.

The ambassadors couldn’t be more
important during such an unprecedented economic hardship.

These are the Kenyans who could easily bend our economic curve more towards prosperity by simply doing their job. That starts with finding the right people for the job.

Let’s, therefore, start with ‘who’ and then go to the ‘what’.

We have Kenyans in the diaspora who are very well-educated, well-informed, well-connected and well-acclimatized with their countries of residence.

What, then, is the point of sending a person who has lived all his life in Kitui to India as the ambassador because he subscribes to the correct political party while we have a Kenyan who has lived in India for the last 10yrs, studying and doing business there and is equally willing to serve as an ambassador?

The person from Kitui will first need a year to understand the Indian culture and opportunities and to know Kenyans in India and their needs.

It will take them another two years to find their way around India’s political and economic terrains before they can be useful in their role.

By then, they shall have been redeployed to another country and replaced by another incompetent Cabinet Secretary who needed a soft landing outside the cabinet, and we press ‘repeat’.

Ten or even thirty years later, we never get to harvest anything from our diplomatic friendship with India.

The United States (US) is the second home to most Kenyans in the diaspora.

A significant number of them have lived in the country for twenty years or more, lived in various states across the country, studied a variety of degrees, and worked for many American companies or are running their own companies.

They know the struggles of living in the US under different visas and the struggles of Kenyans investing back home.

They also know the opportunities the US offers in terms of the products, services, and labor they need that Kenya has.

Searching for a Kenyan domiciled in the US to be the Kenyan ambassador to the US will attract an overwhelming number of qualified applicants and will yield an ambassador ready to work from the first day.

We always speak profoundly about the Kenyans in the diaspora, but our appointing authorities never settle on them for being ‘outsiders’ despite their loyalty, qualifications and willingness to give back to their country.

Ironically, we comfortably send ‘outsiders’ to be ambassadors in the second home countries of the ones we rejected.

What the ambassador could and should do to alleviate our economic pain is to simply be an ambassador.

The ambassadors should be marketing Kenyan products in their respective countries, seeing what their assigned countries need and alerting Kenya to start producing it; seeing how better or easier the other country does things and sending Kenya the intel on the new technologies in farming, building, healthcare etc.

In my opinion, the ambassadors should be hired on a performance contract of three years, upon which they will be evaluated by their vetting body, parliament, on how much business they brought to Kenya and how many practical ideas they sent from their assigned countries.

That would determine if they will continue with their assignment or not.

For example, in the US, avocados are sold for KSh 300 each and mangoes are sold for KSh 200.

At the same time, we have avocados falling from trees and rotting in Kisii and mangoes in Ukambani and the few that make it to the market go for KSh 10.

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If we had a functional ambassador, they would lobby the US government through the Department of Agriculture and the US grocery stores to find a market for Kenyan avocados and mangoes.

Kenya Airways flies to New York every week and still makes losses.

If KQ was given the contract of transporting a million avocados and mangoes a week, at an agreed price of KSh 50 each, for example, we would be making KSh 50 million a week or KSh 2.5 Billion a year.

That’s more revenue to Kenya Airways, but most importantly, more revenue to the farmers who will have money to feed and educate their children and pay taxes, thus more revenue to the Kenyan government.

Imagine the same replicated in twenty other countries.

This, wonderful Kenyans, is how ambassadors can, should and must be the pillar of the bottom-up economic model.

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Job Nyangenya Omanga is the Director of Public Health in Denton County, Texas


  1. My good friend Nyangenya i love your well articulated points which is of course the naked truth.You used to write to me THUMBS UP BRO!


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