Kenya losing a lot of local talent

Policymakers are the problem

In Summary

• Matasi, like many other talented Kenyan footballers such as McDonald Mariga and Victor Wanyama, also plays in a foreign football league.

Harambee Stars goalkeeper Patrick Matasi
Harambee Stars goalkeeper Patrick Matasi

Kenyan goalkeeper Patrick Matasi was recently applauded for his good performance in the Kenya versus Senegal Afcon game. This despite Harambee Stars losing to Senegal

Matasi, like many other talented Kenyan footballers such as McDonald Mariga and Victor Wanyama, also plays in a foreign football league. He plays in the Ethiopian Premier League. Naturally, this lessens the interaction between him and upcoming footballers in Kenya he could mentor. 

Kenya is not only an exporter of football talent. We lost Lupita Nyong’o to Hollywood. Why can't we create our own Kenyawood? If this is not possible, then why not join forces with Nigeria and complement their Nollywood?


The policymakers are the problem. This became evident when the Kenya Film Classification Board banned ‘Rafiki, a movie with a lesbian theme. The decision was wrong because if a work of art, in this case a film, is not relevant to a community then no one will watch it. It will die a natural death.

This bureaucratic approach drives local artists to other countries. An example is Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o, as Prof Simon Gikandi and Prof Ndirangu Wachanga narrate in their recently published book, Ngugi: Reflections on his life of writing. The countries that accommodate them end up being the prime beneficiaries of talent that belongs to Kenya.

Journalists are also seeking opportunities in foreign lands. The Competency Based Curriculum aims to encourage talent, offering arts and sports subjects at senior school level.  

However, if we do not support the likes of ailing Conjestina Achieng, who will guide the implementation of boxing in the new curriculum? At this rate, we might find ourselves teaching students boxing and football using chalk and blackboard. It is prudent to appreciate that there are many avenues in sports such as sports nutrition, sports journalism, etc. However, these talents will be lost to other countries if we do not watch out.

One would be tempted to assume that we are only losing talent in the arts and sports. The sciences are a victim as well. Leah Kimathi points out that of the 600 doctors who graduate in Kenya, 30 to 40 percent go overseas immediately after their internship in search of better opportunities. This is in her research article, published in Africa Development, called ‘Challenges of the Devolved Sector: Teething Problems or Systemic Contradictions’.

Recently, Harrison Etiang’, 31, from Teso North made a car using scrap metal. He only has secondary school education. Before then he had made an aircraft which failed to fly. However, instead of being encouraged he was banned from any future attempts by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.

This is a talented person who is condemned instead of being given the relevant resources to nurture his talent. Wouldn’t we want to have aircrafts with the label ‘Made in Kenya’? If this is not what the manufacturing pillar in the Big Four agenda entails, then we had rather rebrand it to ‘Big Four propaganda’ instead.


We can do something to remedy the situation. We can allocate a share of the Sh450 billion intended to steer the Big Four agenda in 2019-20 to support local talent. We can fund initiatives such as Churchill Show, which empowers young comedians. We can also fund organisations such as The Writers Guild Kenya,  mentors young writers. The Bizconomist Journal, which inspires local researchers, can also get a share.

If we fail to make favourable policies for local talent to thrive and provide financial support as well, then we will continue losing them. Kenya will remain a training ground as other countries harvest the results.

Economist and founder of The Bizconomist Journal.

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