One of the distinguishing features of Uhuru Kenyatta as President is how he gave youthful leaders big positions in government. Among the youthful leaders to grace Cabinet meetings was Daniel Kazungu Muzee who represented both the youth and the coastal region that holds a special place in Kenya’s post-independence self-awareness.
More critical is the fact that Kazungu was tasked with the Ministry of Mining, which was later expanded to include petroleum. Given Kenya’s experiments with extraction prospects on the one hand, and the well-beaten paths of agriculture and tourism as the drivers of our economy, the significance of mining as a possible alternative could not be overstated.
Not only could an established mining sector boost the economic prospects of the country in the long term, but it could also offer immediate respite for many a Kenyan weighed down by a heavy tax burden — tax being the main financier of government expenditure. This broad expectation informed the wider remit of Kazungu’s brief, when the President appointed him in 2013 to serve as the Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Mining.
Born in 1970 in Malindi in the coastal belt, Kazungu attended Kwale High School — a powerhouse in secondary education in the whole of the former Coast Province — before proceeding to Moi University for a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Science, a qualification that he later augmented with an MSc at the same institution.
Like many Kenyans of his generation, Kazungu first ventured into the world of formal employment, working for established firms such as Fintech International, Microsoft, Compaq, Mecer, IBM and Lenovo Corporation East Africa. Kazungu did well in the tech-world and perhaps his excellence is what prompted the President to consider him for appointment as CS. As is usual in such matters, the Fourth Estate began digging into Kazungu’s previous life of. As print journalist Alphonce Gari, noted in a section of the Kenya media, Kazungu, was recognised as among the top achievers among global employees of IBM, and had received special mention by the IBM Global Chief Finance Officer at an investor briefing at the New York Stock Exchange.
Three fundamental factors influenced Kazungu’s life and permeated his political outlook and performance at the Ministry of Mining. One, he was born a few years after independence when the excitement of freedom had given way to the challenges of running a country where the landless, expected the government to provide relief of sorts. This was especially the case in the coastal region that, in a sense, is a symbol of land debates in Kenya.
The land question has a multifaceted impact on social and economic constructions of success, which leads to the second influence on Kazungu’s life and performance. Growing up in a large land-deprived family, Kazungu experienced the pangs of poverty at a very personal level. At 14 years old, Kazungu lost his father, who had five wives and 15 siblings. His late uncle Mzee Thomas Mwambire (his late father’s cousin) left him with words that ring in his mind till today:
“I know your mothers, brothers and sisters are in pain, sad, struggling and hurting. But you have a choice. To either always think about them, their suffering and your sad loss and keep on crying and eventually fail in your exams and all of you go down, or go to school, apply yourself to the best of your ability, excel in school, succeed in your career and lift up yourself, your mothers and family as well as your community.” He chose the latter and his experience sharpened his sense of industry and awareness of the routine struggles that many families in similar circumstances experience. More importantly, the experience of growing up in such socio-economic conditions and the eventual success in the corporate world taught him important lessons about how personal striving and industry can turn around ill-fortunes to abundant success.
Third, the fact that many established political and cultural leaders from the coastal region had fallen by the wayside, either by natural attrition or by operation of democracy, inspired Kazungu to emerge from corporate boardrooms and offer himself for an elective position. Joining elective politics was neither impulsive nor fortuitous for Kazungu. Rather, it was the logical outcome of a long cherished dream of joining public service in the political realm. According to media interviews that he granted while serving as a CS, Kazungu intimated that wherever he had worked before, it was part of mark timing for the day that he would approach his Malindi Constituency electorate for votes.
During the 2013 General Election, he contested for and won the Malindi Parliamentary seat. The fact that he represented a young and conscientious leadership in the House was not lost on observers and, in 2015, he was appointed to the Cabinet when the President restructured the government. Kazungu worked with Andrew Kamau, who was the Principal Secretary (PS) at the time, and with whom he oversaw the formulation and implementation of policies that would put structures in what was then a relatively young ministry.
While the country has a long history of capitalising on its mineral resources for economic growth and development, the approach in so doing was not always at the level of a whole ministry. It was generally as a department within a mother ministry. However, with the growing realisation of the potential of harnessing mineral resources for greater economic development, the President restructured government to create a ministry specifically addressing the mineral base and its potential in Kenya.
This was, perhaps, following the initial discovery of huge mineral deposits in neighbouring countries, and even the initial reports that Kenya had discovered huge gas and petroleum deposits in Turkana during the tenure of President Mwai Kibaki, – a government in which Uhuru played a critical role. He served both as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in the 2007–2013 government of national unity where Kibaki was President, the Prime Minister was Raila Odinga and Musalia Mudavadi was the other Deputy Prime Minister.
Even before he became President, Uhuru had a deep understanding of the mineral variety and quantities actually and potentially available in Kenya. He therefore saw the opportunity to harness this potential through a well-structured ministry as part of working towards delivery of the promises that he had made to Kenyans during his campaigns. The implementation of the current Constitution began during the second half of Kibaki’s last term in office and extended into the first term of Uhuru’s tenure. For this reason, the President was responsible for imagining a central role of mining in helping achieve the overall objective of national development of a united Kenya, as envisaged in the preamble of the Constitution.
The President needed a versatile and skilled person to oversee the relatively new Mining docket. Someone who had proved his mettle in business-like running of systemic operations. Kazungu fit the bill.
The Ministry of Mining and Petroleum, as we know it today, came into being via the Executive Order No. 1 of May 2020. This included pre-existing legal and policy instruments that would allow and regulate Kazungu to undertake his responsibilities as CS. When he took over the ministry, the only legal document governing the mining sector in Kenya was the outdated Mining Act of 194 crafted by the colonial government at the peak of World War II, and designed to extract Kenya’s mineral resources for the benefit of Britain.
In a record six months, Kazungu worked tirelessly to repeal the 76 year-old law to replace with the much more progressive legislation, and capped it by delivering Kenya’s first mining strategy and policy. It is noteworthy that when Kazungu took over leadership at the Ministry of Mining in 2015, Kenya was ranked by the Fraser Report in early 2016 at position 125 out of 126 countries. A very unfamiliar and embarrassing position for the country. Kazungu would need just one year move Kenya to position 86 out of 126 sampled countries, and the mining sector became Kenya’s third (3rd) highest growth sector after tourism and ICT.
Among the notable instruments he initiated were the Mining and Minerals Policy Sessional Paper No. 7 of 2016, the Mining Act of 2016 and its subsidiary, the Petroleum Fund Act of 1991 (a later version was developed in 2019 after Kazungu had been redeployed to the diplomatic service), and the Explosives Act.
Other relevant provisions that had previously been domiciled in different departments across the ministries include the Geologist Registration Act 10 of 1993 (and its later subsidiary), and different gazette notices that were published to address some more immediate concerns. Kazungu brought all these together as part of entrenching legal and policy structures that govern the ministry’s routine operations. The core of the Ministry of Mining and Petroleum entailed formulation of a policy on petroleum drilling and processing, since at that time there were real prospects that the oil discovered in Turkana and the larger north-eastern areas of the country was economically viable for bulk drilling.
A particular point of attention for Kazungu was, therefore, to plan for and oversee the Strategic Petroleum Stock Management, and management of upstream petroleum products marketing. Kenya was keen to avoid both the ‘petroleum curse’ – the socio-economic and political challenges that ill-planned handling of petroleum related resources visit on countries – that manifests either in terms of regional sectarian bickering that threatens national unity or the phenomenon of the ‘Dutch disease’, where an entire economy over-relies on one economic resource at the expense of others, artificially increasing the cost of living. In short, the ministry was tasked to ensure that the discovery of oil and other minerals did not sabotage the economic structures that were already in place.
To address all these, Kazungu was responsible for designing a long view of oil and exploration policy and capacity development. Other concerns were managing matters of licensing petroleum marketing and handling; working on quality control modalities; and formulating sector specific policies on extractive industries generally.
The ministry also had to develop an inventory of and map mineral resources across the Republic, and maintain the geological data. Such data would also inform records on quarrying rocks and industrial minerals, and management of health conditions and health and safety in mines.
Naturally, these developments could only be done through established institutions within the ministry: the National Mining Corporation, the Mineral Rights Board and the Geologist Registration Board. Under these were the Upstream Directorate, the Mid/Downstream Directorate, the Geological Survey and Geo-Information Management Directorate and the Directorate of Mines.
The departments and units within the ministry are operationalised in three main functions. One was the petroleum function headed by the Commissioner of Petroleum who oversees several functions, among them developing and updating the oil and gas master plan for exploration and development and conducting research to enhance capacity in the petroleum sector.
The second function is mining and geology, which draws its legal authority from Section 17(a) of the Mining Act 2016, and is empowered to promote effective and efficient management and development of mineral resources and the mining sector. The function also takes charge of regulating the administration of mining prospects.
The mining and geology function was under the immediate supervision of the Commissioner of Mining and Geology who, among other things, was tasked with obtaining geoscience expertise and data for government to make the necessary decisions; coordinate the operations in geological, geochemical, seismological and hydro-geological surveys, investigations and mapping. Furthermore, the Commissioner was also in charge of ensuring that actors in the mining sector comply with the existing legal and policy requirements, with the overall aim of ensuring uniformity in the operations of the wider mining sector. Both functions were coordinated by the general administration and support services, taking charge of routine management functions, but also the Central Planning and Projects Management Unit. This, by necessity, would be done in liaison with other line ministries, governmental and non-governmental agencies, including the Kenya Pipeline Company, the Kenya Petroleum Refineries Limited, National Oil Corporation of Kenya, Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority, and the National Mining Corporation. Others are the Mining Cadastre Portal, National GeoData Centre, National Environment Management Authority and the African Minerals Geosciences Centre.
By the time he left the ministry, Kazungu had overseen several successful projects in both mining and petroleum portfolios. The government has initiated a project dubbed, ‘The Mwananchi Gas Project’ to manage LPG. This is an initiative by the ministry whose objectives were to: reduce use of biomass and kerosene as the primary sources of household cooking fuels; facilitate access of LPG to low-income households; enhance LPG penetration in the country; and scale-up uptake of LPG from 10 per cent to 70 per cent of Kenyan households. To this end, the ministry procured over 100,000 6 kg cylinders and sufficient accessories to begin rolling out to the affected households.
Other projects include the Development of the National Petroleum Policy; Development of Petroleum Regulations and Guidelines; Development of Kenya National Petroleum Master Plan; Development of Local Content Policy and Regulations; and considering a Cost Recovery Audit.
In the Mining Department, among the ministry’s achievements were the establishment of a geological data centre; a computerised geological resources information bank of the geological survey; a geological survey laboratory to support geological and mineral research for credible and timely mineral-related data; a gemstone value addition centre; a granite processing plant; and upgrading of the online transactional mining cadastre portal. There was also the construction of soapstone processing and value addition centre in Kisii County and establishing a royalty management system.
What all these imply is that the Uhuru government, through the Kazungu-led Ministry of Mining and Petroleum, has put structures in place to place the mining and mineral sectors at the core of national economic development, as envisaged in the numerous policy and legal frameworks.
The burden of all these involves the preparation of the country to meet the logistical and practical needs of big players in the extraction industry — such as Tullow Oil and its petroleum exploration — all within the existing legal and policy frameworks, and using the best practices regionally and globally. The CS took bold steps to ensure that the minerals mined would benefit the whole country and not just a few actors in the sector, most of whom, had no interest in the national good.
He once declared: “Mineral resources belong to the national government. Investors have been forced to stop their operations because of wrangles between them and the community. It is unfortunate that, despite huge mineral deposits in most regions, residents languish in abject poverty.” Keen to negate the impact of sector capture by private practitioners, investors and unscrupulous individuals, he affirmed that “… as a ministry, we will not allow wrangles to continue depriving citizens of the benefits of these resources. The dispute [at the time] has stalled development in the country at large. This is denying the national and county governments revenue worth billions of shillings.”
One of the most remarkable things about Kazungu is that, apart from blazing the trail of academic excellence in a region that has for long been associated with rampant cases of school drop-outs — for cultural and economic reasons —he was the first ever resident of Malindi to be appointed to as CS.
Kazungu extricated himself from poverty and obscurity to become a globally recognised corporate player and, eventually, a key member of the Uhuru’s government. The same attributes account for his deep knowledge of the mining and petroleum sectors, and his successes in leading the policy and structural establishment of a ministry that focuses on a promising, though as yet undeveloped, sector of the economy. Kazungu accomplished all this with little fanfare and through focus on his assigned duties.