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Covid-19 could make or break Uhuru legacy

COMMENTARY
By Mark Bichachi | April 1st 2020

Thanks in part to Covid-19, though there is a deep sense of trepidation caused by the fear of the unknown, there is relative quiet in the country.

The high political temperatures have cooled and once again there is proof that all we need for peace is for our politicians to stay silent, and the country unites in purpose.

Not hearing their voices drone on and on about uchawi and unstoppable and stoppable reggae as they score off against each other is for sure a silver lining in these troubled times.

Moreoever, the Covid-19 outbreak has confirmed a long-held assumption: parliamenterians care little about the people. They offer no leadership, no policy direction, nothing. No sooner had the crisis hit than they disappeared into the woodworks.

Not a single Bill, idea or resolution has passed on the floor to protect lives and preserve the economy. Instead, they joined us on social media to whine.

Do our leaders find their voice only when hurling insults at each other? That unless talking about succession and 2022 and BBI, they have no ideas?

That said and as the saying goes, cometh the hour cometh the man, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe seems to have taken the challenge head on.

He and his Cabinet colleagues have given assurance and offered solutions and direction to a nation in crisis and confusion.

Economic meltdown

But the man whose hour on the stage has come is none other than President Uhuru Kenyatta. Since 2017, plenty has been said about his legacy.

The Big Four agenda, the handshake (BBI), the fight against corruption and a divided Jubilee have dominated the news. Little did we know that the novel coronavirus would forment Armageddon by threatening humanity and triggering an economic meltdown across the globe.

Uhuru, like it or not, will be defined by what happens in 2020. If he is able to navigate the complications of Covid-19, then 2020 will make him. If not, Covid-19 will claim his name and legacy.

He has to ensure that a broken down and long-neglected health system delivers a proper response to Covid-19. He has to ensure the staff and equipment do not fail Kenya at this critical time.

At the same time, his communication machinery has to be the source of truth (reliable and frequent) otherwise fake news shall wash us and his legacy down the drain. He scores well there.

Additionally, he has to ensure that the security apparatus is working to ensure the safety of Kenyans without brutalising them or using the crisis as an avenue for corruption.

Now that the national government is in charge of Nairobi the response of the county to the crisis will be critical. He dare not misstep in making sure that Nairobi is implementing a proper response to the corona crisis. Remember Nairobi is not just the country’s capital, it is also the business hub of the region.

Pull rabbit

His greatest challenge remains getting the economy going despite the obvious challenges of output. He needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat. How will he stimulate the economy when the nation is in debt while revenue collection is low?

How will he dole out a stimulus to those who belong to the Kenya Private Sector Alliance and Kenya Association of Manufacturers and still ensure it gets to the boda boda rider and the chicken farmer and Mama Mboga?

Looked at another way, Covid-19 has thrown up a host of opportunities for the state. First is a relook at our education system. Do we need more classes or do we need more gadgets? Do we need to have a text book distribution mechanism if we had laptops that could receive lessons?

If we have high literacy rates, is it time we asked parents to join in teaching their own children and having teachers act as facilitators to education rather than the primary sources of education? If this were the case, then learning would not have been disrupted and our basic education would cost the government less money in staff and buildings. There is already a large population of homeschoolers. Why not take advantage of that and decongest our schools?

To train engineers, accountants, economists or more doctors?

At the same time, the crisis provides great opportunity for manufacturers. The demand for hospital beds, equipment and drugs is real today. Instead of importing as all the markets focus inward, what can be done to manufacture these necessities locally?

The United States grew its economy by asking its manufacturers to step up in times of war, could Kenya do the same now? In doing so, we will have turned disaster into opportunity. For World War III, it seems, is a virus.

Mr Bichachi is a communication consultant

Covid 19 Time Series

 

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