If Rebecca Miano, the Cabinet Secretary nominee for EAC and regional development, makes it through today’s vetting, she will join the Cabinet after spending nearly all her working life in the energy sector.
She was appointed KenGen’s chief executive on October 30, 2017, taking over from Albert Mugo who retired in August of the same year. Ms Miano was the Company Secretary before clinching the chief executive job, a position she held since 2008. In past interviews with The Standard, she described herself as a product of KenGen having risen through the ranks from a junior legal officer in the late 1990s.
Being the CS EAC, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development, will see Ms Miano play a totally different ballgame. Away from the highly technical area of power production that is rarely public facing, she will now have the task of enhancing relations between Kenya and other members of the East African Community (EAC). She will also be charged with taking development to the country’s ASAL regions, which have suffered underdevelopment over the years.
She will play part in further deepening integration of the East African Community which has over the years made great leaps and is seen as among the most integrated blocs globally but also dogged with numerous barriers that harbour intra-regional trades as well as hostilities among some member states. The EAC has grown from the initial founding members of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to include Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and more recently Democratic Republic of Congo.
Some of the countries have fully opened up their borders to allow goods from other member countries with minimal restrictions. There are instances where citizens can cross over to some of the other EAC member states using their identification cards and even secure jobs without the need to obtain work permits. There are, however, numerous instances of long queues at border crossings, where trucks have to wait for hours – in some cases days – to be cleared.
There are also instances of frosty relations between member countries, which have taken to banning products coming from their neighbours. Such has been the case for Kenya and Tanzania, which though appear to be mending the relations, the two countries have a history of what has been termed as toxic sibling rivalry. Ms Miano will also be tasked with overseeing development of Kenya’s Arid and Semi Arid Lands. These areas are characterised by inequalities and vulnerabilities. Yet they account for more than two thirds of the country with approximately 38 per cent of Kenya’s Population, according to the State Department of ASALs.
The regions have been hard hit by the current drought, where most the more than four million Kenyans in need of relief food and humanitarian assistance are from ASAL areas, according to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA). Despite the hardships, the areas are seen to have huge potential.
“These regions are home to more than 90 per cent of the wildlife that supports the tourism industry… the ASAL regions host 70 per cent of the national livestock herd with an estimated value of Sh70 billion,” says the State Department for ASAL.
“Further, they have enormous potential for renewable energy (both solar and wind) and other natural resources and are as well strategically positioned for cross-border trade and social cultural interaction with Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Somalia.”
“In spite of these advantages, the ASAL regions have the lowest development indicators in the country.”
The 56-year-old holds a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) Degree from the University of Nairobi and a Master of Laws from the University of Australia. In 2010, she completed the Advanced Management Programme from Strathmore University. During her time as chief executive, Kengen’s installed electricity generating capacity has risen to1,904 megawatts (MW) today from 1,631MW in 2017. The company has increasingly developed geothermal energy that produces cheaper power, which has gone up to 799MW, accounting for about 42 per cent of the company’s installed power generating capacity.
The company’s asset base has increase to Sh435.66 billion as of June 2021 from Sh376.73 billion in 2017.
“Her appointment confirms that hard work and professionalism pays. As a union, we will miss her a lot because of the cordial relations we enjoyed during her last five year tenure with no single reported labour dispute leave alone strike action,” said Ernest Nadome National General Secretary Kenya Electrical Trades and Allied Workers Union(KETAWU).
Miano also oversaw Kengen increasingly diversify revenue streams. Other than the sale of electricity to Kenya Power that has been its mainstay for years, the company now offers drilling services for other power companies in the country as well as the region. It has clinched a couple of contracts to drill geothermal wells in Ethiopia and Djibouti.