Joe Kadenge's life and death poke on our culture

What you need to know:

  • Joe Kadenge died without knowing that he was loved. Only after his death did we pour our love for him without restraint.
  • Several times he was rushed to hospital and each time his family appealed for help but that never came through.
  • We must stop ignoring the needs of fellow human beings, only to pamper them in death.
  • Funerals also need not be an expensive affair; we need funeral insurance packages that accommodate our cultures.

As dust settles on legendary footballer Joe Kadenge’s grave, let us be reminded by author George Sand, whose real name was Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, that “There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.”

Kadenge loved his country dearly. But we never reciprocated this love. The result is that he died without knowing that he was loved. Only after his death did we pour our love for him without restraint. What a strange a culture!

Several times he was rushed to hospital and each time his family appealed for help but that never came through.

One such occasion was Boxing Day in 2018, no countryman and woman visited him in hospital. Of the large football community, only Mathare United chairman Bob Munro gathered the courage to visit the legend in hospital.

In October 2016, the media widely reported that Kadenge had collapsed the previous day while watching a nationwide league match between Nzoia United and KCB and had been rushed to Metropolitan Hospital by family and friends.

It was reported by a local newspaper that “his situation could have been precipitated by the fact that he had not taken any meal”.

When he was contacted at the hospital, he said that "Am currently at Metropolitan hospital having tests done. Am in good spirit but pray for me," In an online article, “Joe Kadenge collapsing from hunger says more than meets the eye”, Kenya West, wrote,
“The story of the kind of life the legend is living has been told a million times, but it lands on deaf years of the government. Kenya is known for caring less about its sports legends when girlfriends and family members of sports officials are given free rides and accommodations to Olympics.”

Although he later denied that he did not collapse due to hunger, the public still had sympathy for him and perhaps wanted to see that he was well looked after.


In February this year when he fell ill and was admitted at the Nairobi Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, it was the President’s ad hoc decision to order the National Hospital Insurance Fund to settle his Bills that saved him the agony of funding his treatment. He’d suffered stroke after learning of his daughter’s death in the US.

This is a man who had given it all for his beloved country. He carried our flag internationally, building the brand “Kadenge na Mpira” that has never been matched by any other footballer in this country.

By all means, we owed him more than we gave him in life. The irony is that in death, we showed love, love that he couldn’t see. We hired a chopper to carry his lifeless body, yet he would definitely have enjoyed a chopper ride in life. VIP from all walks of life attended his funeral; he would have liked to have a simple photo op with some of those who attended his funeral. This is us. We love people more in death than in life.

In many of our cultures, we celebrate death more than we celebrate the lives of those around us. Sometimes we watch them as they waste away but we want to be acknowledged them in their funerals.

Although in the past the dead were buried within the day of their death, it now takes weeks as families raise funds for immoderate funerals when such resources would have helped the deceased see a few more days.

A 2018 study, Unearthing value proposition for funeral insurance, carried out by IPSOS for the Association of Kenyan Insurers (AKI) established that most families could not afford funeral expenses, which cost between Sh50,000 to Sh2.5 million.

Kadenge’s family appealed for Sh5 million for funeral arrangements. By all estimates and considering the number of high-powered mourners who attended, the budget may not have been adequate.


Although AKI sees such studies as an opportunity to provide funeral insurance, not many Kenyans have the courage to take up funeral insurance.

Further, it is the unpredictability of funeral ceremonies that make it difficult to provide adequate insurance in the event we overcome some of the cultural barriers to modern day planning for our future end of life imperatives.

Nevertheless, going by Kadenge’s tribulations, the study should trigger innovative thinking that can see the country providing lifetime insurance for citizens who have made considerable contribution to their motherland.

That way, legends like Kadenge should have gone to their graves feeling loved by the nation they so treasured. Even more, we can begin to think about insurance products that can address our mystifying cultures.

Many of the current individualistic insurance products are driven by the western concepts of family security. Africa must figure out how to insure a community.

After all, the amount raised through harambees for sickness and funerals far exceed what it would cost to cover communities.

In providing cover for communities, we not only lessen the problems for the legends like Kadenge but we shall have created the best universal healthcare program in the entire world.

The writer is an associate professor at University of Nairobi’s School of Business.@bantigito


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