For a long time, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) was a model corporation that was an employer of choice. With swash-buckling chairmen and transformative CEOs, the success story of KWS was an inspiration to many. Set up in 1989 to manage the wildlife that was under serious threat from poachers and encroachment of animal sanctuaries, it has over time unravelled and joined the unsightly queue of parastatals bleeding the Treasury dry regularly.
The dwindling fortunes of KWS would not attract any commentary in a land where such is common, but to its credit, it is now seeking to turn its fortunes around by offering partnerships to private investors. Now, KWS is seeking businesses and individuals to put up investments in its prime upcountry installations that often attract a premium in the hospitality industry.
Among the prime parks and reserves targeted are Mt Kenya, Tsavo East, Marsabit, South Island National Park on Lake Turkana, Nairobi National Park, Ruma National Park, and Hell’s Gate.
Companies will establish eco-lodges and camps will be offered specified leases after bidding successfully for the various establishments that KWS has offered. What is notable is the fact that the corporation is going flat out to ensure that the environment is preserved as part of the conditions for development.
KWS is taking the right direction that should be emulated by other loss-making parastatals that are sitting on prime assets that have largely been under-utilised.
There is no reason investors, both local and foreign, are putting billions outside the KWS land while the parastatal continues to beg from the government.
There are other parastatals holding on to prime land while bleeding the Treasury.
Going forward, the government should stop hiring CEOs with no capacity for turning around institutions and demand they provide a blueprint for revival before they are hired.
However, even as we praise KWS, watchdog institutions and the agency’s management should ensure this is not another scandal to reward the well-connected.
That said, if well executed, this strategy can as well become a model for other cash-starved public institutions.