The Fallacy of Kenyan Representation in the Diaspora

COTECA 2014 Messegeschehen Halle A4

Kenya is known as the anchor and economic hub of East and Central Africa. To ensure everyone knows this, the Kenyan government is required to remind people. We all know what McDonald’s is, but how many times do you drive around without seeing a big M peeping from somewhere or a billboard advertising McDonald’s? That’s the power of advertising.

Even when people know your brand, you have to continue reminding them that it exists. This holds for the Kenyan brand as well. Kenya is a brand and we need to keep reminding outsiders that Kenya has great things to offer. However this hasn’t been the case.

Kenyan stand at the Smithsonian Exhibition
Kenyan stand at the Smithsonian Exhibition

Earlier this year Smithsonian Festival was held in the USA where the stand that was meant to showcase Kenya only had some badly printed pictures posted with cellotape on a floppy board. The person in charge of that stand got a ticket to the USA, accommodation and upkeep allowance just to showcase Kenya yet couldn’t even afford to buy clear cello tape to stick up the badly printed pictures.

The famous Coffee Tea Cocoa Global Industry Expo (COTECA) which is held every two years, was held on 24th and 25th of September, in Hamburg. The Expo aims to bring together people in the Coffee, Tea and Cocoa industry as well as Producers, consumers and key players in that industry.

Since Kenya is currently the largest tea exporter to Germany and one of the top coffee exporters, it would be expected that Kenya would exhibit it’s products at the COTECA Trade Fair. However, Kenya wasn’t represented!

First the representative sent by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority (AFFA) from Kenya to give a talk on Kenyan tea did not show up at the event. No one had any idea where the representative disappeared to. Organisers were sure that she had landed in Germany but she didn’t attend the event. Where did she go to? Visiting relatives and sight seeing? Secondly, the Embassy official who would have acted as a substitute only made it to the event at 8pm in the evening for the cocktail event, took a selfie and posted it on the Embassy website implying that Kenya was represented.

Ethiopia which is the next big producer from Africa and Kenya’s competitor had a stand and flew in members from the Sidama Cooperative all the way from Ethiopia. They didn’t have the “honour” to make a presentation at the conference like Kenya did, but they were still there promoting their country and products. And allowing the trade fair attendees to taste their tea and buy their products.

Sadly, as Kenyans we take a lot for granted. That people love our products, that our country always gets a seat at conferences, these are privileges other countries don’t enjoy. As Kenyans we have a seat reserved for us but we don’t show up. People enjoy our products but never get to meet the “face” behind our products, then we wonder when our sales go down because our customers prefer to try other producers who are more visible.

Tea and coffee farmers in Kenya are burning their tea and coffee bushes complaining they aren’t making enough money. Authorities that should be marketing and exploiting new markets for our products are too busy squandering funds and underpaying producers they forget that even a cash cow requires fattening and when you starve it, you’ll one day have no milk to sell.

It is unfortunate that some Kenyans are paid to showcase Kenya only for them to do a shoddy job, yet others who actually work tirelessly to do that job never get any recognition.

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