Life & Work

Francis Wangusi: the hardened man who reformed Kenya’s ICT sector


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Former Communications Authority (CA) Director-General Francis Wangusi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The dying of Francis Wangusi, the previous director-general of the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), has introduced down curtains on a person who engineered probably the most decisive ICT reforms within the nation, taming telcos and reining in on media operators within the course of.

Wangusi died on March 1 at 1.30pm on the Nairobi Hospital the place he had been present process therapy, his household stated.

At CA, his institutional reminiscence allowed him to get issues proper and his credentials have been unmatched.

What most Kenyans have no idea is that Wangusi was a educated area scientist with a grasp’s from the International Space University of France. His speciality was the satellite tv for pc.

Almost single-handedly, the straight-faced man who additionally cherished his bottle consigned the media and the telecommunication operators of their place, incomes many foes.

But the place he misplaced buddies within the media, Wangusi earned endearment amongst Kenyans throughout turbulence from steep progress and digital disruption.

Read: Wangusi: The CA boss with thick pores and skin

Media battle

He ascended to the helm of the communications regulator in 2012. Kenya was starting to transition from analogue to digital transmission forward of the June 2015 international deadline for the switchover.

His tenure at CA was tempest-tossed, with battles from inside and with out. Notably, the person was wished amongst media operators over his stern stance on coverage and regulation implementation.

In 2015, for example, personal broadcasters moved to court docket in search of extra time to safe their very own set-top packing containers that may distribute their content material.

Wangusi would win towards them after the Supreme Court dominated that the nation’s digital migration should proceed. Later, a free-to-air sign distribution licence was issued to the fuming media operators.

This would turn into the primary mega milestone amongst many beneath Wangusi’s watch. Thanks to his unyielding stand, Kenya had discarded analogue broadcasting and joined the remainder of the world in beaming tv and radio broadcasts through digital alerts.

Boardroom coup

Riding on that feat, a second three-year time period in workplace was within the offing. In June 2015, his tenure was renewed by the CA board, successfully knocking out 28 different contestants who have been eyeing the place.

Before becoming a member of CA, then known as the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), in 2000, Wangusi had labored on the Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation. He had additionally lectured on the Kenya College for Communications Technology, now Multimedia University.

In 2018, a vicious boardroom coup noticed him despatched on a three-month obligatory depart, allegedly for effecting irregular employees promotions.

He stayed on after acquiring a court docket order to reinstate him. He would accuse the board and the ICT ministry of defying courts to lock him out of workplace.

Forgotten man

When he lastly did depart workplace in 2019, the scientist grew to become a forgotten man. It was a case of serving the nation with dedication and slipping into oblivion on the finish of obligation.

For somebody who had served on the apex of the nation’s communication engine, cash, energy and affect have been his staple. Wangusi’s final days, although, have been lonely and depressing.

An advancing most cancers didn’t make his retirement any simpler, sources say. Last month, his church, the Quakers Friends International Centre Church, made a blood enchantment for him.

“He is admitted at Nairobi Hospital with low blood levels and…side effects after his sixth cycle of chemotherapy,” the enchantment signed by Pastor Walter Bilimu learn.

Spying instruments

The man had his fair proportion of controversies too. In 2017, Wangusi had made a bid to suit “spy gadgets” meant to observe conversations and browse textual content messages despatched on cell gadgets, ostensibly to combat crime within the nation. A public uproar ensued, with Kenyans accusing the federal government of making an attempt to clip their freedom of speech throughout the political season.

Read: Communications Authority plan to eavesdrop on telephones unlawful: Court

It was additionally beneath Wangusi that in January 2018, the federal government switched off the alerts for impartial tv stations — NTV, Citizen TV and KTN — for planning to broadcast a contentious, mock swearing-in ceremony for opposition chief Raila Odinga.

The authorities justified the transfer saying broadcasting the occasion would have been a “serious security breach”.

Read: Anger as regulator shuts down TV stations

When the time got here to go away in 2019 on the finish of his tenure, he insisted on staying on even after his alternative had been named.

“They are bringing in the most junior person, and I found it difficult to make her run a department. I saw the news in the media,” he ranted throughout an interview, vowing to not hand over to his successor.

It took the intervention of then ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru to inform Wangusi off. He left reluctantly, marking the tip of a dramatic tenure.

Read: Wangusi makes U-turn on keep in workplace

Foray into politics

Wangusi had additionally tried his hand at politics, vying for the Bungoma governor’s seat in 2022. In a race that featured then-incumbent Wycliffe Wangamati, first governor Kenneth Lusaka and human rights activist Zacharia Barasa, Wangusi was a third-tier candidate.

Mr Lusaka ultimately recaptured the seat. From then on, Wangusi stored a low profile, barely showing publicly.

“Wangusi served his country well. His footprints remain notable,” political analyst Javas Bigambo eulogised him.

Wangusi is the longest-serving CA director-general thus far, having beforehand held the place on an interim foundation for a 12 months following a civil go well with filed by the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) in 2011.

In 2013, former President Uhuru Kenyatta awarded Wangusi the State recognition of the Moran of the Burning Spear (MBS) for his management.

Many Kenyans might have already got forgotten him, however the period of Wangusi at CA will simply go down in historical past as probably the most transformative in Kenya’s ICT trade.

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