Azimio la Umoja manifesto a fair attempt, but lacks fine details

The top page of Azimio manifesto espouses the Kenyan dream. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The word manifesto was popularised by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their “Communist manifesto”, an influential pamphlet that sent the world into a tailspin starting with a revolution in Russia in 1917. It was published in 1848 in London. We still hear the echoes of that revolution to this day.

We hope the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition manifesto will transform our country like communist manifesto, but without the idealism and Utopianism of the communist manifesto.

Let’s soberly analyse the document. I wish Kenya Kwanza can share theirs so we analyse and make comparisons.

The top page of Azimio manifesto espouses the Kenyan dream, happy young men against the backdrop of big projects like highways and skyscrapers. Does this mean our view of economic growth and development is still tied to concrete? The dream is further captured by “Plenty be found within our borders.”  Smiling faces grace several pages. Do we smile that often? 

The introduction by Raila Odinga, referred to as HE, borrows from the national anthem. He says the manifesto is about hard and honest work and it’s a social contract. His reference to servant leaders, a compassionate government appeals to our emotions. He alludes to our past, national identity and fight to eradicate, poverty, disease and ignorance. It elucidates how our national dream will be achieved through re-engineering the economy, social protection, and unfettered access to public goods. Why medium term, 2022-2027, why not bold enough to reach 2032? 

The first agenda in the manifesto is devolution. It’s not accidental. It’s not clear what counties will do to ensure 'one county one product' works as government provide material and technical support.

Why is agenda two separated from number five which is also about manufacturing? I think the market for the goods manufactured matters more than prior skills; unless that will ensure quality of goods. Do we really care about the qualification of our Jua Kali artisans as long as they do quality work? Made in Kenya will work if we are more patriotic, more willing to buy our own products.

Third is women. They will be getting their place as per the Constitution, access to finance, health, education and basics like sanitary pads. 

Fourth is agriculture; our mainstay. It’s lumped with blue economy. Why? Climatic change is acknowledged. Idle government land to be put into agriculture use. Where is it? Where is this large scale arable land up for commercialisation?

Agenda 6 is seamless transfer of power; “the instruments of power do not change, only custodians come and go.” In Kenya, the custodians seem to prolong their stay. 

Agenda 7 is about corruption and how to confront it.

Eight is about education with no child left behind. Sounds very American. All unemployed teachers will be employed? What of other unemployed professionals?

Nine is about access to clean water for all. 

Ten is healthcare, dubbed Babacare like Obama care. It’s tied with Sh6,000 stipend to the two million needy Kenyans. The stipend is touted to create local demand and small-scale industry. Has that been tested? 

Chapter 1 looks at investing in the people and builds on Vision 2030, then shifts to foundations of economic revolution in Chapter 2. Why not give a targeted economic growth rate?

Alluding to Africa free trade area is a great idea. What will counties do to take advantage of this free trade area with the one county, one product? It’s not clear how manufacturing will compliment agriculture, livestock, blue economy and ICT. 

Details on what opportunities are in each sector and how Azimio will exploit then follows. The sectors include manufacturing, agriculture, livestock, blue economy and ICT. The use of diagrams is unexpected in a manifesto, a clear indicator of academic involvement. Why not a budget for each commitment? 

Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

MSMEs are given good attention. How shall Azimio make us buy our own made by MSMEs when even our names are imported?

Other sectors included are creative industry, digital economy, sports, mining, construction, real estate, cooperatives and tourism.

The economic revolution envisioned by Azimio touches on changing micro and macro - economic plus fiscal and monetary policies. Reviving the National Economic and Social Council and use of capital markets to finance development are mentioned. Other foundations of economic revolution include streamlining public expenditure, debt management, stabilisation, improvement of financial intermediation, improvement on trade (why not tie it to manufacturing?), investment, transport and logistics, rail, roads, ports, air transport, water and sanitisation, energy, land, natural resources and climatic change. The first 23 pages, half of the manifesto, are about economic issues. Why no financial commitments?  

The section ends by connecting economics to civic responsibilities and rights. 

Chapter 3 focuses on social transformation. Should this not have come before economics? Think of the Tanzanian model. 

This looks like Big Four again. The key issues include education with shift to STEM, free education up to university, and linking education to economic issues earlier discussed. Next is universal healthcare, food security, safety and nutrition, social protection and welfare.

The delineation of single mothers is new and surprising (targeting Central Kenya?). Single fathers? Inclusivity is discussed to add youth, PWD, the vulnerable, marginalised areas and Kenyans in diaspora. Other social transformation issues include women agenda, labour relations, faith-based organisations. Why FBO? Why not churches and mosques?

Governance is in Chapter 4. Issues include the 2010 Constitution, rule of law, devolution, higher budget allocation to counties and focus on wards. Add corruption, national safety and security, public service delivery, national ethos and values, foreign policy and diplomacy.

The manifesto's last chapter focuses on monitoring and evaluation to ensure implementation of government projects. 

The final part is what Azimio will do in the first 100 days. This seems too ambitious because there could be change in laws and money appropriated. Remember the 2022/2023 Budget has been read. 

The Azimio manifesto is too detailed and intellectual for Wanjiku, and too silent on sources of funds. I looked very hard and unsuccessfully for surprises. Not much was devoted to changing our attitudes to each other and work. The word tribalism is missing. Not much was said about power structure, despite chief minister position being dangled. Why no mention of constitution review? Despite using Swahili terms, the manifesto is “not talking to us" and is a difficult read.  

The 79 pages is too much; I wish it was only 30 pages like the famous manifesto. The document looks like 41 pages, but each page has two columns.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. It’s through the implementation that we shall extract the value of the manifesto. Will it change our voting? I doubt. Most of the issues are in the public domain. Running mate choice, voter turnout, political exhaustion, brinkmanship, and “invisible hands” could determine the winner. After all, manifestoes are limited by laws, constitution and reality on the ground.

The writer is an associate professor at the School of Business, University of Nairobi