The intensification of campaigns for next year’s general election tells us nothing significant about why our economy is not supporting all Kenyans despite the country enjoying relative peace, relatively high GDP, well paid legislators and executives, a rich diversity in our tourism and a great international reputation, thanks to our patriotic athletes.
Solutions to our economic problems go beyond providing top-down or bottom-up descriptive models. Beyond words, the models are unfounded and presented with many hidden assumptions.
For example, we fight in elections because whoever comes to power controls taxpayers’ money.
The victor and the troops around him arbitrarily decide which resources are used for which ends despite existing laws that govern the proper use of public funds. How do the business models presented to date address the grievances at the root of electoral violence, which are partly resource-based and to a large extent power-based?
The next government cannot boast of economic prosperity as a cure for our paradoxical rise in wealth and poverty. Our capitalist mindset towards materialism as the basis of national development can only be productive after defining our national identity and how we unite as a nation.
Imagine a family that was once endowed with financial, material and intellectual resources. He collapses. But it is holding on because it is well connected to the banks. He can get loans to compensate for the immediate difficulties.
The family intends to rebuild itself. And, everyone in the family is talking about having more money so that members, especially children and grandchildren, can improve their well-being. However, none of the key family members ask the tough questions: How did we get to where we are – in the face of poverty?
Have there been any leaks in our financial systems? Have we stopped thinking and started spending like the prodigal son of the Bible who wasted his resources thriving on returning to his family a beggar? Why have we used our resources and with what result?
Kenyans are extremely hard-working capitalists. They wake up at dawn and return after sunset. Some work late at night to earn a living. In addition, we have a huge wasted resource in the form of educated but unemployed young women and men. These are not just economic issues. Our electoral agenda cannot primarily be the absence of an economic model for God’s sake. There is something deeper to fix.
The reason for the poor performance of the economy and massive borrowing is due to our value systems. No matter how much money one receives, it is the set of values that the owner holds dear that determines how it is to be used.
Unlike China or Tanzania where the spirit of nationalism is deeply rooted in government systems, providing business models without core values that all Kenyans aspire to will not have significant progressive meaning. Either the people at the bottom will be blamed for being lazy and uncooperative, or the big fish at the top will ignore the models and continue to eat. nyama choma.
Leadership contestants will be more constructive if they put their finger on why we turned to borrowing and show why they won’t borrow unwarrantedly to continue supporting the economy.
Tribalism, massive corruption, pure peacemaking lies in the countryside, nepotism, selfishness and the pursuit of power without values require visionary leadership to overcome.
Any serious candidate cannot ignore that we are a nation ruled by tribal leaders. We need someone to ignite us with a sincere commitment to a renewed spirit of our national anthem. Someone who can go beyond words to shape a new Kenya where the tribe is a blessing.
Dr Mokua is Executive Director, Loyola Center for Media and Communications