The flaws of Kenya's erratic middle class

By Mark Bichachi | Wednesday, Aug 29th 2018 at 00:00
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There are many ways to ruin a nation, and in Kenya we practice all of them. Much has been said about the 1 per cent and the ruling class, it is time we moved our lens a bit lower in the pecking order. Let us look at the middle class. The class in our animal farm that is slightly better than chickens, and a bit higher than dust.

This is the class of people who insist on asking you if you know them, and if you don’t, they will threaten you with who they know. This is the class that thrives in buying second hand cars and calling them new model or new shape eight years too late. The class that loves coffee, and attends all festivals whether koroga or 'kuroga'.

This is the class that has a bank balance reading negative car loan, school fees loan and emergency loan. A class that somehow affords a vacation every three months. A class that by the standards of Instagram, is doing very well. These are they who visit Greece once and for two days, but the pictures will be uploaded for six years at the rate of twice a month to remind us how well they are doing.

County tender

This is a class that is drowning in a sea of debt and low self-esteem, but it is also the class that is responsible for many of the ills in our society. First and worst is the fact that this is the class that breaks through, ostensibly by receiving a top government or county tender. Upon receiving the tender, they immediately book a flight to China and import towels by the thousands to supply the tender. This to me is the height of middle class foolishness, selfishness and greed.

Allow me to expound; when brothers in-law Procter and Gamble won a tender to supply candles and soap to the US army in the 1850s, they did not board ships to the UK to bring the needed goods, instead they built local capacity and manufactured the soap and candles themselves.

That simple and logical move has made their company, P&G, make sales of over $80 billion per annum today. The logic is simple, by supplying the army with their products, their young company had a constant and guaranteed market, and at the same time allowed the company to have loyal customers in the personnel that left the army, thus guaranteeing its success.

Inherit nothing

In contrast, the China travelling Kenyan tenderpreneur has never stood to think that he could manufacture the towels, the pins, the needles, the pens and even paper locally. Instead, we migrate all our money and thus, taxes to China. What is worse is we miss out on creating jobs for the youth and even worse, our children will inherit nothing of our tender business because the business dies as soon as the procurement manager is changed.

Once money for the supply of Chinese towels is done, the tenderpreneur will briskly set out to buy a black V8 SUV, which I now call the corruption money starter pack, buy a few plots in Kitengela (Kite) and move the kids from a private school to an international school.

Accolades abound in the church and bar as to the greatness of the tenderpreneur. Meanwhile the black SUV will be used to overlap, bully, speed, confuse young girls and generally spread bad manners across our roads and society.

The dead capital in a plot in “Kite”, will sit idly by, waiting for a bypass or Ketraco project. The same middle class “businessmen” will then inflate the price and while costing the taxpayer millions more, he will congratulate himself for being a great “hustler”.

From then on he will specialise in deals on the fringes of the law. Using networks to receive more and more deals by which he will claim that “god” has helped him get this far. For his “god”, you see, believes in success at all costs, and his devil minds a hell called hard work, virtue and discipline.

In order to “invest” his hustle money, the fellow will soon build a flat or an office park, despite the obvious oversupply. Because in his mind the path to success is always the same. Like all those who have gone before him he must invest in the laziest ways imaginable to man.

The effect to our economy is that the much-needed capital for new startups and innovative solutions is locked in silly buildings with 30 percent occupancy and a permanent “to let” sign at the gate.

It is at this point that he begins to venture into politics. Not to further a cause he believes in, but to protect his tenders and corrupt deals. He supports any candidate who feeds his largesse, whether devil or angel he cares not as long as his purse is filled with the proceeds from “mtu wangu”.

It is this middle class that won't demonstrate, while at the same time ranting daily at the excesses of Government on Twitter. It is this middle class who quietly adores the corrupt billionaires hoping that one day, they too will ascend to power and be the next pigs in the animal farm.

We, the chicken and dust dweller, must be well aware that if corruption is to end, and if our country is to be saved, we must of necessity be rid of the pigs and the middle class flies that attend them.

Mr Bichachi is a Communication Consultant. bichachi@gmail.com. 

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