Korea International Cooperation Agency, Nairobi: An Interview.
Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), is the Republic of Korea’s aid agency. It was established in 1991 and started out with the training of Government officials, focusing on meeting basic human rights for developing countries. KOICA offices expanded over the years internationally and was formed in Kenya in 2008. The Kenya Office has had four directors so far with the current being Ms. Hyeyoung Shin.
Daisy Jemutai paid them a visit and had a sit down with Annie Njoroge, the head of Projects, who tried to catch her up on what the Kenyan office has been up to.
Daisy: Kindly tell me a little bit about yourself.
Annie: My name is Annie Njoroge. I joined KOICA in 2014 as a Project specialist having done my masters in Development studies. My interest in joining KOICA was based on my passion for project management in relation to community development. Currently I am in charge of KOICA projects at the Kenya Office.
Daisy: What does KOICA do?
Annie: As an aid organization it is primarily focused on two areas; the first is project implementation,that is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. The second area is training of personnel, aimed at fostering Human Resource Development.
Daisy: So, what areas has KOICA Kenya delved into.
Annie: We have had 12 local projects on education, water and health. The Kenyan Office is a champion on water development and therefore most of its projects are water based. Some of our water project areas are Migori, Asembo, Naivasha, and Garissa (a diameter wall project). We have an ongoing project in Bungoma that is supposed to end by February 2018. Once the Bungoma water project is completed, it will benefit approximately 150,000 people. It will also benefit the neighboring Mt. Elgon region.
Daisy: What do these water projects entail.
Annie: The projects are mostly about water treatment plants. It is a collaboration of both County and National government, and KOICA. What happens is that the county government and the Central government’s implementing body (on the ground) usually write a proposal, that is then taken to the Ministry of Water. The ministry reviews it and later forwards it to the National treasury before it ends up at the Korean Embassy.
Daisy: Tell us more about the other projects KOICA has done in Kenya.
Annie : We have done various renovations and constructions for schools. In Nakuru we built one school and did two renovations. We built Kitengela Sub county Hospital, did a couple of renovations last year and supplied the hospital with equipment.
Daisy: How does KOICA pin-point the area that is in need of a project.
Annie: We don’t limit anyone when it comes to applying. Usually when a proposal is sent our way through the ministry, we review it and then hand it over to the HQ who look at the viability of the project -in terms of the budget, the need, and the capacity of the office handling the project. Proposals sent are usually on a government to government basis.
Daisy: So, what projects are currently on-going?
- Water development project – Improvement of water supply system in Bungoma County.
- The Primary school environment and ICT project – with the help of the Ministry of Education. It is running in Ngu’ndu Primary school in Kamulu and Uhuru Gardens Primary school in Langata where we are building classes and an ICT center.
- The National Industrial Training Authority Capacity Development Project – we are renovating their Mombasa Center. We intend to buy equipment for the institution.
- Kitengela Sub county Hospital renovation.
- Mother Child health program.
Daisy: When the former President Park Geun-Hye visited Kenya, she was involved in the establishment of the Mother-Child Health Program. How is the project going?
Annie: The mother-child health program is currently running and is being implemented in Kajiado County. It is an outreach program for both mothers and children, done 4 times in a month. Our team (on the ground) does the implementation, in terms of treatment and diagnosis of various diseases. The program does not limit men though, as they can be treated as well. I would therefore label it more of a community development project, aimed at helping all the people in need.
Daisy: Let’s dive into KOICA’s other nascent area- Human Resource Development. How is the Kenya program running.
Annie: KOICA has 3 programs in training; Short term training that runs for 2-4 weeks, County Specific Training- where a county requests for a specific course, and Long-term training – a Masters program. Our HQ sends courses that are offered in a particular year. Our work in the Kenya office is to receive these courses and send them to the department of Public Service Management, who then circulate them to specific ministries. It is the ministries that nominate the trainees and KOICA finances the entire training including the flight, accommodation and meals.
Daisy: Where are these trainings carried out?
Annie: I would say that 90% of the trainings are done in South Korea, although there are inland trainings where experts from Korea are send to Kenya to conduct the courses. The same thing happens with projects. For every project there are three trainings; the Policy makers training, Middle level managers training and an inland training.
Daisy: How many people have been impacted by these training programs and how successful have they been?
Annie: Over the years we have managed to send over a thousand people for trainings. Personally I would say the project is successful because one is able to experience expertise that they had not gone through in Kenya. The cultural interaction opens one’s mind to new initiatives, and those who have gone to Korea have come back to implement the new things in their respective counties.
Daisy: There is the KOICA alumni, who are they?
Annie: The KOICA Alumni are people who have gone through our training programs and have come back to Kenya. They have various activities carried out quarterly. They go to schools to offer counseling in terms of career development and infrastructural support.
Daisy: Does KOICA support their activities ?
Annie: Yes. They simply tell KOICA the activities that they have for the year and are given a budget to run them. KOICA alumni are more independent, as they run there own activities but in association with KOICA Offices.
Daisy: For your mission statement, as KOICA, what are your hopes for Kenya?
Annie: Considering that South Korea was once a poor nation, we hope that Kenya would rise from a developing country to a position where they can offer grants and aid just like South Korea at the moment.
Interview by Daisy Jemutai
Image Credits: KOICA Kenya