In a bid to rectify the deep-rooted corruption and mismanagement of medical supplies within the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa), President William Ruto appointed a new board chairperson, Mr Irungu Nyakera. With a track record of academic excellence and a diverse professional background, Mr Nyakera brings a fresh perspective to the scandal-laden state corporation. His appointment marks a turning point in Kemsa’s history, as he pledges to lead the agency out of what he describes as a mess.
Early Life and Education
Irungu Nyakera, born in Murang’a, Kenya, in 1982, showcased exceptional academic talent from an early age. He commenced his education at the esteemed Starehe Boys’ Centre and School, where he received a full scholarship sponsored by Save the Children Austria and Save the Children Fund, British Columbia, Canada. In 1996, he sat for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination. His academic success continued during his secondary education at Starehe Boys’ Center, where he served as the School Captain and ranked 32nd among 130,000 candidates in the 2000 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination. Nyakera pursued his educational pursuits further by obtaining a certificate in Management Information Systems from the Kenya Institute of Management.
Before his university studies, Nyakera taught Physics and Computer Studies at Nyahururu Elite Schools while awaiting admission. In 2002, he joined the University of Nairobi’s Chiromo campus to pursue medicine. Notably, Dr. Geoffrey William Griffin, the Founder and then Director of Starehe Boys’ Centre and School, granted Nyakera a full scholarship to attend Deerfield Academy as a gap year student. His intellectual potential gained global recognition, with admission offers from 14 out of the 18 schools he applied to abroad. Additionally, he was offered scholarships from esteemed institutions such as Stanford, Brown, Whitman College, Williams, Yale, and Harvard. Eventually, he chose to pursue his Bachelor of Engineering, Management Science, and Engineering (Finance and Decision Engineering option) at Stanford University from 2003 to 2007, where he was honoured with the Dean’s Award for Exceptional Academic Achievement. During his time at Stanford, Nyakera assumed various leadership roles and engaged in numerous extracurricular activities, including founding the Stanford Africa Business Forum and the Stanford Journal of Africa Studies (Sauti).
Following his graduation, Nyakera ventured into the finance industry. He began his professional journey at Citigroup Investment Bank on Wall Street and later relocated to London’s Canary Wharf. In the wake of the 2008 global economic downturn, he returned to Kenya and joined NIC Bank Group, eventually rising to the position of Managing Director at a remarkable age of 28. He further expanded his expertise by serving as the Regional Head of East and Southern Africa at Frontier Markets Fund Managers, Guarantco (2013-2014), and subsequently as the Managing Director of Equity Investment Bank in Equity Group Holdings from 2014 until he was appointed the Principal Secretary of Transport in 2015.
Notably, Nyakera served as the youngest Principal Secretary, State Department of Transport in the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing & Urban Development. In 2017, he was reassigned to the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, assuming the role of Principal Secretary for Planning and Statistics. However, in January 2018, he was dismissed from office upon the second-term Cabinet appointment by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In 2019, Nyakera’s involvement in the Arror and Kimwarer dams scandal came into focus. Although he was listed among the suspects, no charges were brought against him. Subsequently, in June 2020, he was appointed to the National Tea Steering Committee by the Cabinet Secretary of Agriculture, Kenya, a position he held until October of the same year. Nyakera then ventured into politics, assuming the role of deputy party leader in the Democratic Party of Kenya. In 2022, he launched the Farmer’s Party, demonstrating his aspirations to contest the gubernatorial seat in Murang’a County during the 2022 General Election. Although he secured 21,150 votes, he did not emerge as the winner.
With Irungu Nyakera now at the helm of Kemsa’s board, there is renewed hope for the organisation’s future. Given his diverse background, Nyakera has the potential to steer Kemsa towards a path of transparency, accountability, and effective medical supply management. As the agency strives to overcome its troubled history, it is imperative to watch closely and evaluate the outcomes of Nyakera’s leadership in transforming Kemsa into an organisation that prioritises the needs of the Kenyan people.