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Empower more hands to bake the national cake

By Mark Nyamita | May 30th 2021
Youth paint the tarmac under the footbridge along Haile Selassie Avenue at City Square [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard}

It was Ayi Kwei Armah who warned in his evergreen ‘The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born’ that we get lost if we forget our past and have no vision.

In Kenya, Vision 2030 remains our boldest statement yet that we may not just be saved from getting lost, but also that we believe that we shall prosper as a nation in the foreseeable future. These thoughts wrapped my mind as I presented a paper on resource mobilisation for population programmes to a national leaders’ conference, last week.

In view of Vision 2030, we must fully appreciate our options as a country in a fast-globalising knowledge-driven global economy. We must unpack patterns of our demographic growth. Kenya’s population has more than quintupled since independence’s 10 million and it is set to rise to 64 million by 2030, with the youth taking the bulk of that bulge.

Is our economic planning aligned to these numbers? Many of the world’s fastest-growing economies are also some of the most populous. However, these prosperous nations have not sat on their laurels and watched their numbers grow. They have aligned their development plans to these numbers, ensuring that the demographic boom boosts their nation building through specialisation, more hands to bake the national cake and bigger market for their goods and services.

Vision 2030’s primary promise is to transform Kenya into an industrialising middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all citizens. Ambitious as this may seem, signs are that we are on course. In the last 18 or so years, we have witnessed unprecedented modernisation of the hardware side of our economy.

However, on matters population, human capital and social transformation in the context of policy shift, we should ask ourselves how much we have invested in transforming our software. Some questions remain unanswered like whether we have enough resources to support nearly twice the number of people we have today. Can we then talk about population programmes while delinking them from our plans for economic productivity and projections?

Needed urgently is a coherent strategy that ensures the public and private sectors work in consonance to address population challenges. The strategy should address, not just resource mobilisation, but also ensure deployment based on futuristic trends discernible from the unfolding world of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

How can such a strategy be realised? Forging long-term relationships with donors to create sustainability is one. Needed also is a restructured model of funding that cash in on realities driven by the knowledge era.

Finally, we need to shift our focus from donor funding to self-resourcing on population and development. Both national and county governments should allocate funds for population and development programmes.

-The writer is Uriri MP and vice chair of the parliamentary caucus on population and development.


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