Former Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has been appointed by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) – a global conservation non-profit – as its new Vice President.
Founded in 1903, FFI describes itself as the world’s oldest international conservation organization. It focuses on the protection of threatened wildlife and habitats around the world. FFI enjoys patronage from the UK Royal Family, with Prince William its current patron.
Other Vice-Presidents at FFI include acclaimed Planet Earth narrator Sir David Attenborough and English comedian Stephen Fry.
Balala, who served as Tourism CS under former President Uhuru Kenyatta, had earlier expressed interest in taking up a role in the Kenya Kwanza administration led by President William Ruto. Ruto, however, nominated Peninah Malonza as the new Tourism Cabinet Secretary.
Generally, Kenya is considered a conservation hub thanks to its rich wildlife and landscapes in addition to the legal framework designed to protect them. However, many scholars such as John Mbaria and Mordecai Ogada, authors of the Big Conservation Lie, continue to raise important questions on the rise of foreign-backed conservancies occupying large tracts of land in Kenya, how they relate to communities around them, their socio-economic impact and sustainability.
“It is a call to indigenous Africans to claim their place at the table where the management of their natural resources is being discussed and invites well-meaning donors to look beyond the romantic images and detect the possible role of their money in the disenfranchisement of a people,” the authors explained while describing the book.
Balala has held several public service roles in his decades-long political career, including the Mayor of Mombasa in the late 90’s, Mvita Member of Parliament, Minister for Gender, Sports, Culture and Social Services, Cabinet Secretary for Mining and Cabinet Secretary for Tourism.
Prior to being thrust in the public eye as Nairobi mayor, Balala had served as Chairman of the Coast Tourist Association and Secretary of the Swahili Cultural Centre. He had also engaged in the family tea and coffee trading business.
Balala studied Business Administration and International Urban Management and Leadership at the University of Toronto, and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.