Brand Kenya and its theories

Posted on September 19, 2013



This morning as I went through the daily newspapers, an article in the Star caught my attention. 

Brand Kenya chief executive officer Mary Kamonye had put some ideas on paper for Kenyans to read. Her choice of words in the opening paragraph gripped my attention.

She writes thus: ‘In March 2008, Kenya took a bold step to initiate a national branding program. By so doing, the country joined a small circles of nations that have walked this awesome and challenging journey’ she writes

A bold, awesome and challenging journey are the key words that attracted me. Indeed it has been a challenging journey for branding Kenya in my view. Whether it has been bold or an awesome initiative, that is open for debate.

Suffice to say, Mary Kamonye remains at the driving seat in this journey five years on. According to the opinion piece, Brand Kenya, the body charged with this cardinal role I learn has a national brand master plan.

It was completed two years ago. That in my assumption must be in 2011. Before the delivery of the master plan, a country diagnosis was conducted. This she says was along the structures of five pillars; people, place, product, politics and economy.

I’m tempted to find out if that was the order of priority or it was a random structure. This is say because who places politics before the economy?

The article goes ahead to list several results of the diagnosis that led to the master plan and its key components.  Key to these are three fundamental brand values namely optimism, character and generosity.

The article aside, Brand Kenya in all its years of operations have failed to impress. It has not been aggressive enough in branding Kenya. Many a times, other institutions like the tourism board and vision 2030 seems to out paces it.

When the institution was formed, I had or at least pretended to believe I knew just what was expected of it. Kenya then was in shambles as a result of the hotly contested December 2007 General Elections.

We needed to reclaim our place in the geopolitics; a trusted ally of the west, the economic hub of the east and central Africa and above all a country in peace with itself. The politicians had in the previous months sold us and we played along.

In its first year, not much was recorded on the activities of Brand Kenya. They played catch up to what the tourism board of Kenya was doing. Their activities seemed incoherent to what in my view was required of them. 

As usual, we were patient with them, gave them time to hit the ground running and hoped they would run.  Then came the Vision 2030 secretariat with its five pillars on driving Kenya to an economic status desired. Several projects later, I saw Brand Kenya tag along. At one point it seemed the two were joined at the hip when it came to branding or putting signage on flagship projects. 

Sometime in 2011, a friend of mine called me asking for the direct contacts of Brand Kenya chief executive officer. His beef, he had a proposal he wanted to deliver to the ceo or at least an officer there.  In his words, a receptionist or at least she who picked his call on the land-line requested that he drops the proposal manually to their offices. No email address he was told. ‘Just bring it in hard copy to the office’

That aside. 

In her article, the ceo indicates that the brand master plan in place, the next step is to execute it across all platforms.  She lists several other measures among them new leadership, a constitution, Vision 2030 better infrastructures as areas that have eject new life in brand Kenya.

I’m no expert in how government or its departments work. But a master plan yet to be executed two years on reeks of the old ways of doing things. This is least expected of an institution that should be at the fore front in creating a better Kenya.

As a young journalists I remember attending launches of strategic plans by a number of state agencies. Most of them were five year plans. The tragedy however was that the launches were happening mid term of the said proposals. In fact I once attended a launch of a strategic plan 2006-2010 for a department in 2009. Typical of government but not expected of Brand Kenya.

Recently, I asked friends, why the secretary to the cabinet was initially in charge of Kenya’s Jubilee celebration. I still ask where is Brand Kenya in all this.

I’d want to go on and on! Rant for pages. But I must submit.  

Brand Kenya is yet to impress. They need to do so much. They must be in-touch with the people.

The ceo finishes by writing: We mus now all as individuals, institutions, regions counties do our part. (in branding Kenya)

Brand Kenya must also do it part and do it well


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