A lot needs to be done to achieve independence goals
Whereas we should be celebrating sixty years since Kenya became independent, my mind went back in time and the founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta promising to fight poverty, ignorance and disease seems to have boomeranged, since Kenyans have remained poor, ignorant and sick in so many ways.
It is sad that the country is still struggling with hunger and poverty, as the ruling class increasingly acquires a sickly appetite for debt, tribalism and favouritism as the nation sinks into a hole.
Sixty years after independence, education and innovation are no longer revered as the gateway to a better future, this as cartels and academic dwarfs call the shots even in matters of academics and governance.
Granted, we are trying to be innovative with a new education system, but as we refuse to accept that education remains the true compass of success for this nation, it becomes a challenge, bringing to nought achievements of the goals set at the birth of the country.
That is not to say that Kenya has not accomplished much since independence. It means that we veered off the track and a lot remains to be done if we must achieve our declared goals of independence. Through Sessional Paper No. 10 of 1965 on African Socialism, for example, Kenya went out to find new markets and new areas of technical and trade cooperation in the world. This made Kenya a major net exporter of raw materials, however, to date, we still export unprocessed tea and coffee.
It is during the presidency of Mwai Kibaki that Kenya tried to invigorate economic growth through Vision 2030 which saw a significant growth in infrastructure development. During this period, the country was even able to fund itself through internal sources.
During that period, the president pulled off one of the greatest projects in free education, and during that period, Kenya actually realised one of the greatest growths in innovation by inventing the renowned M-Pesa platform.
However, we lost much of this traction due to negative political energy as Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda was hit hard as politics took centre stage, usurping all the energy from development, while cartels ran amok with scandals gobbling up projects left and right.
Less than one year into the Kenya Kwanza government, the opposition is wrecking growth with doses of political mechanisation, including demonstrations that are creating uncertainty and lots of investors may be giving the country a wide berth.
Coming on the back of Covid-19 shocks, an election that took close to five years of campaigning, an increasing debt portfolio, inflation and drought, experts now say that the situation is bound to get worse with a fast-growing population, diminishing resources, Russian-Ukraine war and climate change.
The opposition must also play it part as prescribed by the law, and stop economic sabotage which will make things worse for the common man. As pundits have said, the real test of the resolve of Kenyans to make things right is probably the Finance Bill 2023, which has brought nearly all stakeholders to the table.
While reading his Madaraka Day speech, even President William Ruto said he was happy with the debate being generated by the Finance Bill, 2023, which is among the most discussed bill in recent times. Rightly, so the president opined that the bill has changed the national discourse from the political and ethnic discussion that had been witnessed in the country in the recent past, to one on more critical issues that are closer to the heart of Kenyans.
Only that the reason it is the centre of attraction is that Kenyans are unhappy with the prescriptions in the Bill, and experts say it is not only coercive but also limits rights like forced housing plans and the use of own property.
The bad news is that this can only be fostered through innovation by implementing supportive policies, regulations, and incentives for research and development. This government must establish innovation funds, reduce bureaucratic hurdles for start-ups, encourage investors, retain top brains in Kenya, and ensure that priorities and government initiatives align with the needs of local innovators. — The writer is the Business Editor, People Daily