On August 15, 2017, a press release from the Kenya National Highways Authority announced that they were ‘set to roll out the construction of the 473km Nairobi – Mombasa (A8) Expressway.’ This high-speed road would be financially supported by USA’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation and Export Credit Agencies, and built by Bechtel International, an American company from San-Francisco.
Because of its four lanes and average consistent speeds of 120km per hour, the Expressway was going to slash the time taken between Kenya’s two biggest cities to four hours. This would in turn drive up business nationally and regionally. Unfortunately, this historic project is yet to commence more than two years later, yet the first section of the expressway was to have been fully operational two months ago in October. There have been accusations and counter-accusations about the reasons behind this delay.
The words of US Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter, provide very interesting insights on this issue. In an article published on the US Embassy website, he wrote that, ‘most importantly, the highway provides real value for Kenya. At a cost half the price of rail and roads previously built, the highway will be built in segments, leveraging private investors to minimise government debt.’
If the Ambassador’s words are accurate, this begs the question – why were previous infrastructure projects built at inflated costs? The answer, in one word is – corruption. A lot has been written and said about corruption in Kenya. So I will not venture there. Rather, we need a national awakening in the pursuit of integrity. We need to focus a lot more on pursuing integrity, as opposed to running away from corruption.
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It has been said that ‘integrity is what you do when no one is watching.’ I could further paraphrase this as ‘integrity is doing the right thing especially when no one is watching.’ Going by this measure, the vast majority of politicians and leaders in Kenya are definitely not men and women of integrity. Away from the TV shows, weekend rallies and parliamentary sessions, they are often creatures so different that you wouldn’t recognise them if you saw them. But this also applies to private Kenyan citizens mired in wealth yet they have no clear businesses or professional careers that explain their millions. When no one is watching, many are corrupt tenderpreneurs or drug barons.
Most, if not all, mega-corruption scandals in this country are enabled by unholy public-private alliances. That is why the people of Kenya, they who are supremely recognised in the Constitution as ‘we the people,’ must now birth a new coalition of integrity.
Thousands of our fathers and grandfathers fought in the first and second world wars. Many of them died and were buried in foreign countries like Italy. If they fought in wars that had nothing to do with them, then surely our generation can fight against corruption en masse by ensuring the men and women who stare back at them in the mirror are people of integrity.
Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States said of integrity that, ‘the supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.’
No wonder Kenya is suffering economically. The fact that there is minimal integrity in our leadership is a major reason why the economy is in the doldrums. If our leaders did the right thing especially when no one was watching, Kenya would have best roads in Africa, which would have boosted trade in the region to an all time high, meaning a lot fewer people in the jobless corner. But all is not lost. We can restore integrity in our leadership, especially if we embrace green leadership.
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Green doesn’t just refer to nature. Rather, it has a triad of meanings: One, treating people kindly, which is about good ethics and life skill training. It is about transformative values; two, working towards good health, peace within communities and creating sustainable livelihoods. Three, it is about passionately conserving our environment. This is what our country needs; public and private sector green leadership that is firmly rooted on integrity. Integrity summons God’s presence at all times. Let us think green and act green.
– The writer is founder and chairperson, Green Africa Foundation. www.isaackalua.co.ke