Ali Noor: My long, rough road to becoming top civil servant

By Azael Masese

Ali Noor Ismail’s stellar career is a story of resilience and fervour, having opted to pursue education against the general societal expectation to follow the natural path of joining the army as a cadet officer.

His elder brother wanted him to move with the current. In the 70s and 80s, becoming either a clinical or police officer was the most lucrative and prestigious jobs that young people aspired to and dreamt of.

“I requested him to allow me to continue with my education,” Ali Noor says emphatically.

“I went to school in Mandera and Wajir in my primary school life before joining Mandera High School,” he recalls.

To him, education was the only way out of poverty and with persistence and commitment, his efforts paid off handsomely.

“Mandera High School was one of the best in the region and I worked hard,” notes Ali Noor, outgoing Principal Secretary (PS) in the State Department for Cooperatives.

Later on, he was admitted to Kabarnet High School for his A levels before proceeding to the University of Nairobi for a Bachelor of Arts Degree.

“My dream was to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Law and though I did not make it, I earned the same later on,” he says.

Remaining focused to acquire education was enough preparation to seize the numerous opportunities life presented before him.

“God has been gracious to me as I was able to serve at the highest level in the public service,” he said.

The father of three; two boys and one girl, says he has not stopped reminding students the importance of education.

In a past KCSE exercise for instance, senior government officers went round the country to ensure the exercise went on smoothly. An act of fate took him back to his old school Kabarnet High in Baringo County, and he had one message: that they could rise to any position they wished if they had the mind to – just like he did.

“I reminded them of the long distance I had to travel from Mandera to Baringo in order to get an education,” he said.

Ali Noor was first appointed as Labour PS in 2013, where he served until he was transferred to Cooperatives ministry in the same capacity.

Before his appointment as PS, he had served for 15 years in the National Bank of Kenya in various capacities, the most notable being in the human resource department.

Between 2018 and 2019, he was the PS in the environment and forestry department before he went back to Cooperatives.

His mother died in the 1960s and his father in 1970, leaving him under the care of the elder brother, a then police officer based in Wajir, who later died in 2017.

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