My 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
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
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.