We suffer from a foresight crisis

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The irony of our news is that the majority of media personnel do not view local newspapers as a credible source of information.  Yet this is one of the primary mediums with which they disseminate information to the majority of Kenyans.

This sentiment is echoed by the more learned citizens of Kenya who still buy newspapers out of habit, rather than for their content.  Simply stated, they know that most of the content therein is not an accurate reflection of the truth.

Take for instance all this twaddle about the state of emergency in Kenya.  Isn’t it very alarmist for us to wake up in the morning and read about a so-called state of emergency, signalled by the countless plans being put in place to counteract the crises?

To the best of my knowledge, when a country is in a state of emergency, normal government functions cease to operate and all attention is directed to the crisis at hand.  Can we rightfully say our government needs to cease normal government operations to deal with the disasters we are experiencing?

Secondly, an emergency is an occurrence that is unforeseen and demands immediate attention.  In our case, our situation fits the latter condition.  But can we sincerely say that most of the crises we are experiencing were unforeseen?

The question whether our problems are unforeseen brings me to the upcoming census.  We have been told, and appropriately so, that the census will be used to gather data that can be used to plan for effective use of our resources.  I think that this is where our problem lies; our lack of foresight and adequate planning.

When the last census was conducted, we should have used the data to predict the population of Kenya in 2009.  This would have enabled us to determine the expected demand for basic needs such as food, housing, medical cover, education, infrastructure et al.

We should have known that 20 percent of Kenyans consume 80 percent of the resources and been able to plan how to meet the deficit for the remaining 80 percent of the population.  There is no reason why we should be struggling to feed our population yet we expected the current growth rate.

There is no plausible excuse for not providing access to low-income housing for 75 percent of the population which resides in urban and peri-urban areas.  We should have adequately planned how to provide employment for college graduates whose numbers were bound to increase with the inception of free primary education.

Our government could have… no, should have planned for all the expected demand for social services.  But what did we do?  We proudly consumed the statistics then sat back and waited to play catch-up with the lives of Kenyans.

Let us backtrack to four years ago to when our economy was booming and citizens were gaining easier access to credit.  Was there any doubt that our roads would be congested with traffic with the unprecedented levels of car purchases?  Was there any doubt that the numbers of new home owners would reach unprecedented levels?

Yet, most of our transport infrastructure as well as water and sewerage remain as they were constructed in the post-colonial era.  I fear that our great vision for the Nairobi metropolis remains that; just a vision.

Better still, if there were no statistics on the dwindling forest cover, could we not have paid heed to mother earth and counteracted the prophetic effects? I daresay that the Energy Ministry’s lack of planning is the reason why we have power rationing today.

I am belabouring this point because I am a firm believer in the need for planning.  Even in our own businesses, we know that one minute spent in planning, saves three minutes on execution.

Inadequate preparation and scenario planning often leads to unexpected problems and failure to execute our goals as envisioned.

As we get ready to participate in the census, I am asking the government to pay particular attention to the statistics and plan ahead to meet the needs of the citizenry.  Let them also take into consideration those events which have a very low likelihood of occurrence, but which would impact Kenyans enormously.

My wish also is that the government would empower the implementation of vision 2030, which I played a part in formulating, as most of the ideas contained therein are still relevant to our condition.

Finally, an old adage states that ‘…it wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.’  Let us pick up best practices employed by countries which have undergone similar challenges and plan for Kenya’s future as they planned for their own.

More appropriately, we should be calling this crisis as it is; not a state of emergency but a crisis in foresight.

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