Trouble at KENIC as 4th CEO in 5 years leaves

I have written so much about KENIC, the .ke country code Top Level Domain administrator that this post will have to be a short one 🙂 you can read more here.

David Wambua, the fourth CEO in five years has left, quit, fired and any other term you can fix there, depending on who you believe. Former CEOs are; Michuki Mwangi, Vincent Ngundi, Joe Kiragu and now David Wambua.

Word is that the guy was incompetent; the board hired a marketing guy to do a technical job. However, I spoke to someone who understands the organization and its politics and told me that being a marketing guy was not the issue; it was his unwillingness to understand the organization and how it works.

I am told that the board hired him from Brand Kenya, believing that he was the guy to take the organization to the next level, a year later, the board felt that the level was down and they expected it to be up.

Picture this; .co.za has 700k domains, .0rg.za has 20k and the whole of .ke has 21k as at march 2012. With all the bragging that Kenya is taking off in tech, you would expect the domain to dance around 300k 🙂

The failure to understand KENIC and its history probably manifested itself in the case of Rwanda and its efforts to revive .rw. You see, Kenya is considered a tech power house in the region, so, when Rwanda thought about setting up its .rw registry, it approached Kenic for help.

Kenic adopted the system from the Christmas islands and locally made some enhancements to suit the market and started using it in 2010 or there about. The system has an Mpesa interface for registrars to pay and also an alert system for the end users, alerting you when your domain is about to expire. The system is open source and has been used by a number of African registries, you can read more here.

When David went to Rwanda, he told the .rw guys that the best he could do, is giving them the contacts of the company that customized it for .ke. If David understood Kenic, he probably would have looked for a way to help.

Kenic through the help of Brazil registry for .br, they trained Michuki Mwangi free and gave Kenya their registry system to customize, the only challenge was that the manuals were in Portuguese. Tanzania also benefitted from the same training and you can read the 2006 post here.

When they could not get help from Kenya, Rwanda got help from Tanzania, which is great but doesn’t make a good showing for Kenya. I am not privy to the details of the contract with the .ke system developers but with the history, I am sure it must say somewhere that Kenic can take the system and offer it to someone else for customization or something like that. With the level of underdevelopment of many registries, you would expect others to ask for help and give it, the way you got it from Brazil.

Then there is the problem of board interference.  The micro management at Kenic is just something else. I am told its only one board member who doesn’t like to let things run smoothly. I can not name him without being accused of malice 🙂

Its basic business knowledge that having five CEOs in five years means that there is a problem with the organization; either the employees or the board.

Kenic is a multistakeholder body, owned by the tech community. Board members are:

    Sammy Buruchara – Telecommunication Service Providers Association of Kenya (TESPOK) 

  • Alice Munyua – Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANET) – Chairperson
  • Michael Katundu – Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK)
  • Lucky Waindi – Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK)
  • Charles Njoroge -Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK)
  • Ali Hussein – Domain Registrars Association of Kenya (DRAKE) – Vice-Chairperson
  • Moses Kemibaro – Kenya Internet Marketing Association (KIMA)
  • Prof. Jimmy Macharia – Kenya Education Network (KENET)
  • Charles Nduati – Kenya ICT Federation (KIF)
  • J.N Muiruri – e-Government

rebecca

March 19th, 2012 View Profile

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.” ― George Orwell

Comments

  1. [Anonymous]

    Reply

    Becky, it is a great cause of concern of the state of affairs at KENIC. Having worked there before, I have also witnessed the kind of politicking that is crippling to the .KE registry. Indeed Kenya should be the ICT beacon of light not just in region but in Africa but with overweening egos sitting on boards with a very dim and limited view of things, very little progress is made. This is best illustrated in your example of the number of .KE domains. 21K is hardly a cause for celebration, yes over 300K will give Kenya bragging rights but only when an insightful and long term thinking management is on board will such a target be reached in a spectacularly short time.

  2. James Muhoro

    Reply

    It might be wise to note that David Wambua’s employment with Brand Kenya was also terminated/fired/let go on similar issues of incompetencies and non-strategic thinking.

    Perhaps Kenic needs to relook at their hiring mechanisms especially for the CEO position? Was due diligence on his previous employment undertaken etc?

    Food for though…………

  3. anonymous

    Reply

    Situations like this where organizations have problems with high CEO turnover or problem CEOs are generally indicative of a dysfunctional or malfunctioning board. Look at CCK wrangles

  4. Franklin Nnebe

    Reply

    Lets not forget that the “internet” was around for more than two decades in the US living off of the defence and university institutions before it exploded into popular consumption as many things came together and created a credible package including sub-$1000 PCs, cheap internet and free browser software.

    So in the case of Kenya, one should not make the mistake of comparing its registry to co.za or .com or whoever but look at how the web itself can sell within the economic realities of Kenya itself. One has to look at pricing of domain names as a start. Maybe if they were priced as low as $5 a year the uptake would be higher than 21K. Maybe that alone would not support KENIC (or the salary expectations of its executives) but it would get it off to a good start and reduce the turnover of CEOs whose expectations are no doubt tied to the high commercial projections of KENIC that I assume they all have.

    Either ways, KENIC and those on its board need to exercise some patience. Rome was not built in a day. The internet in Kenya is not exactly like the cellphone which everyone must have. Getting it into the daily lives of people will talk time, education and patience. KENIC will inevitably get to 300,000 domain names or more but not overnight.

  5. makarius

    Reply

    and now kenic has a new CEO. Guess who it is? Sammy Buruchara. This is the owner of Nairobi net! clear:-)case of conflict of interest.

    a registrar running kenic,,,,,,,:-)

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