By Roy Hezron
Joseph ‘Joe’ Nyagah, a former minister and presidential candidate left behind a remarkable history of championing the co-operative movement before his demise on 11th December 2020 at Nairobi hospital.
Nyagah, alumnae of Alliance High School and the University of Nairobi, was appointed the Minister for Co-operative Development during the Grand-Coalition Government formed between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga in 2008.
During his reign as a minister, he championed the transformation of the co-operative movement in the country and changed the image of the co-operative movement notably in the agricultural sector.
Nyagah believed that the cooperative movement has great potential in changing the lives of rural people. During his reign as the Minister for Co-operative Development when governance in the co-operative movement improved greatly, whereby more men and women of integrity were being elected in the committees and qualified people being employed to manage co-operatives.
This was because the 2004 Cooperative Act made it hard for criminals to continue serving in the committees or boards; hence the Cooperative Tribunal speeded up justice in the sector, which saw fair elections being held regularly, members expressing themselves more freely through the AGMs.
It is during his time that the Cooperatives ministry created the Kenya Cooperative Coffee Exporters Limited (KCCE) to deal with the issues of coffee export among farmers.
He later became the founding Vice-Chancellor of the Co-operative University of Kenya in 2016 and 2017 when it attained fully-fledged status.
During the University’s 1st Graduation Ceremony on 18th November 2016 that saw the inauguration of the Pioneer Chancellor and Charter Award which he prided as the then VC, Nyagah was conferred an Honorary Doctorate Degree (honoris causa) Doctor of Co-operative Business of The Co-Operative University of Kenya owing to his immense service to humanity and contribution to the Co-operative movement in Kenya, Region and Africa.
The event was attended by then Education Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang’i, Principal Secretary State Department of Co-operatives Mr. Noor Ismael among others, which saw the university graduating its first cohort of 1,148 students.
In his condolence message, former President Mwai Kibaki eulogized Nyagah as a consummate diplomat and a proficient captain of the corporate sector, a suave political mobilizer and community leader.
The former President noted that the Cooperative Bank of Kenya went public and was listed at the Nairobi Stock Exchange in 2008 courtesy of his focused leadership.
His notable achievements include steering the growth of Kenya’s Sacco movement into one of the largest in the continent peaking at 10.1 million subscribers in 2010.
Besides his Cabinet position by that time, Nyagah served as the Chair of the Inter-ministerial Committee of African Co-operative Ministers.