For the last couple of months, our headlines have been dominated by nothing other than politics.
I must admit that it troubles me somewhat and, raises the question in my mind as to what the top priorities are in Kenya. I wonder whether we focus on politics because it is the only thing that interests us, or maybe because it is the only topic that is shoved down our throats. Perhaps this addiction is a direct reflection of the values of our culture and leadership.
Whichever the reason, I want to acknowledge that politics is a crucial part of our lives. It is intertwined with other important facets such as the economy, trade, growth etc. In fact, I daresay that there is a direct correlation between the success and failure of one to the other.
I raise my concerns because I believe that as with everything else, politics must be practiced in moderation. This is especially so, when all it seems to highlight is the negative aspects of our country and its own failures. At its very worst, we have seen the detrimental effects of bad politics on our economy (refer to post-electoral period in Kenya).
The ongoing crisis in Egypt is also a good example in support of my argument.
Egypt is a beautiful country with a rich heritage and is of global importance because of its oil reserves. However, the political unrest and intermittent violence has led to the review of its credit ratings downwards. The shutdown of the banks, the tourism industry and the stock market, has also led to the deceleration of their economic growth. What this means, is that both the foreign and local investor may consider pulling out their assets or may rethink any future investment plans, obviously to the detriment of their growth.
From our end as a trade partner, we have already begun to feel the effects here locally. We have been trading in commodities like tea with Egypt since 1992, and export about 80 million kilograms of tea annually.
Our commodities traders are already feeling the pinch, as a result of declining tea exports to Egypt. Consequently, they will be forced to re-strategise and to search for other viable markets very quickly. With such disruptions, there is no guarantee of returning to previous trading terms and cycles.
Essentially, what such uncertainty does is to highlight the risk of engaging in trade with a country in the throws of negative politics.
Along the same lines, we ought to be asking ourselves how to mitigate political risk which has a direct bearing on the growth of our economy. The political situation in Kenya this year has been far from appealing.
Day in day out, we have witnessed an unnerving display of serious cracks in our coalition government along both party and tribal alliances. There is also a very obvious lack of unity at the top and in parliament displayed by their actions in spite of reassuring words. In my opinion, any disagreements regarding the current nominations to the post of AG, CJ and DPP, should never have become public knowledge and our government should have done more to present a united front.
All these actions are reminiscent of the period before the 2007 elections. And with Kenya being so close to the next general elections, there are serious concerns out there as to whether we are headed down the same route. You and I know that Kenya is not willing to replay that situation. However, our trade partners and investors cannot afford to rely on the feelings of the locals.
If Kenya desires to become the regional economic hub, then we ought to act like it. Let us not give our competitors in the region an uncalled for advantage just because we engage in bad politics.
There ought to be a more spirited display of our commitment to the development agenda to calm their risk fears than is visible today. Bad politics only goes to harm rather than promote our image on the global scale.