The problem with us Kenyans is that we often fall under the spell of being short-sighted.
As an example, we look at the recent survey conducted by Infotrak on the state of our economy, and if the statistics don’t favour our side, we begin to dismiss the findings. We assign other reasons to the outcome ranging from political influence, to bias, to all sorts of shenanigans.
The truth is – the writing is on the wall.
A recently released World Bank report revealed that 50,000 Kenyans fail to get absorbed by the job market every year. At the same time, we are inundated with news of corrupt dealings and scandals that seem to be never ending. Just when we bring to the surface a scandal and attempt to deal with it, another one resurfaces that is even more brazen. And regardless of the players behind the scene, it is the Kenyan taxpayer who feels the brunt of this corruption and misuse of public funds.
Is it any wonder then that 53 percent of the survey respondents felt that Kenya is headed in the wrong direction? Is it any wonder then that in a previous poll, our youth admitted that they would most likely take a bribe to get ahead?
The numbers are depressing and it is evident that the country is hugely polarized in terms of our national look and confidence. Perhaps this is partly because the opportunities may not be equitably available, or because we have political and historical hang-ups notwithstanding our personal and ethnic biases.
Whatever the reasons, If I were sitting in the President’s office I would say to him, “…Mr President, we must not allow ourselves to get bogged down by the statistics. However, we must put in place measures to correct the existing wrongs and to reinforce the positive attributes. But in all these situations, we require your leadership and seek your guidance. You must not in any way be seen to care less than we expect you to.”
Having said that, I want to state categorically that this battle is not his alone; it is for each one of us to do what we must.
As an example, since we strongly abhor corruption, we must ask ourselves what is standing in our way of fighting corruption. Are all the stakeholders playing their individual roles to curb this menace or have we all collectively resigned ourselves to being a “bandit economy?” What are the efforts of government, Judiciary, police, civil society, private sector and religious institutions in this war?
The government cannot achieve zero tolerance if the justice arm is not able or willing to prosecute those implicated in crime and vice versa. We must all stop the blame game, join forces and ensure that this anti-corruption machine runs in a well-oiled manner.
When it comes to unemployment, I feel that more needs to be done to encourage investment and spur growth to ensure that jobs are more accessible. As it were, the Manufacturing and Agricultural sectors of our economy which were the primary drivers of growth in the last 5 years have stagnated in the last year. It worries me that our growth is now primarily driven by modern services according to the World Bank.
How can we revitalise the Agricultural sector which typically contributes about 25pc to our GDP? Can the Youth Enterprise Development Fund and the numerous other funds play a more significant role in ensuring that these sectors are not left behind?
Perhaps, we could find ways of engaging the young and unemployed in these two sectors. As a people, we must also begin to demonstrate to our young people that self-employment is a viable option. That this notion of getting rich quickly is what seems to land our young people in people. Whereas high risks yield high returns, that is not the only way to generate wealth. Most times, we must be willing to put in the time to generate sustainable results.
There is a thread that intertwines all these areas and that thread is accountability.
We cannot generate more jobs even with the greatest blue prints if time and time again, these resources are misused. We cannot spur economic growth if the cost of doing business is so high that it’s prohibitive, just because we must pad in our cut more recently christened ‘chicken’. We cannot change the minds of Kenyans if we are only willing to deal with the small fish, because the big fish are too close to home.
The bottom line is this: We cannot afford to be short-sighted when it comes to dealing with our national challenges. If we are to bridge the polarity gap and win the perception battle we must be willing to put in the hard work unreservedly – from our personal offices all the way to the highest office in the land.