Debating Africa

Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi

Secretary-General of UNCTAD (2013 – 2021)


On the first day of January 2021, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi announced he is cutting short his seven and a half years of international tour of duty as an Undersecretary General of The United Nations and Secretary General of The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to return home and run for president of Kenya in the elections scheduled for August 2022. In doing so, he will seek to leverage nearly 40 years of a colourful public life with diverse experience and exposure as a public intellectual, democracy activist, political leader with a broad and diverse background in academic, research, political and international leaderships.

Dr. Kituyi is a strong believer in the power of enterprise and innovation to drive economic transformation through building productive capacity and unlocking growth and prosperity. Dr. Kituyi has become a leading African voice in the campaign to align greater international market access and more developmental leadership in developing countries; modeling industrial policies that transform lives and economies through perpetual improvement and competitiveness.

He is a champion of free market economy and pays strong attention to private investment. Dr. Kituyi is also convinced that an active focused political leadership is critical to ensure not only an enabling environment for enterprise to grow the economy, but to create a social net for the vulnerable, fight vices like corruption and market distortions and grow policies that nurture the human capital essential for national structural transformation.

Dr. Kituyi has through practical engagement been a key believer in, and driver of regional integration in East Africa and eventually all of Africa through progressive reduction in trade barriers and eventual free movement of factors of production and creation of common investment area. In all this he has become a firm believer that strong, innovative and conscientious political leadership as critical to unlocking the potential for Africa’s renewal and recovery from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that has ravaged most African economies.

Dr. Kituyi had his early education in Kenya before graduating with honors in Political Science and International Relations from Uganda’s Makarere university in 1982. He attended the University of Bergen in Norway where he completed an Mphil in Development Studies and PhD in Social Anthropology focusing on the Nature and Impact of Market Economic Forces on the Pastoral Communities of East Africa with case studies of the East

Dr. Kituyi’s research experience includes being a Development Studies Researcher at Norway’s prestigious Christian Michelsens Institute, Director of Research at The African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), Fellow of The African Growth Program at Brookings Institution in DC, and Executive Director at The Kenya Institute of Governance.

Politically, Dr. Kituyi was a member of a small team of young professionals who came together to lead the successful drive for returning Kenya to multiparty democracy in the nineties. He then ran for parliamentary seat defeating the then powerful Foreign Minister Elijah Mwangale in 1992. He retained his seat for 15 years. During this period he distinguished himself as a leading parliamentarian and organizer with growing repute on democratic reforms and revival of the East African Community.

When the opposition won power after the 2002 elections, Dr. Kituyi was appointed the Minister for Trade Investment and Industry. During his stint of five years, he led the most comprehensive reform of Kenya’s trade and investment   statutes,   disposing off over thirty pieces of legislation to ease doing business and overseeing Kenya’s climb up the global ranking on ease of doing business. He also oversaw a rising profile in international trade leadership.

As a member of the Council of Ministers, Dr. Kituyi negotiated the East African Community Customs Union. He was also a leading voice on WTO ministerial negotiations and championing Africa’s quest for realization of the Doha promise of Agricultural Market Access Concessions. He hosted informal ministerial consultations and chaired key sessions like the Agriculture Negotiations at the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference. During his tenure as minister, Dr. Kituyi served as Chair of the COMESA Trade Ministers’ Council playing the lead role in configuration and preparations to negotiate Post-Cotonou Economic Partnership with the EU. He also chaired African Trade Ministers Council for two years and the African Caribbean and Pacific ACP Council of Ministers.

Prior to joining the UN in 2013, Dr. Kituyi worked as a member of a team of experts advising the East African Presidents on deepening regional integration. He was also a consultant to the African Union helping develop the protocol and roadmap for the African Continental Free Trade Area.

Dr. Kituyi is married to Dr. Ling Kituyi and they have two sons, a daughter and two grand sons.

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