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Three Weeks In Kenya

Posted By Guy Pfeffermann, Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Guy PfeffermannMy wife and I returned from three weeks in Kenya. That country is really moving forward. Unlike only two years ago, when the city was littered with trash, especially lots of plastic bags, Nairobi’s streets are now remarkably clean. Thanks in large part to Wangari Maathai, Kenya’s "Tree Woman," who won a Nobel Prize in 2004 for her environmental efforts, trees are being planted throughout the city.

One thing that is striking in Kenya, as in most other low-income countries, is the proliferation of non-profit organizations (known as nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs). Besides local branches of well-known international NGOs such as CARE and OXFAM, a great many local NGOs are active in a multitude of sectors. The "Directory & Profiles NGOs Eastern Africa 2006/07” lists about 4,000 such organizations officially registered in Kenya alone. For example page 21 lists, among others, the Baptist Aids Response Agency – BARA, the Bar Hostesses Empowerment Support Programme, Bright Poor Students & Old Age Programmes.

Most local NGOs are operating on shoestrings. Their staff are very small. Often they depend on a single funding source and are therefore dependent as well as vulnerable. I met with a dozen NGO leaders and asked them whether they were happy with their staff’s management skills. Unanimously, they flagged lack of business and management skills as a serious impediment to their achieving their goals. They mentioned specific skills in need of improvement: how to handle money better; how to gather information needed to monitor activities and evaluate results; how to disseminate information internally; how to improve fund-raising and diversify funding sources; how better to manage personnel, and so forth.

Many funders include small staff training components in their grants, but the NGO leaders’ experience with courses being offered locally has not been good. According to one, "professors are too theoretical – they just lecture, and the training is useless."

We discussed how this situation might be improved. Huge amounts of money flow to and through local NGOs. Therefore, more effective management would almost certainly have a big positive impact on development and poverty reduction. The good news is that local Kenyan business schools have improved and diversified their courses a lot in the last few years, thanks in part to partnerships with the Global Business School Network, the Association of African Business Schools and MERC, the Management Education & Research Consortium. One or the other of these local management schools could create a management training center for NGOs.

In order to get a Center off the ground, it would be best if some local NGOs formed a Partnership for Management Education.


Guy Pfeffermann is the CEO of the Global Business School Network, which he founded while working as the Chief Economist of the IFC at the world bank.

Tags:  Association of African Business Schools  Management Education  MERC  NGOs 

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