Locusts invasion has exposed our soft underbelly
Tuesday, January 14th, 2020
The desert locust menace has raised concern about Kenya’s preparedness to tackle agricultural challenges.
It is notable that the invasion was not a surprise. When the insects appeared in Iran in July last year, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned they would spread to the Horn of Africa, including Kenya, in late 2019 or early 2020.
Scrambling for a solution at the last minute points to failure in proper planning.
The desert locust debacle must be a red alert to policy makers and institutions to hasten process of harnessing solutions to the agriculture ecosystem. As research reveals, technological deployment could be a panacea.
As the government combats the locusts with aerial spray, there is need for a well thought strategy on how to end the problem.
This must include an elaborate technological front with collaboration of all stakeholders.
The government must invest more in technological infrastructure in order to encourage innovation. Given the vast resources required, initiating policies that could attract private sector investment into technological infrastructure will be critical.
Efficient public private partnership framework will be essential in this endeavour.
To enhance the speed of technological innovation, investment in research and development must take precedence. Relying on scientific research will accelerate technological transformation. However, this must be coupled with capacity building.
With technological transformation, there will be job losses as well as new opportunities being created. This in essence will call for re-skilling and retooling.
The process is always gradual hence the need for progressive relearning. Unless continuous learning is embraced, there will be no adequate human capital to drive technological growth.
Political goodwill is paramount if Kenya has to benefit from digital transformation. With the Kenya Digital Economy Blue Print 2019, Kenya is on the right track on policy terms. But implementation requires political commitment.
Political commitment to public policies will not be realised in an environment of political confusion as we are experiencing.
There is no doubt political confusion has for decades been a recipe for corruption. Corruption in turn denies Kenya the much needed resources that could be invested in development of technological infrastructure.
Until Kenya gets the political space sanitised, there is danger of lagging behind in the fourth industrial revolution.
The urgency of sanitising the political environment is more important than ever. The role of youth in this process is well defined; digital tools will be the platforms to actualise the plan.
Just like how a call by the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary to share photos of the locusts was turned into an online frenzy, advocating for proper governance and accountability can now be done effectively using digital platforms.
Using digital platforms to engage in public participation will be an area young people must focus on. Public participation is important because it determines which investment will be given priority.
Further, use of digital platforms will be critical for mobilisation. Crowd funding has become ubiquitous thanks to fintech development.
Therefore, it will be essential for young people to embrace digital platform and use it diligently to accelerate the pace of technological transformation.
Digital platforms will form the next frontier of economic growth. The government must, therefore, develop capacity.— The writer comments on global development