One time in 1960, some African students in London School of Economics approached their professor and asked him, “Prof this is the year of Africa. This year some 17 nations are getting their independence. What are we getting? Kingdoms or republics?”
He responded, “You are getting republics, if you can learn and grow it. If you can keep it united and honour it. A nation endures not by accident but by the genius, spirit and design of its educated professionals, elites such as you here. Managing effectively a nation is more technical than a nuclear power plant. Prepare well. Huge responsibilities await you in Africa.”
Now, in five and half decades of independence, we learnt grew, remained united, kept the peace, and honoured the Kenyan nation. In 1963, our population was 9 million. Today we’re about 51 million, 570 per cent increase. The GDP was then only USD930 million. Today it’s US $ 86 billion, the 9th largest in Africa. That is growth of 9,247 per cent, more than the population rise. Our currency is still relatively stronger. This is impressive record.
However, whereas these are comparatively remarkable achievements, Kenyans haven’t been getting higher percentage from the potentials of their good-rate systems. Until 2010, we used to blame the repealed Constitution for over-centralisation of executive power, for lack of freedom, bad governance, poverty and even for low rate of patriotism among the populace. The present Constitution has ignited a new spirit, of optimism in all of us. The spirit of unity through devolution, wealth creation and more inclusive welfare, through the Big Four Agenda.
We now have an admirable governance system. It isn’t perfect. No human institution is. If we manage and lead our public and private sector establishment for superior, higher performance, we shall get 80 per cent of the potentials out of the Constitution and our rather unique democracy. Currently our economic productivity could be about only 40 per cent of its potential. Three key challenges facing the country are problems of fostering national unity and integration, creation of wealth for all and promoting social welfare – “no one is left behind umbrella programme. I call this “Kenyan formula for prosperity.”
The formula is about the three pillars that form a partnership between the public and the private sector to foster all-inclusive national prosperity, taking into account the major constitutional transition moments that we are undergoing now. The spirit of our Constitution has underscored the three big challenges that we have to deal with in this decade, culminating in Kenya Vision 2030.
First pillar is about building a more united, integrated nation. The history of the rise and fall of great nations teach us that no country endures without purposeful, timeless agenda on unity. Since the beginning of devolution in 2013, the nation is more united. Nevertheless, we all need to up our game here and do higher value work. Second pillar is the process of wealth creation, fighting extreme poverty and inequality. As one Nobel Laureate, Prof Arthur Lewis puts it “National economic productivity depends on the accumulation of these four: Knowledge, capital, economic activities and the prevailing beliefs of the people about the value of wealth.” Whereas wealth has causes, poverty has no cause.
The objectives of devolution, Kenya Vision 2030 and the Big Four Agenda are all geared towards achieving this pillar among others. The pillar acknowledges that Kenya is indeed, a crucible for prosperity.
Third pillar involves delivering the social welfare needs of the citizen. The 41 articles of the Bill of Rights are about this pillar. Two pertinent, public policy questions here are: What are the actual welfare needs of our people and what exactly do we need to do to deliver them. It takes leadership to show the pathways to prosperity and set national ethos to deliver them. The Kenya Air Force has a strategic doctrine called “Tooda loop.” This stands for “train, observe, orient, decide, act.” The pilots argue that when you are a fighter pilot, if your Tooda loop is faster than the other pilot’s, you will always win the dog fight. In Kenyan socio-political discourse, there is a strong need for more training, observing, orienting, deciding and acting to deliver superior national strategic results.