Remembering Prof. George Magoha, Former Chairman of KENET Board of Trustees (2008 – 2015)

It is my sad duty to write this brief tribute to the late Professor George Magoha, who served as a KENET Trustee for 10 years, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees for six and a half years (2008 – 2015). He was a Trustee nominee of the University of Nairobi (UoN), one of the five founding universities of the KENET Trust. We at KENET are grateful for all the support he offered us during his time as a Trustee and later as the CS for the Ministry of Education (MoE).

I remember Prof. Magoha as a decisive, dependable and brave leader who truly wanted to do good for the benefit of the academic community of Kenya. He could understand complex issues in any area, including engineering, in a very short time. Maybe that is what surgeons are trained to do. He taught me that all my presentations and requests, however complex, need not take longer than five minutes.

One of my first interactions with Prof. Magoha was in 2008 as a part-time Executive Director of KENET (I was then a full-time faculty member at USIU-Africa). I had been asked by the Board of Trustees to lead an Internet expansion project to build the first national research & education network to interconnect 55 member institutions and provide them with affordable high-speed Internet connectivity. This was part of the World Bank’s Kenya Transparency and Communication Infrastructure Project (KTCIP) through the MoICT and the then Kenya ICT Board (now renamed ICTA). KTCIP was funding only equipment and Internet services and it was up to the universities to provide space for construction of the community data centers. I went to Prof. Magoha’s office to request for some space for hosting the community data center equipment for the project.  Prof. Magoha listened to me for about five minutes and then made the decision to allocate a lab to KENET for the data center.

Prof. Magoha believed that the Internet expansion project was going to be beneficial to the higher education and research community in Kenya. He was therefore ready to make tough and brave decisions!

The next time I needed to make a special request was in 2009 when we needed to procure a 20-year SEACOM undersea cable 150 Mb/s capacity for KENET members using a complex supplier financing arrangement. KENET had no cash but needed the capacity.. Once again, he listened to me for just five minutes and then gave his approval of KENET to procure capacity on the assumption that the KENET community could pay for the circuit over a period of 24 months!  KENET has since expanded that initial SEACOM capacity from 150 Mb/s to 10,000 Mb/s,  thanks to Prof. Magoha’s initial brave decision.

The last request KENET made to Prof. Magoha was in September 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. KENET needed to apply to KRA for the renewal of its income tax exemption certificate as the National Research and Education Network (NREN) of Kenya. KENET was required to include letters of recommendation from senior Government officials. We wrote to the Director General of Communications Authority, the CEO of ICT Authority, the PS State Department of ICT and innovation MoICT and to Prof. George Magoha as the CS, Ministry of Education. We compiled all the exhibits of KENET’s past public achievements for the period between 2015 and 2020 when KENET was exempt from income tax. We sent out the exhibits together with the request for letters of recommendation on a Friday. On Monday of the following week, we were called to collect our first letter of recommendation from Prof. Magoha! We heard that after reading our request for two minutes he said “I know KENET” and signed the letter of recommendation.

There were many other decisions Prof. Magoha made that were beneficial to the growth and sustainability of KENET, including the allocation of office space and training rooms at JKML. He was able to quickly, bravely and quietly decide on these requests because he believed that KENET would benefit UoN and the entire research and education community.

I shall remember him as one of the key supporters of KENET who could make complex and brave decisions in the shortest time possible. He seemed to live Colossians 3:23-24 - “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ”.

On behalf of the KENET Board of Trustees, KENET Management Board and the secretariat we extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife and family. To our hero and supporter, Rest in Peace Prof. George Magoha.

Prof. Meoli Kashorda

Executive Director