BY NGUNJIRI WAMBUGU
This weekend I attended a dinner hosted by the Kenya@50 Planning Committee to invite the Private Sector to partner in the upcoming Kenya@50 events. The committee explained that the celebrations will not be a one-day affair but will run for the entire 12 months starting December this year, to December 2014.
The committee also explained why the ‘Lion’ is the official ‘mascot’ of this effort. I learnt that it is because Kenyans have the same spirit as that found in the ‘King of the Jungle’; strength, resilience and confidence, which is what we are celebrating at 50. Kenyans also, like the Lion, move together in a ‘Pride’ to the extent that the Kenya we have today is the result of people working together in groups, cooperatives, ‘chamas’ or work-teams; all the way from the fight for independence. I agree.
During this dinner I also learnt that the Kenya@50 celebrations start with a series of events that roll out this November, and build up to the December 12th Jamhuri Celebrations that I assume will be the actual official launch of the Kenya@50 ‘celebrations’. The events focus on ‘legacy projects’; socio-economic projects, but also include several sports events, youth concerts, and prayer occasions.
My only concern is that Kenya@50 seems to be focusing what should essentially be a ‘feel-good’ moment, towards the usual ‘hardware’ areas of our country; i.e. the economy, development projects and infrastructure.
In my opinion Kenya is moving along pretty well in ‘nation-building’ (tangible hardware) projects; especially because President Kenyatta inherited a pretty solid foundation in this area from President Kibaki.
This means for all intents and purposes all we need to do to achieve our Vision 2030’s Economic Pillar is manage our costs, leverage the emerging economic opportunities, enhance the development projects already underway, and strategically initiate new ones in weak areas of our economy.
What worries me is that there is a high likelihood that we will achieve this Economic Pillar, but fail miserably on the other two Pillars that make Vision 2030; Political and Social growth. This is because we do not spend as much time thinking about ‘nation-hood-building’, as we spend on ‘nation-building’.
Our nation-hood structures are impressive for an African country that is only 50 years old. We have made a mark in the world on ICT innovations, infrastructural development, education, healthcare, business and entrepreneurship, etc; however our nation-hood-building (intangible software) structures like national cohesion, unity, patriotism, national pride, etc are really struggling. This makes Kenya ‘look’ good, without ‘feeling’ as good.
Kenya@50 is a terrific opportunity to positively affect this, if only the committee can have a paradigm-shift of their focus, from hardware to soft-ware legacy projects. The committee needs to realize that the structural goals they have set could still be achieved by the government and/or private sector even if we were not celebrating 50 years. What is special for this moment is the opportunity it gives us to spend the next 12 months establishing a ‘nation-hood-building’ legacy.
I would therefore suggest that the Kenya@50 Committee start by inviting County governments to arrange their own ‘Kenya@50 Party’ within their counties. This would be celebrations of Kenya turning 50 based on the respective counties believe makes them part of the wider Kenyan fabric.
The Counties would then invite national leaders from various sectors, including politicians from all divides, to a key flag-ship event that would be hosted by the Governor, and graced by the President.
The advantage of ‘Kenya@50 County Celebrations’ is that everyone will participate in one of the 47 ‘parties’ that will happen over the next 12 months. Our vibrant media will also bring each county’s party into our living-rooms, to ensure other Kenyan not in that county including those in the diaspora, celebrate Kenya@50 through the eyes of each county, 47 times! The political unity it will call for at local and regional level will also go a long way in building Kenya’s software.
We also need to use President Uhuru Kenyatta a lot more during these celebrations. By name, birth and upbringing Uhuru stands out from the crowd as a potential national unifying symbol. He also has an amazing personality, inbuilt charisma, and occupies Kenya’s highest political office; literally he is the official ‘unifier-in-chief’. Kenya@50 is a terrific opportunity to use him to charm Kenyans across the political (& other divides) to urge them towards nation-hood, as Kenya turns 50. It will be good for him, our politics, and for Kenya as a whole.
Finally Kenyans love a good party and Kenya@50 should give us one. They could make the next 12-months look like the December holidays rolled over from 2013 all the way to December 2014. Kenyans have also proven they can rally funds in times of crisis, and Kenya@50 could re-kindle that #WeAREOne Kenyans-for-Kenya feeling towards something ‘fun’. Let us all contribute, not just the corporates, so that we all own it. Then strategically stretch this ‘party’ over the next 12 months and see a different Kenya, as we turn 51.