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Rooting for inclusive, data-driven growth

By WILLIAM RUTO | May 19th 2015 | 4 min read

Last year at the Kenya Technical Training Institute, I launched the Curriculum for Technical and Vocational Training developed through government partnership with HFCK Foundation's flagship Army of One Million Artisans Initiative.

Just two weeks ago, I commissioned the M-Pesa Foundation's construction of a state-of-the-art, mixed boarding academy which, when complete, will provide a first-class, unique education to gifted but economically disadvantaged children from all counties in Kenya. Such is the power of corporate social investment to power our economy and transform lives.

This year - 2015 - is important in the global development calendar. It marks the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to a new set of global targets under the ambit of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The year also marks a potential opportunity to disrupt the development paradigm that ensured developing nations relied on capacity and resources from developed economies.

The Open Working Group (OWG) co-chaired by our UN Permanent Representative, Macharia Kamau, has been lauded as the most inclusive and dynamic process in identifying SDG's 17 goals that reflects the current trends and developmental challenges including the potential of technology and innovation as a catalyst to developmental inclusion of those in the margins. By extension, Kenya's role in this process validates how our functioning democracy could inform other global processes.

While the SDGs have addressed new problems, poverty, environmental protection, disease and illiteracy continue to feature prominently in these conversations. Kenyans will recall that these challenges are not new, but seem to be accentuated even while we are recording gains in our economic development.

The challenges may seem daunting but there are also new opportunities that can be leveraged. Kenya has a functioning democracy, an increased middle class, a vibrant private sector and a young innovative community that has wielded the power of mobile and web technologies to create new opportunities for entrepreneurship.

Our administration has recognised that our ability to realise Vision 2030 and to determine our own development path is intrinsically connected to our ability to generate requisite and predictable financing. The Government, in partnership with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), has been exploring the potential of channelling the power of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in a way that addresses the gaps in our development financing.

Indeed, the SDGs recognise the role of private companies in development and included an expanded and structured engagement agenda with this sector. We believe the 21st Century development challenge should be of interest to companies. A populace that has increased literacy levels, less disease burden and endowed with disposable income is good for business. Investing in development therefore makes good business sense.

As we usher in the next development phase of this millennium, it is imperative for these forces to collaborate with Government, offer potential synergy in addressing any gaps and increase our development potential.

Private sector engagement, we note, is not only limited to financing. The business processes and techniques within private sector are a capacity that Government can draw from in ensuring efficiency and expediency in provision of services. We firmly believe we require local solutions to solve local problems. This is central to our shared values of responsibility and a cornerstone of our sovereignty.

In this era of big data and technological advancements, Kenya is poised for greater heights as building blocks of this new development era are already entrenched in our country. The post-2015 agenda recognises the need for data and statistics to understand development challenges and design appropriate responses.

Moreover, the agility in allocation of resources and designing strategy in a fluid world requires real-time data and analysis. For instance, it is important for Government to understand, in real time, data on productivity of our agricultural sector, the potential value chains that can be derived, its implications on our food security and direct benefits to individual farmers.

Such data may be useful for Kenyans in the Diaspora and potential investors to make an informed choice on opportunities. The same data, based on our understanding of the budding innovation hubs, could provide innovators with the raw material to build monetised applications or simple SMS-based information services to farmers and investors. The development challenge therefore is the challenge of now and is no longer a preserve of Government.

The President and I are committed to the creation of an inclusive data ecosystem involving Government, private sector, academia, civil society, local communities and development partners that tackles the informational aspects of development decision-making in a coordinated way. We recognise If Kenya is to lead in the community of nations; we must deliberately pursue collaboration between Government, academia and entrepreneurs. It is no longer an issue of political will, but a matter of rational economic and political choice.

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