The other day, I saw an press release that The Kenya ICT Board was holding a conference on Kenya’s ICT industry attractiveness in Bellagio, Italy.

I know the Bellagio Forum is high level and attracts the heavy weights in the ICT industry but the first question that came to mind was, why hold a conference about Kenya in Italy? In my folklore, there is a saying that “Mburi ndiendagio ii gichegu” loosely translated to mean that you can not sell a goat that is still in the shed, the buyer needs to see what they are buying and compare with the superlatives that you may be heaping on it.

In this case, I thought that if the board wanted to demonstrate how the Kenyan industry has grown, the easiest thing was to bring the hot shots here, visit the BPO centers, both large and small and let them pitch idea etc.

I have no problem when conferences are held in exclusive lodges in Mombasa, because it blocks people from walking in and out but Italy? I thought that was a bit far.

To understand the matter better, I caught up with Paul Kukubo, CEO of ICT board, and sought to just understand the rationale behind the conference in Italy. It was during the iHub one year anniversary so we didn’t get to talk much but I got the gist. (He is also posting very nice tweets and photos from Italy).

Here are the main points that he shared:

1. The conference is sponsored by Rockefeller Foundation

To me this didn’t make much sense because if it was an issue of money, the govt has more than enough. I am not convinced that Italy was the only venue that the foundation could fund, am sure they can do it in Kenya too.

2. Some of those participants may never step into Kenya, because of a combination of reasons

I understand, Kenya’s image may not be the best internationally, blame it on the media but if we know they may never come or make positive influences, why bother? Maybe we need to concentrate on markets that may be open to us. One insider, who owns an outsourcing firm, told me that it may be better to go to company owners and execs directly instead of consultants, who may not have our interests at heart.

3. It was a perfect opportunity to market Kenya

I have no doubt about this, but will it yield to business for the BPO industry, coz am sure thats what many of them in the industry are concerned about.

I am sure that to some, this post demonstrates ignorance and a lack of understanding of the industry but am also aware of people in the BPO industry who have complained that such trips include the same BPO owners over and over again, so if there is any business to be made, then the same BPO owners are set to benefit.

Is this fair? Yes, No, Maybe.