There is intense lobbying and under the carpet for key positions at Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry ahead of the national polls slated for May this year.
A number of candidates have started their campaigns in earnest for various seats.
Those eyeing the national chairmanship slot currently held by Kipruto Kittony include KNCC vice chairman James Mureu, KNCCI Nairobi chapter chairman Richard Ngatia and former Kisii Kanu branch chairman Simeon Mariombe.
Mureu is a businessman based in Mombasa where he has been instrumental. He also served as KNCCI Mombasa county branch chairman for many years. He was nominated by KNCCI to represent it on the board of the East African Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture and was EACCIA board chair till January 2015.
For Ngatia, he is a close friend of Uhuru Kenyatta. Last year, Ngatia led the KNCCI Nairobi branch in raising Sh120 million in support of small and medium enterprises.
Ngatia also signed a memorandum of understanding with Nairobi county government to improve business for the SMEs, which he said are the engine of the economy.
In the MoU, the business community works with the devolved units in improving the city as a conference and events destination. Nairobi branch is one of the most vibrant ones after Ngatia rescued it once he took the mandate.
The agreement with city county has seen the establishment of a special business lounge at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airport in Nairobi, to improve attractiveness of Kenya in hosting world class events.
For Mariombe, he has already announced his interest in KNCCI national chairmanship seat.
He is a former KNCCI Kisii branch chairman and a life member in the organisation.
While announcing his bid, Mariombe said his aim is to make KNCCI vibrant by opening offices countrywide and will also strive to make it mandatory for all business people to join it to get assistance.
Mariombe, formerly director, Lake Victoria South Water Services Board, said the counties will be managed by the chairman, vice and directors who will be earning monthly allowances so that they can serve the members better.
Mariombe at one time, served as the first national vice chairman of KNCCI. He is the patron of Mwanyambori Enterprises.
Others running for the seat are East African Safari Air Express Charles Wako who is eyeing the national vice chairman slot currently held by Mureu. He is allied to Ngatia’s camp.
Already, Ngatia and Wako have received the backing of members from 14 counties that form Lake Region Economic Block.
At a meeting held at the Broad Park Hotel in Vihiga, traders from Bungoma, Vihiga, Kisumu, Busia, Kakamega, Nandi, Bomet, Kisii, Nyamira, Migori, Homa Bay, Siaya, Kericho and Trans Nzoia counties unanimously threw their support behind Ngatia and Wako.
In backing Wako, the spokesperson of KNCCI Western Chapter Herman Kasili said they are going to vote for Wako as national vice chairman. Wako has already accepted the endorsement by his troupe. For Ngatia, sources say that due to pressure on him to run for the seat, he has no alternative but to go for it.
All Nairobi branch members have agreed to back Ngatia and Mt Kenya KNCC branches, according to our source well versed with the current happenings in the campaigns.
Busia KNCCI chapter chair Fred Papa said Wako is best suited to be the second in command. Papa was Kalonzo Musyoka’s pointman in the region.
“Wako has what it takes to be the KNCCI vice chairman and we will continue reaching out to our colleagues in counties outside LREB to back him,” said Papa.
“The interests of the people are at our heart and as business community. We have to work together with other counties,” he stated.
Wako has been in the aviation industry for decades and once served as president of African Civil Aviation Commission and board member of the joint Hellenic and Kenya Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Speaking during a consultative meeting held at Broad Park Hotel in Vihiga, the Lake Region Chamber of Commerce led by the chairman Herman Kasali urged governors to include them if they want the bloc to go far in terms of development and service delivery to the people.
They said they are ready to work closely with Lake Region Economic Bloc to ensure that member counties achieve a lot in business development strategies.
“We are appealing to governors in the region to include KNCCI members in the Lake Region Economic Bloc so that we can pull together the economic development of our counties. The Chamber of Commerce is willing and ready to work with governors,” said Kasali.
The KNCCI Trans Nzoia county chairman Martin Waliaula said the plans by Lake Region Economic bloc will only be achieved if the governors include them in the project.
He said the regional bank can only succeed if KNCCI, which is a business entity, is fully involved and incorporated. Waliaula is said to be in Ngatia’s camp.
He said the regional bank will only succeed if it is registered as public private entity with KNCCI involved as private businesses partner.
“We are asking the governors to include KNCCI in forming the bank if they want it to meet the required laws. They should register the regional bank as public private project with KNCCI coming in as private partner,” said Waliaula.
Waliaula, at the same time, asked counties to come up with single permit licence to protect traders, especially the fish mongers from being exploited. He decried that fish mongers are incurring heavy losses after they are taxed in every county they pass through while transporting the fish. He urged counties in the bloc to come up with single business permit to save the traders.
As he departs KNCCI, many members say Kittony managed to resurrect and rebrand it. Before, infighting was the order of the day in the mismanagement and KNCCI was on its deathbed. Now it has vibrant branches locally, international links with operational office.
KNCCI financial status are sound. The question is, who will succeed Kittony come May this year.