Kenya should create a functional ambiance within the country as it starts to prepare to engage with the world. I was surprised when I learned about the stagnant economic growth in Kenya despite being the biggest economy in East Africa. I attribute this to the massive corruption in the country and the soaring inequality. Thus, for Kenya to aspire for the title of a regional power and hence maintain some global relevance, its leaders need to work on becoming an economic powerhouse as Kenya already boasts of a relatively stable government. This would require the establishment of independent institutions to mitigate corruption. I would also urge the Kenyan government to promote civic education in order to cultivate a sense of national pride.
Kenya has a great potential for growth but corruption and poverty traps that contribute to inequality for majority of the population obstruct the development of the economy. For the world to take Kenya seriously and invest in its economy, Kenya needs to show that its economy’s potential can be relied on. How? By showing that it cares about the present inequality and that it can address the problem of corruption, which has dissuaded several potential private investors time and time again. Corruption also prevents the upward mobility of those who lack the extra funds to spare for a bribe. It is also discouraging for innovative Kenyans who feel that their diligence means nothing if they still have to pay their patron leaders or public offices in order to grow or market their inventions. Kenyan leaders should therefore stop waiting for foreign actors to solve these problems through NGOs such as Transparency International, and instead take charge, and establish reliable institutions that are above the control of the president or any other political leader. If something is not done to reduce corruption in Kenya, Kenya will remain a mediocre economy. No amount of ODA or humanitarian foreign aid is going to lift Kenyans out of their poverty, if it all goes into “Big Men” pockets and bellies. So, my advice to President Uhuru is, please do something about corruption, that way, the world can start to take us seriously.
This course also taught me the importance of African agency. In order for Kenya to be respected as it engages with the world, it needs Kenyans who are willing to stand up for Kenya and not themselves or the West or the East. When Kenyan leaders engage with the world, some of the deals they sign up for do not necessarily benefit Kenyans. Kenya needs people who have been educated to be patriotic and nationalistic in order to represent Kenyan interests. In addition, I believe that if Kenyans in the diaspora had the national pride to go back and develop Kenya or represent Kenyan issues abroad, we would see an immense change in leadership, technology, and our place in the global economy. Kenyans abroad can vouch for the motherland through various projects, but if they lack the sense of national pride, that wouldn’t be the case. Let’s therefore model Kenyan education in a way that produces Kenyans who are representatives of Kenya regardless of the platform.
There are many recommendations that can be made to the government but it has to be willing to listen and adopt them. The government itself is full of corrupt and unqualified leaders who cannot even stand and demand respect on global platforms. There are needs to be a complete reevaluation of the nation’s representatives.
Herbst, Jeffrey and Greg Mills. Africa in 2020: Three Scenarios for the Future. Brenthurst Discussion Papers, 2/2006.