A mathematical formula for tribal balancing in public recruitment


The Sunday Nation


03 September 2023


Considering the level of concern expressed every time an audit of tribes is done on the employees of a public institution, isn’t it strange that our tribes are not indicated on our identity (ID) cards? Sure, if something is so important, it should be openly declared, shouldn’t it?

The question of how many tribes there are in Kenya has never been answered convincingly and conclusively. According to the national census of 2019, there were either 44 or 123. It depends on whether you count, say, the Waata as a separate tribe or as part of the Mijikenda.

Assuming that these challenges have been ironed out, the first thing we must decide is how important a person’s tribe to the job. Is it, for example, more important than level of education? In other words, are we willing to employ a diploma holder instead of a degree graduate because the tribe of the latter has too few people in the public service?

That’s a debate that is beyond the scope of this column. Nevertheless, suppose we agree to assign a maximum of, say, 20/100 marks to the ethnicity. How would we allocate them to the applicants?

We need a formular that compares the national population fraction of a tribe (Pn) to the fraction already employed in the public institution (Pe). If Pe is less than Pn, then the tribe is underrepresented, so, the applicant gets a proportionate number of marks. On the flip-side, if Pe is greater than Pn, then we have overrepresentation and the candidate is deducted a proportionate number of marks.

I have devised a simple mathematical formular to achieve this. It is: 20 x (Pn – Pe)/Pn. The following illustration illustrates how it works.

Suppose an applicant is of the Waata tribe. The 2019 census found 12,582 Waata out of 38,221,132 Kenyans. That make about 0.0329 per cent of the population – that’s Pn in the formular. Suppose further that employing public institution has 10,000 employees out of whom only one employee is Waata. That works to 0.01pc Waata in employment – Pe.

Therefore, a Waata applicant for any post in this institution will get 20 x (0.0329 –0.01)/0.0329 = 13.92 tribal marks out of the available 20.

If on the other hand there are 5 Waata already in employment, the numbers change as follows: 20 x (0.0329 – 0.05)/0.0329 = – 10.40. That is, 10.4 marks are now deducted from any Waata applicant!

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