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Forget manifestos tell us how you will end graft, joblessness

Sorry, you cannot have ten priorities in a manifesto. This is already half what government ministries should do.

Priority means whereas everything is important in a manifesto, two or three intervention areas, normally with crosscutting impact, multiplier effect or trickledown effect as the case may be, are given preference. The Government pumps funds into the priority areas. The priority areas are enablers for other sectors to grow.

Ten plus priorities? There is Vision 2030. There is Agenda 63 for the African Union. There are Sustainable Development Goals. Locally we have County Integrated Development Plans. Wards have their own localised priorities. So what is special about ten priorities for a government that can only create 22 ministries? A manifesto is not a strategic or operational plan. It is a statement of priority intent.

From many analyses, there are at least two outstanding priorities. Corruption and unemployment. The fight against corruption has never succeeded in spite of several initiatives to stop it. The Catholic Bishops launched a prophetic campaign three years ago in which they condemned the vice and proposed several ways to address it. In their recent weekly Bishops’ Voice to the nation, they reiterated this:

Dear Kenyans, you will remember that as the Catholic Church, initiated a campaign against corruption. This campaign continues. We continue to condemn this vice in our midst in the strongest terms. The Bishops, in a prophetic gesture, removed their shoes to walk barefoot. We called upon all Christians and all Kenyans personally to join us in fighting against corruption. As we elect new leaders at all levels, we must seek a leader who commits to fighting corruption and offers concrete actions on how to do so. We urge you to refuse to elect any leader who we perceive will propagate the cancer of corruption. An electable leader should detest corruption at all levels to serve as an example to others.

Corruption is a cancer. It eats cells of every sector of our national fabric. It will be quite unfortunate if a serious candidate does not address corruption as a priority. We have a great example of how to fight corruption in the person of the late Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli. Kenyans are hardworking. It is a pity they work for a few individuals who tap into the taxpayer money for their own good.

Second, youth unemployment is a nightmare. Thousands of young graduates find themselves on the streets unemployed. The manifestos out there are quite glossy. Largely flattering. Progressive countries have moved from churning out graduates into churning out entrepreneurs. The Competency-Based Curriculum aims to capture this shift. Honestly, the education systems we scrapped, the 7-4-2-3 and the 8-4-4 had similar architects. What we really need is a priority to make research and innovation attractive in all our learning institutions and support that. Research and innovation blend theory and practice in teaching and learning. Education as a priority has a direct correlation with job opportunities upon graduation.

The priorities proposed are off tangent in addressing the root cause of unemployment. You just cannot provide funds to youth who are ill-prepared to handle that money. In fact, the County and National governments have kits for youth entrepreneurship, which is never exhausted because our education system does not produce entrepreneurs. We need a leader who understands this linkage between quality education and job opportunities. Again, the Catholic Bishops capture this very well in their press statements.

“Dear Kenyans, go beyond propaganda and high emotive development agenda. Our interest to build Kenya is not to antagonize one another. We want innovative development from the aspirants that will spur, for example, job opportunities for our youth, accessible and affordable medical care for all, sustainable agricultural support, care for the environment and systems that enable micro-financing for small and medium-level businesses.”

Uhuru Kenyatta ran with his Big Four agenda. The next government should focus on two or three priorities.