Election promises: Who will take care of the hustlers?

Parked handcarts at Marikiti Market. [Elvis Ogina, 2021]


The two leading presidential contenders have made various promises to citizens on the lower echelon of the society, popularly called hustlers in Kenyan speak.

Let us be blunt: unless a miracle happens, it’s unlikely we shall get a third serious presidential contender - maybe only a spoiler. But eight months is a long time in politics. 

The promises are about money. Non-predatory loans, a Sh6,000 monthly stipend and more billions to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Interestingly, there are few, if any, promises to the affluent who are the owners of the means of production. Even promises to lower power bills target the hustlers. Why so many promises?

The beauty of the promises is that they are economic in nature because money talks. And very loudly in an election year. 

It’s not the first time we have heard these promises, they come every time before the polls. They have been there ever since the birth of our nation. What promises were made during the colonial era?

The promises strike a chord with the men and women suffering economically. This year’s promises are made with the ravages of Covid-19 pandemic in the backdrop.

But are they realistic? 

The promises are broad and hard to judge as they appeal to our fears, emotions and dreams. And since they are not in our budgets, sessional papers, laws or constitution, they are hard to implement beyond the politicians' goodwill. 

You can be sure that between now and August, more promises will be made. The affluent and economically sophisticated Kenyans can discern whether the promises can be fulfilled. They could even be the designers of the promises. The rest may not.

Excited by the political victory of their leaders, hustlers often forget the promises. Remember the laptops promised by the Jubilee government? If excitement does not remind them to ask for implementation, anger over loss leads to the same. 

We hope the promises this year shall be implemented by the victor. They can make a difference from their predecessors. My unsolicited advice to hustlers is to consider the promises as a bonus. Don‘t be distracted from the core business that gives you your daily bread.

Long after the polls, the economic reality will remain. Remember the political contenders are safeguarding their jobs. Please safeguard yours also.

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