What localisation is, and what localisation is not: How Kenya’s response to Covid-19 has informed the global approach to localisation

The Covid-19 pandemic has stretched the resources and capabilities of nations around the world like never before. Kenya is one such country that has faced immense challenges as a result of the pandemic. With movement restrictions impacting the abundance of international aid, local respondents in Kenya have had to act alone during much of the pandemic.

Shifting the responsibility from international to local teams

One key issue we can identify in the example of Kenya during the pandemic is the way in which the relationship between local responders and international organisations is balanced. While local responders are best placed to identify the needs of the communities they serve and deliver effective and decisive action, in many cases during the pandemic, the decision-making was left to international non-governmental organisations (INGOs).

In the case of the pandemic, this meant that INGOs made all the decisions while local people were responsible simply for carrying out the tasks given to them. In other sectors, including international business and education, similar frameworks apply. This has proved to be an inefficient model of operation for Kenya throughout the pandemic, with key players from both INGOs and frontline responders stating that a more appropriate partnership is one that shifts responsibility to local teams.

Understanding the key dimensions of localisation

The evolving work of local teams and INGOs in Kenya has also highlighted those dimensions of localisation that are crucial to effective project management. Those factors considered most important by Kenyan frontline respondents, in a report compiled by <a href=”https://devinit.org/blog/localisation-lessons-kenya/” target=”_blank”>Development Initiatives (DI)</a>, are:

  • The quantity and quality of funding
  • Capacity building of both the institution and the individual
  • The equity of partnerships and relationships between players

The results of the survey suggest that local, frontline players prefer partnership models that involve local teams in financial decision-making and maximise the organisational capacity offered by local players. Not just relevant to Kenya, this insight offers takeaways for all international organisations trying to find the right balance between local and international teams.

Lessons to learn on localisation

As well as offering insights into those aspects of local partnerships that organisations should focus on, the survey also highlighted mistakes that many organisations are already making when it comes to implementing localisation both in Kenya and around the world.

  • Localisation isn’t about passing INGOs off as NGOs or using international teams in place of local players
  • Localisation isn’t about removing all international players and INGOs from a particular space
  • Localisation isn’t about dominating the local space
  • Localisation isn’t about reducing the responsibility of local players
  • Localisation isn’t just about local players reacting to developing situations

Localisation, when done the right way, combines the strengths and capacities of local teams with the expertise and resources of international players to result in maximum efficiency and quality of service.

Let us help you get localisation right

There’s no doubt that the push for localisation is going to result in a permanent shift of responsibility toward local teams in Africa, Asia, and other developing regions. At Seamless, we can help you to implement localisation strategies that harness the talents of local people and help your organisation to meet international goals through our end-to-end localisation solutions.