For Kenya’s NGOs, a Need to Cooperate

Kenya Red Cross volunteers were the first to provide emergency relief to victims of ethnic tensions after the country's 2007 presidential election. Kenya Red Cross is one of roughly 5,000 registered NGOs in East African nation. Photo by: Kenya Red Cross

NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenya’s National Council of NGOs is located in an old bungalow in Hurlingham, a Nairobi suburb. At the gate, a white panel proclaims the council’s mission, to provide “leadership to the NGO sector.” But the gate opens onto a more threadbare reality. A slight air of exhaustion hangs over the institution, which officially represents the country’s non-governmental sector.

After years of internal wrangles and an attempted government takeover in 2005 that saw Orie Rogo-Manduli, chairwoman at the time, barricade herself in her offices to avoid deposition, the council may finally have settled down. But its recent disarray is symptomatic for what ails much of Kenya’s NGO sector.

Kenya’s NGO sector accounts for 5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (approximately US$1.25 billion) and employs some 100,000 people, according to the government. It is thus one of the country’s leading “industries” by size and employment. Given its dependence on external funding, the NGO sector also has a tremendous effect on Kenya’s balance of payments, especially during emergencies.

NGOs are now an integral part of Kenya’s development process and have, through the council, shaped important policies such as the country’s poverty reduction strategy and, more recently, Vision 2030, which aims to eradicate absolute poverty and achieve Kenya’s “middle-income” designation by 2030.

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About the author

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    Samuel Lando

    Samuel Lando focuses on issues of poverty, inequality and governance in his research for the Development Policy Management Forum, a pan-African NGO that carries out applied research on development policy and development management in eastern Africa and beyond. Samuel began to freelance for Devex in July 2008. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of London’s Queen Mary College and a bachelor’s in economics from the University of the Witwatersrand.