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Kenya Tourism Minister Najib Balala is not really old, but wow!

Kenyan minister for Tourism and Wildlife Mr. Najib Balala

What is up with this African Tourism Minister? He loves his job, he loves Kenya, and he loves football. He is the Hon Najib Balala.

The Hon. Balala is not just another honorable minister, another honorable secretary of tourism, but he is a league on his own – and he actually deserves it. He was born on 20 September 1967, which is not really that old, but he is already the longest-serving minister of tourism.

He is not just a local celebrity but a leader with enormous global influence in the travel and tourism industry. He is actually a tourism hero.

The Hon. Secretary of Tourism for Kenya, Najib Balala celebrates 12 years of leading the travel, and tourism industry, as well as wildlife for Kenya.

Balala was awarded the Tourism Hero title by the World Tourism Network at an event he hosted at the Kenya Stand at World Travel Market in London in November 2021.

When Balala says something, the world of tourism listens.

Balala was was elected to chair the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTOExecutive Council in 2019, and had many similar leading positions not only in the Kenya travel and tourism industry but served in a global capacity.

Balala is also a man under demand. He has friends in high places. In aligning himself with other tourism ministers that have influence and are considered global leaders, such as the minister of tourism for Saudi Arabia or Jamaica.

Minister of Tourism Kenya, Saudi Arabia
Najb Balala & Edmund Bartlett
Tourism Ministers Kenya, Jamaica: Najib Balala and Edmund Bartlett

In a just-released report in the Kenya-based Citizen news Balala explained:

Serving in any government for a long time befits only those who have proved to be competent and those who have developed a thick skin of integral leadership.

They have amply delivered to their mandated tasks through different leadership tenures and remaining top of the game as the preferred candidate to take the job in subsequent administrations.

Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala is the longest-serving Tourism Minister, boasting of a 12-year run.

But how exactly did he get here?

Born in 1967 in Mombasa, Balala holds a degree in International Urban Management from the University of Toronto, Canada. He also attended The Executive Program for Leaders in Development at Havard University.

At 30 years old he began his political journey where he served as the youngest mayor of Mombasa City from 1998 to 1999.

In the 2002 General Election, he was elected as the Member of Parliament for Mvita where he served one term.

He would later be appointed Minister for Gender, Sports, Culture & Social Services from 2003 -2004 and Minister for National Heritage & Culture from 2004 – 2005.

In the same office, he advocated for community empowerment, and promotion of cultural and local heritage, with enthusiasm for conserving the Swahili culture.

After the 2007 post-election violence, Mr. Balala returned to the Cabinet in the Tourism docket in 2008 during President Mwai Kibaki’s tenure. He served in this Ministry up to 2012.

During his 5-year-leadership he was awarded as the Best Tourism Minister in Africa. He was also appointed the Chairman of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation in 2009.

During the 2013 election, he unsuccessfully vied for the Mombasa Senatorial seat under the Republican Congress Party of Kenya.

He however was appointed the first Minister for Mining, where he delivered a Mining Bill Draft in 2014, the first policy and institutional framework review of Kenya’s mining sector since 1940. 

He was reappointed as the Tourism Minster in 2015 by President Kenyatta where he has served in the docket to date.

The 53-year-old, on his next move after the lapse of President Kenyatta’s regime, has however divulged that he is willing to be part of the next administration and continue serving Kenyans.

“I have been in government since 1998 and I will be in the next one and serve in any position that is there for the good of all Kenyans,” said the CS as quoted by the Nation.

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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