Tuesday, 21 May 2013


The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released its 2013 report titled “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World” recently. As the title suggests, it focuses on the success stories of the global South, and mostly the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India and china) which have achieved tremendous economic development and improvement in human development indices. This is with a view of promoting discussion and even imitation by countries in the global north and south of the best practices adopted by these countries.
The Human Development Index was developed in the early 1990s by a group of economists including Amartya Sen, so as to more accurately measure how a country’s economic growth was being translated to improved wellbeing of its citizens. According to Wikipedia, HDI “is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education and income indices to rank countries into four ties of human development: very high human development, high human development, medium human development and low human development.”
The human development index was meant to shift the focus of development economics from national income accounting, and towards people-centered policies. It measures the life expectancy at birth, the mean years of schooling among those aged 25 years and the expected years of schooling of those aged five years, as well as the standard of living of the citizens by looking at the Gross National Income per capita.
According to the report, Kenya is ranked at 145 out of 186 countries of which data is available, in the level of low human development. Kenya has an under five mortality of 85 deaths per 1000 births, life expectancy of fifty seven years, adult literacy rate of 87%(over 15 years) and GNI per capita of 1,541 USA dollars as per 2005 rates. Although Kenya is best ranked among countries of the East African Community, with Uganda ranked 162, Tanzania 152, Rwanda at 167 and Burundi at 178, clearly there remains massive room for improvement.
The three notable “drivers of development”, according to the UNDP report, which have propelled the growth of economies such as India, Brazil, China, Mexico and Indonesia, which Kenyan policy makers might want to take heed of include the following:

  • A proactive developmental state that has a long term vision and leadership, with shared norms and values, rules and institutions that build trust and cohesion, and are pragmatic in terms of policies and ideologies they adopt to bring about human development.

  • Tapping of global markets. The strategy should be one of “importing what the world knows and exporting what it wants.” It is imperative that Kenya adopts a policy that is maneuvers between excessive liberalization and statism, depending on its unique capabilities. Regionalism is also encouraged, as is focusing on niche products.

  • Determined social policy innovation. The report encourages public investment in infrastructure, which was largely been the case in the Kibaki administration, and looks set to continue with the jubilee government, as well as in education and health. The investment in health could certainly improve, and the free maternal service to be offered is a step in the right direction. The Kenyan government should also end discrimination and unequal treatment, according to gender, age and ethnicity. I hope the 30% rule, as well as making illegal cultural practices such as FGM and wife inheritance, as well as child marriages go a long way in fighting this. The civil society should also keep the government and leadership accountable.

Kenya can also improve include increasing the income of Kenyans, reducing poverty, gender and inter generational inequality, social integration that has been damaged by fractious politics and historical injustices, and human insecurity. Human insecurity caused by hunger, disease, crime, unemployment, human rights violations and environmental challenges is a major challenge to the jubilee government, the private sector and civil society to bring about human development. It must be addressed as a national crisis.
The UNDP report concludes that less developed countries can learn and benefit from success of emerging economies in the south, new institutions and new partnerships can facilitate regional integration and development, and new global governance institutions that reflect the new realities of a more powerful south are needed.
In a nutshell, Kenya’s human development index is much lower than I thought it would be, especially when compared with countries such as Ghana, Libya, South Africa, Mauritius and Botswana. The undo report gives clear and concise recommendations on what we should do if we want to develop, drag millions of Kenyans out of poverty and join the exciting and innovative countries of the south as an African lion that puts human development at the very centre of its policies and economic agenda.

Monday, 13 May 2013


The civil society ought to play a bigger role in promoting peace, reconciliation and implementation of the new constitution in Kenya. Mention of civil society in Kenya elicits images of the likes of Okiya Omtata, Boniface Mwangi, and maybe AFRICOG, the “professionals” who seem to have a lot of time to be always planning this or that protest or court injunction against “MPigs” or the police. Yet the World Bank defines civil society as “the wide array of non-governmental & not for-profit organizations that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members/others, based on ethical, cultural, political, scientific, religious or philanthropic considerations.” In other words, any voluntary collective activity in which people combine to achieve change on a particular issue is the civil society, as long as it is outside the government or the market.
Examples of civil society organizations include charities, neighbourhood self-help schemes, human rights campaigns, non-governmental organizations, labour unions, religious groups, and professional organizations. In Kenya this would include the Red Cross, KNUT, SUPKEM, AFRICOG, etc. it is clear from the above definitions and examples that almost every citizen interacts or is a member of civil society in one way or another.
Why is it that the “evil society” is so demonized and associated with opportunistic and tribalistic Kenyans, rather than organizations of patriotic Kenyans formed to push for good governance, self-reliance and socio-economic development? The civil society’s golden moments in Kenya are often said to be the push for multipartyism in early 1990’s when the clergy, NGOs, multilateral organizations, oppositionists to force the Moi government to repeal section 2a and make Kenya a multiparty state.
It seems to have all gone downhill from there, as opportunistic individuals in the civil society have used the platform to push for narrow tribal interests, political posts, donor funding and attention from the foreign media. Yet, the civil society, according to BBC world service, can provide a social structure in nations where the government is non-existent or rudimentary. Think of the controversial Kenyans for Kenya initiative, or the many bursaries offered by rotary foundation etc. The civil society, ever since the days of harambee have done much to promote socio-economic and political development in Kenya.
 It only has to reclaim its space from the donor funded, opportunistic and professional organizations and return to the very centre of politics and society in Kenya.
In a new dispensation where there are many more devolved governments where politicians will rob and increase salaries and benefits at every turn, it is critical that the civil society finds its voice. the government seems less than legitimate to half of the population, due to a political culture that promotes ethnic competition and winner takes all mentality. In my opinion, the government of Kenya has served to divide Kenyans since independence, and it is the role of the civil society to unite all of us to fight for implementation of the new constitution, oversight of the government and fight for the justice of all who have been beaten, discriminated against and overtaxed among us by successive governments. This is even more crucial when political parties remain to be personality driven, tribalistic and election vehicles bereft of ideology or long term strategy. One only needs to look at the way the CORD coalition is stumbling in parliament, while the jubilee government is not expected to last past the next coalition cycle at the latest.
The civil society has the potential of pushing for reforms and a better Kenya by fighting for “non-tribal” interests such as better roads, higher wages, stronger judiciary, and fighting natural disasters and calamities. Yet the labour union movement is only good at fighting for salary increases, the student unions are akin to spoilt kids only good at throwing stones and looting shops every time they demonstrate, while the NGOs are seen to be as fleeting, tribalistic and opportunistic on donor money as the government and politicians, while pushing for “western” lifestyles and agenda.
It is time every citizen recognized that we are all members of the civil society, and the only way for us to achieve long term unity, peace and economic development is for more active involvement in the politics and economy of Kenya alongside the government, pushing the government and sometimes outside the government. The days of harambee may be long gone, but by recognizing avenues through which we can all improve our lot without serikali, we may just be able to slay the dragons of donor reliance and tribalism for good.