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Political & Social Empowerment

BUILDING BRIDGES INITIATIVE DOCUMENT SERIALIZATION: CHAPTER 6 & 7

CHAPTER 6: INCLUSIVITY

Diversity; as discussed in the Kenyan perspective, is a wide raft that entails ethnicity, race, culture, religion, gender, age, disability status and socio-economic circumstance in life. Concomitantly, the citizen’s interests, priorities, capabilities and experiences become highly complex. Democracy has the strength of empowering different Kenyans of diverse backgrounds to inject their zeal, passion, skill and intellectual acumen to contribute to progress in Kenya. But to cater for this myriad of interests it has become paramount to now make a call for inclusivity in appreciation of the fact that despite our diversity, none of these parameters marks one Kenyan as superior to the other.

The lack of political inclusivity is rifer within the Executive Arm of government. It’s an open secret that there is a cabal of elite professionals and profiteers who believe with religious conviction that only by having a con-tribal kinsman in the executive will they have ease of access to resources, jobs, state largesse and government procurement. The much-reviled system of patronage has worked to pay credence to that aforementioned sentiment. Ethnic mobilization merely for the sake of attaining political power as the prime rallying call in the Kenyan political life though primitive and reprehensible is unfortunately the reality of the day. Even the current process of change to the constitutional structure still has to jump by this very hurdle. Needless to say, the current effort for reform is geared at dissipating executive authority both as a way of curtailing the propensity for executive overreach and also broadening political leadership for optimum accommodation of diverse interests. A home truth that has to be disseminated to the rank and file of our Republic is that not every ethnic identity can find space at the pinnacle of government either national or county at the same time.

From the many submissions made to the BBI task force, these are the essential qualities of inclusivity:

  • Government appointments must forthwith manifestly represent the face of Kenya.
  • Equality in the ability to vote for all Kenyans of majority age.
  • Decision-making becomes a product of deliberations, debates and participation by all the foremost political players in Kenya.
  • Gender parity in leadership. Measures to comply with the two-thirds gender rule that seeks to level the playing field must not merely be a PR exercise but a reality on the ground.
  • Government should henceforth respond positively and visibly to the concerns of the rank and file of Kenya.
  • Protect the foremost Principle of Democracy where the majority have their way but the minority too have their say.
  • A keen eye on the needs of the most vulnerable groups in society inclusive of the youth, women and people with disabilities. Additionally, the economically vulnerable should also be accorded equal say in the mechanics of government as the prosperous and privileged.
  • Death to this ambiguous entity dubbed the ‘deep-state’ simply explained as individuals or cabals of people wielding heavy economic power, abusing their grandeur to substitute the will of the electorate for their own.
  • Government should respect cultural and religious diversity of all the citizens of our country.

Inclusivity will for the purposes of this process, be deemed the highest degree of responsiveness by decision-makers in Government to the interests of all encompassed within our boundaries. Cognizance must be taken to the fact that historically Kenya has formulated marvelous policies and laws but the crux of the matter is implementation, operationalization and enforcement of these strictures. Public trepidation is at an all-time high and this could adversely affect belief of these current recommendations being operationalized based on the fate of the many action reports that lie fallow in the Office of the President gathering dust and mold not to speak of the many articles of our pristinely promulgated constitution in 2010 that remain unenforced.  State Institutions, Departments & Corporations too have failed Kenyans in not ensuring Article 21 (2) detailing the Bill of Rights elements covered under Article 43 are fully implemented i.e Rights to health, adequate food of acceptable quality, clean water, social security and education.

Citizen awareness too will go a long way in ensuring public officers actually execute their mandates.

Major Recommendations with this regard include:

1.) Political, Economic, Social, Religious, Cultural, age and Gender-based Inclusivity – Political by means of equal power of vote at the ballot box.

Women in Kenyan Leadership

Economic by equality and equity in undertaking development countrywide.

Religious by safeguarding freedom of religious association and protection from fraudsters masquerading as authentic clergy to their unsuspecting congregants. A Public Register of all churches, mosques and temples must exist and subject their finances to an annual independent audit and publicize the results.

An appellate court within the Kadhi court system was requested.

Cultural inclusion by promoting indigenous knowledge, technologies, foods and natural remedies.

2.) The Marginalized must refrain from reciprocating the same gesture – Those bellyaching about marginalization by the national government must not do the same to ethnic minorities within their counties.

3.) Office of the Public Participation Rapporteur – This will enhance transparency, quality and inclusion in public participation processes required by our constitution. The Office will work on behalf of state and non-state entities undertaking policy and operational initiatives calling for Public participation. Their operations must be above board, accurately chronicling their work and be responsive to their relevant partners. Also, Public Interest Litigation should be within their purview in a manner free of influence from those litigated against in a model emulated from India.

4.) Transparency in public procurement and business lobbying – An end to the culture of trawling the offices of State Functionaries with express aim of empowering disproportionately, unelected parties to abuse their economic advantage albeit corruption to parochially influence governance & policymaking. The envisaged Office of the Public Participation Rapporteur will be furnished with legal authority to record all activities of business lobbyists (tenderpreneurs) who seek to interact with officers with the sole aim of influencing legislation, policy, regulation and public procurement favourably to their businesses.

Echoes of the hocus-pocus at the corridors of Harambee House Annex in February 2020 where an unelected official (a disgraced former Cabinet Secretary) engaged in fraudulent business unsanctioned by the national government that ultimately was to deprive the exchequer of revenue still ring ever so loud! Mister Deputy President; the Principal occupant of the office complex, has denied any awareness of such a caper at the moment of my authoring this piece.Henceforth, occupants of his office and all government installations will be ridded of these unscrupulous characters wielding power usurped from the ordinary citizen.

Godfather complex

5.) Employment in Public Service should reflect the Face of Kenya and be rendered corruption-free at recruitment – The worst kept secret about employment in public service is the existence of ‘Godfathers’ who seek bribes to proffer this advantage to the highest bidder and ensuring that the appointee curries favour with them in depriving the citizenry of the requisite social services. Many careers in civil service are initiated by corruption and so it has been difficult for the holders of the office to uphold any quantifiable integrity. In appreciation of the onerous task of restituting professionalism to public service recruitment:

Disciplined forces both Specialists and servicemen will be recruited by a consortium of Private Sector recruitment companies that are internationally reputable to ensure impartiality and be able to reflect both merit & diversity.

Affirmative action will be enlisted in situations where no candidate meets the criteria for qualification and diversity so that minority candidates are facilitated to enhance their chances for the positions.

The Public Service Commission will be required to make public the annual diversity report in the Public Service.

CHAPTER 7: SHARED PROSPERITY

Our very own National Anthem envisaged the dream of prosperity post-independence, in the first stanza last verse in Swahili, “Raha tupate na ustawi” in addition to “tuungane mikono, pamoja kazini” the second last line of the third stanza. Unfortunately, 56 years after independence we find ourselves a discordant lot who have ended up among the Least Developed Countries of the world. I could go on and on about how South Korea and Singapore that were at par with us in terms of development in 1963 are now far over the horizon, but that would be an exercise in futility. We have shot ourselves in the foot with myopic leadership, ethnic balkanization and partisanship just for parochial gain. The same rallying call of fighting against poverty, illiteracy and disease that our forefathers had at independence is tragically now repackaged as a campaign promise by individuals who know only too well they won’t do diddly-squat to improve our lot. Unemployment albeit underemployment is now rife among the youth of this nation. The yawning gap between the have and have-nots notwithstanding, economic prosperity is now only the preserve of the Big-business owners and no trickle down to the man on the ground. Irrational barriers to entry are erected against innovation and growth hence curtailing job creation for the highly-skilled manpower churned out of our tertiary institutions ceaselessly.

I have at one time been advised by one of my principal mentors to endeavour never to antagonize but look for areas of cooperation while partnering with huge corporations when working on innovation to eschew the prospect of being crushed by the larger entity or worse still being bogged-down under a myriad of frivolous litigation, not to mention the manifold rough-hand, arm-twisting and mafia-style hostile takeover tactics available to the dastardly of heart, mercilessly grabbing concepts from the architects of original, unpatented ideas.

Gatekeeping and rent-seeking castigated in the above Chapter is actually a crippling malfeasance in the corridors of power. Brokers have become a national pestilence. No less the President himself is on record putting up his hands in dismay and admitted there is little he can do about these shadowy characters in his very office; but today by political will, he’s weeding them out gradually but not without their deleterious impact on the perception of state as currently exists in the eye of ‘Wanjiku.’

The dream of entrepreneurship in Kenya pitched to millions of the unemployed is nothing short of an invitation to tread water, in dissonance to the case in developed countries where business owners and employers are facilitated, subsidized and even given tax rebates. I invite those who can, to read through Fred Trump and his son Donald Trump’s exemplum chronicling their ascent to the top of corporate America and the enabling factors. In the USA; coincidentally the same year Kenya courted liberty, Martin Luther King Jr. articulated a dream whence his four little children would grow to live and work in a nation where they would be assayed not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. Our founding fathers, no doubt followed that epochal speech closely due to our long-standing links with not just the Negritude movement but also solidarity with the Black American Civil-Rights Movement. However, in modern-day Kenya the key determinant of success has become your ethnic extraction, parentage, who you know and where you live. This makes it an exercise in futility trying to make a clean break with your current circumstance without external help. It’s indeed circumvention of Newton’s First Law of Motion! Incoherent and non-existent policy direction puts us in a deeper quandary. No successful nation has ever been built on the substratum of such disparities where exclusion, corruption, poverty, mounting hunger, unemployment and lack of a common national ethos are the flavour of the day. The logical sequel to such a state of affairs is societal ills, criminal activity & ultimately civil unrest. When the poor have nothing to eat they will ultimately gourmandize the rich, an eventuality so macabre it’s gut-wrenching!

I do not even for a second envy the guy working at the state department in charge of national planning. He has to provide a policy direction to the conundrum of how to generate more jobs for all who are old enough to work. New thoroughfares are appreciable, a standard-gauge railway is fabulous. But all these pale into oblivion when looked at from the prism of a man burdened by debt, seeing little economic prospect, hunger gnawing at his innards yet he’s merely given nebulous figures about our burgeoning economic output and present rates of investment. A complete economic revolution & workaround is required to deal with the monster called unemployment linked to underemployment and the arch-nemesis ‘the working poor.’ An enlightened diagnosis is the first step for any treatment regimen to be undertaken. It’s no longer enough to discuss the sharing of the minuscule national cake we presently have but rather how to bake a bigger one that can satisfactorily be shared by all of our 47.6 million-strong population. Individually, I have had the great privilege to live and work in Luanda, Angola and can avow to the fact that Kenyans are regarded as more skilled, aggressive and conceptual thinkers compared to many other Africans. In fact, anybody who displays guile, counter-intuitive thinking & is enterprising in Angola is more often than not panegyrized as working like a Kenyan. Just like in the ’90s when everybody wanted to be like Mike (Michael Jordan) in Angola today everybody wants to be like a Kenyan! But looking at GDP Per Capita figures it becomes galling that Kenya is only a small percentage better off than their Southwesterly African counterparts. Despite all our education and enlightenment at a level more than any of our progenitors, we languish in the nadirs of the global prosperity index concurrently being celebrated for advancement in technology, having a vibrant, mixed economy, newly exporting oil but being bedeviled by many of the same ills that weigh down our African contemporaries.

Thoroughfare

We need the same level of transformation that occurred in South East Asia where Singapore roared from the same starting point as Kenya to become a First-world economy. The rallying call was a famous maxim by their former Prime Minister, the venerable Lee Kuan Yew who uttered, “No country can become a major economy without becoming an industrial power.” There is no option but delving headlong into manufacturing to become an economically veritable world power. In the late 1980’s and 90’s, we tried Liberalization. This returned a mixed bag, as well run firms reached the mythical ‘el Dorado’ – The Land of Gold, while those criminally mismanaged have been relegated to the backburners of antiquated asininity in the same league as the saline statue of Lot’s wife! The point I try to pass is that as a nation we have failed to gather sufficient thrust and flight to achieve the escape velocity requisite for full-blown transcendence to the next level. Our efforts have been reduced to the realm of necessary yet insufficient to meet the transformative agenda. With exponentially greater access to all the information of how the Asian Tigers gained their status and closed the gap with high per capita income nations of the developed world, it behooves us to copy from best practice. Pick what has worked while discarding the drawbacks.

Critically crucial is the need for a new economic paradigm for job creation and prosperity. Development should not be adjudged as extremely disproportionate in its distribution as this impacts on our unity and peace as a nation. Every section of Kenya contributes its share to the national kitty. For standardization sake it will be quixotic to convince anybody that for instance Runda Estate deserves more social amenities than the adjacent Githogoro slum merely because more tax revenue is gleaned from the earnings of company supremos, embassy staff, political aficionados and senior state functionaries that reside in the former. It becomes a responsibility of state to equalize development and assure equal routes to prosperity for both the privileged and economically disadvantaged. A task of such a magnitude can only be executed through a well-orchestrated, multi-sectoral engagement between the government and the private sector. Fiscally, our economy must be set on a trajectory of continuous growth while the state offers economic relief to those hit by financial shocks. We must depart from the path of peppering over the gaps in our revenue collection and expectation merely by external borrowing. A culture of increasing the domestic national savings must be inculcated, at a rate of at least 25% of our GDP. We have no option but to grow and incentivize labour-intensive manufacturing with our core market being our neighbours as we prepare for political federation. In the circumstance that Kenya aggressively pursues this agenda, we could potentially position ourselves as an important link for trade, investment and manufacturing between East Africa and the Indian Ocean rim benefiting from the ensuing market and capital for more investments. Economic coordination between State and the private sector must be the new mantra as opposed to strait-jacket State Ownership. As the government will never have capacity to employ everyone, we need to exponentially grow the number of entrepreneurs by facilitating ease of doing business for start-ups and small business debunking the withering calamity of many closing shop before their 3rd birthdays! Logic dictates that greater profitability for SMEs will equate to maximized returns for our national Revenue Authority. This will in turn ensure better service delivery and amelioration of the welfare of the citizenry.

It is by now empirical wisdom that the majority revenue earner in Kenya and indeed many of the Least Developed Nations is Agriculture. In Kenya; regrettably, it has been infiltrated by cartels that abuse political patronage to rig processes thereby disenfranchising the main producer, the farmer. Before I forget to remember, in 2018 Kenya was rocked by a maize scandal where 66 fictitious corn-growers ostensibly pocketed a cool sum of 2.1 billion Kenya shillings among themselves! Invariably, the consumer is equally frustrated as he is forced to pay a heavy price despite copious seasonal availability of the product in question. This leads to poverty for both the farmer and consumer as the products are laden with so many mark-ups as to raise their prices to exorbitant levels leading to consumers who have a fixed income having to pay over-the-odds for food. The middleman simply has to go! The epoch of roadside declarations by Agriculture Cabinet Secretaries that are as hollow as their medium of conveyance is over. A National Intelligence Service-led audit is required on the activities of these creepy-crawlers leading to state sanction under the anti-corruption and Government reform Agenda.

Major Recommendations for shared prosperity include:

A.) An Economic Revolution – A 50-year plan is paramount. We need to think Big and long-term to build an economy that can cater for the now and tomorrow.

The plan must be more technocrat driven and milestone-based than political to survive election cycles and regime change.

Promotion of local investments by the Kenyan Diaspora will go a long way in tapping into both the foreign currency and the acquiesced know-how brought in from the more developed nations.

Embracing of Economic coordination as opposed to state ownership will be key in achieving labour-intensive manufacturing for export. This will also multiply the existing entrepreneurs when ease of doing business is achieved.

A Government driven initiative to provide legal and regulatory guidelines to financial organizations to lend part of their portfolio to key market drivers such as the MSMEs, renewable energy, export credit, agriculture (livestock & fishing), manufacturing, health, housing, education, sanitation and waste management. Banks lacking specialization will be empowered to shift the float to a specially designated development bank with relevant capabilities.

The Government must forthwith be the prime mover of industrialization as its narrative. Active incentives like subsidies, waived import duty and tax rebates will be required to foster lower-technology, labour–intensive and entrepreneurship-led cadres of industrialization.

Intellectual Property protection policy and law to be strengthened for Kenyan inventions, genetic resources, folk knowledge and cultural expressions.

Increase Government savings to 25% of G.D.P to drive a diversified economic agenda without inordinate borrowing.

Offer incentives and economic protection to the Kenyan Diaspora so that they can plough back more of their earnings to Kenya.

Employment conferences held in every county to get more views on job creation.

Spend on more on development than bureaucracy. Write into law a target ratio of 70:30 for development versus recurrent expenditure.

National Expenditure should be fair and proportionately distributed. Planning should be guided by a published and updated index from county to county.

Broaden the tax base, simplify the taxation regime and bring fairness in its application to reduce tax fraud. Criminalize tax evasion and punish all its agents.

Regulate online & mobile loan applications that are aggravating the indebtedness of poor Kenyans.

Build the economy from the grassroots. Expand extension services for livestock and agricultural sectors to effectively advise and set clear standards and market linkages.

Empower farmers with retail price information to make a profitable sustenance out of their toil. Strengthen their various cooperative movements to have heightened bargaining power in price determination. Curtail corruption in the agriculture and livestock sectors.

Promote Research and Development as this is the cornerstone of technological development. Trends are transient and dynamic, so to avoid being trapped in a rut you need to move with the times.

B.) Entrench Article 43 on Economic and Social Rights – This should be a pet project of both the national and county governments. The electorate should be vigilant to hold the politicians that come to ask for their votes during the crazy campaign season to account by ensuring the Party Manifestos laid before them consist of this agenda item.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics is entrusted to ensure a National Human Development Index domiciling the UN developed version is enforced within our soil. The report must be published annually and put online.

C.) Beware of the predilection of corruption to fight back undermining efforts to attain shared prosperity – Unimpeded, the tentacles of corruption spread far and wide resulting in abuse of economic power by import substitution schemes that will adversely affect quality such that substandard products will be found on the shelves of our shops.

D.) Safeguard future generations from mounting debt and unsustainable environmental degradation – Every generation must endeavor to live within their means and not mortgage our progeny’s future by overloading ourselves with irresponsible borrowing merely for prestige and devoid of value.

Dispense with Private betting firms in their stead set up a national lottery whose proceeds will work to uplift youth activities, sports, culture and social good. The proliferation of unregulated and private betting firms is killing the drive for enterprise in our youth leading to hopelessness and desperation. The proceeds accrued are often carted offshore with little left for developing the host nation. The adage that in gambling, the house (company owners) always wins has never rung ever so true.

E.) Use scarce public resources more for development than bureaucracy – Also to address is the large discrepancy in income by professionals ostensibly in the same Job Group. Eliminate wasteful expenditure on refurbishments and new cars when the old ones are still functional. Important is to note, the need to optimize on the forgotten conference facilities lying idle before enlisting some swanky hotel. Scrap sitting allowance for government aficionados on salaries.

F.) Nurture opportunities for personal initiative, innovation and entrepreneurship from a young age – Aggressively hone entrepreneurship from an early age while minimizing taxation for fledgling enterprises, a tax-holiday if I may opine. Not nurturing the business sense of our children from a young age is akin to condemning them to a death sentence knowing full well that there are minimal opportunities for employment out here.

Support creativity and sports where young Kenyans show enthusiasm, potential and interest. The careers of Macdonald Mariga, Dennis Oliech and Victor Wanyama should be sound validation that there is money to be made in sports.

Identify & invest in special talents and needs at the Early Childhood Development Stage.

Formulate a mentoring, training and support centre chaired by the president and coordinated by the Private sector that engages budding entrepreneurs to mentorship, training and support. Youth Entrepreneurs will be matched with respective Business Development Advisors and a national network of volunteer mentors. Work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy classes are urged from the age of 12 until graduation.

Facilitate the youth to start business by having an open advice desk at every local Huduma Centre manned by a Business Development Expert.

Technical and Vocational training should be freely accessed by all to effect self-employment. Of colossal importance is to dispense with the outmoded mentality that technical work is for the academically challenged. Two parallel but equal paths are needed between academic and technical training with the assurance that both will potentially lead to rewarding careers and meaningful sustenance.

G.) Government Development Action plans should be undertaken in every county – No region should be shortchanged of their own development in the name of project implementation elsewhere. Remedial policies must be implemented for regions that lag behind. An equalization fund must be set up as an affirmative action measure in an initiative dubbed the ‘Kubadili Plan.’ This has at its heart providing all Kenyans with quality services, foundational to the theme of shared prosperity. Build social amenities and security apparatus in marginalized areas to give them a chance of reaching the levels of the better-developed regions within three years of inception of this action plan.

As opposed to the run-of-the-mill, worn-out paradigm about seeing business plans, we entreat the government tiers both national and county to focus on product developmentEach county should henceforth be facilitated to establish Product Development Parks and Innovation Hubs that allow young, entrepreneurial Kenyans to have the benefit of expert know-how on transitioning from having a promising idea to a marketable product.

By dennismukoya

I am a consummate thinker of new solutions which I passionately endeavour to implement.

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