Profile of the late Hon. Joseph W N. Nyagah, EGH

Hon. Joseph William Nthiga Nyagah, fondly referred to as Joe, was the first Born of Jeremiah J. M Nyagah, and Eunice Wambere, and is the brother to Mary Khimulu, Norman Nyagah, the late Zachariah Kariuki, Nahashon Nyagah, Silvano Njeru, and Rachel Murugi. He was the eldest Cousin from his paternal family and the fourth oldest child among his maternal cousins. 

He was enrolled at Kiburu Primary School, at the age of seven years where he was the youngest in his Standard One class, but was immediately made a class prefect.  He was later transferred to DEB Kangaru Primary School for the third term in 1954, where he transitioned from using the slate and chalk to writing on an exercise book and was taught English for the first time. He again changed schools when his Father was transferred to Kiambu, he attended ACK Kiambu Primary School, and then later in 1958 when the family moved to Mbeere following his Father’s posting to Nairobi, Kiamuringa Primary School. 

He attended Alliance High School between 1964 and 1970 where he was School Captain of the Arthur House and remained an active member of the Alliance Old Boys’ Alumni group until the time of his death. For his tertiary education, Hon. Nyagah and attained a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Political Science from the University of Nairobi, 1970 – 1973, and an MBA from the prestigious Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in the United States of America. 

He worked for the First National Bank of Chicago, today’s JP Morgan Chase Bank, where he served in its offices in Nairobi, Chicago, and London. His last assignment, based in London was as the Assistant Vice President in-charge of Trade Finance in Africa. 

Joe’s first public service role was in 1983 as Kenya’s Ambassador to Belgium and the European Union until 1987. He was then appointed Managing Director & CEO of Kenya Airways in 1987, tasked with the important task of stabilizing the company which had just seen the highest number of lay-offs following the collapse of East African Airways, a position he held until 1991. President-Africa Airlines Association (AFRAA); President GETS Marketing Company, Atlanta, Georgia, USA (a computerized reservation system company then owned by some IATA airlines) and President International Air Transport Association (IATA), Geneva. He served as Treasurer, Kenya Institute of Bankers, Member of Kenya External Trade Authority, where he was its Transport Committee Chairman, Chairman of St. Paul’s Theological College, Limuru, Endowment Committee (today’s St. Paul’s University).

He started his political career in 1997 as a member of Parliament for Gachoka, a constituency he represented for 2 consecutive terms until 2007, inheriting his father’s former role in Parliament. He was a nominated MP on an Orange Democratic Movement between 2007 and 2013. He served as Chairman of Parliament’s National Prayer Breakfast, and as a member of the Parliamentary Defense and Foreign Relations Committee. 

Hon. Nyagah was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 1998 after which he served in various ministerial and assistant ministerial posts, under Presidents Moi and Kibaki. He was the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting between 1998 and 1999 and is famous for transitioning the country successfully from a single-license channel regime, to liberal multi-channel, Minister for Lands and Settlement 1999 – 2001, Assistant Minister Office of the President in 2002, Assistant Minister Ministry of Agriculture 2003 – 2004, Assistant Minister for East African Community Affairs in 2004, Ministry of Co-operative Development and Marketing 2008 – 2013.

He was most proud of his tenure as the Minister for Cooperative Development and Marketing, the movement in Kenya experienced tremendous growth, most notably, the creation of Savings and Cooperatives Societies for Boda Boda operators and Matatus bringing much-needed order and security to the transport sector. Regionally, he served as the chairman of the panel of African Ministers of Cooperatives between 2009 to 2013 and was the Goodwill Ambassador for ACCOSCA until the time of his death. He founded and was the Chairman of the Co-operative Development Foundation of Africa and authored “An African Minister’s Lessons for Co-operatives”, an account of the growth and development of Kenya’s and Africa’s cooperative movement. He was appointed the Chancellor for the Cooperative University of Kenya in 2014 and resigned in 2017. 

H. E. President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Joe as his Special Advisor on Northern Corridor Integration Projects between 2013 and 2017. In this position, he led negotiations with the East African governments to ensure that Kenya’s national interests were represented and that the projects progressed efficiently. For this role, he has been commended for his sound advice, clarity of mind, competence in government diplomacy, and vocal representation of the public interest. 

He was Kenya’s first Independent Presidential Candidate under Kenya’s 2010 Constitution, in 2017 and was third in the polls.