Master’s degree cut-off may deny KQ right CEO talent


A Kenya Airways aircraft at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The Kenya Aviation Management, Bill 2020, has controversially set the minimum requirement for those seeking the corner office at Kenya Airways (KQ), Kenya Airports Authority, and the yet to be formed Kenya Aviation Investment Corporation to be at least a Master's degree.

This appears to suggest that academic qualifications will carry more weight than other skill sets and experience in the recruitment of the chief executives.

Yet it is debatable whether one really needs a Master’s degree to steer a loss-making company like KQ to profitability.

Setting a Master's degree requirement not only narrows the talent pool but it may also end up giving the company a CEO with rosy academic qualifications but lacking the managerial skills and experience needed to guide the airline through turbulent times.

The business world is full of examples of non-Master’s degree holders who have done stellar jobs at their companies.

Most of the successful companies listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange do not require their CEOs to have post-graduate qualifications.

Some State-owned firms have top executives with PhDs yet they are not the top organisations to emulate.

Indeed there is no evidence that the success or failure of the past KQ chief executives have had much to do with their academic credentials.

KQ has had four CEOs in six years, including Titus Naikuni who retired in December 2014, Mbuvi Ngunze who was replaced in June 2017 by Sebastian Mikosz. Mr Mikosz, who had a Master’s degree in Economics and Finance resigned in December.

What KQ needs is a visionary boss with integrity and self-drive. He or she should not be motivated by a fat paycheque, but the desire to build a lasting legacy.

Prospective CEO candidates who tick the right boxes risk being overlooked for the position during the recruitment if the requirement of postgraduate qualifications is upheld.

Parliament should therefore amend the clause in Kenya Aviation Management, Bill 2020 — which is guiding the nationalisation of the airline — to set a minimum academic qualification of a Bachelor’s degree.