There are no winners in graft race

Corruption deliberately interferes with the laws of the market or economics. [iStockphoto] 

We were not that wrong; the story of corruption died during Easter and failed to resurrect. Blame the doctors’ strike and WRC rally, they took lots of airtime.

You can also blame our shortening attention span. It’s no wonder attention is being touted as the next factor of production, with an emerging field: attention economics.

Noted the use of big billboards for adverts yet our literacy rate is going up? Noted websites filled with videos and ‘movements’ to catch your attention, and delayed response to emails and WhatsApp messages?

Last week we tried in our small way to explain the origin of corruption and possible remedies. Today we demonstrate why we could be at the tipping point and why we are all losers. I am an optimist, but a realist too.

If we reach the tipping point, corruption will become our way of life with no winners. Its effect will be felt across generations. Look no further, Haiti has been independent for more than 200 years and so are most South American countries. Why have they not joined the league of developed countries such as Singapore or South Korea?

One possible explanation is corruption. Once it reaches a tipping point, it creates a momentum of its own like a forest fire, burning everything in its wake. It’s hard to construct wood from ash.

Remember corruption is nothing but deliberately interfering with the laws of the market or economics. The national potential is not optimised, resulting in scarcity that creates higher demand for jobs, and opportunities and therefore more avenues for corruption. That’s why corruption is more rampant in poor countries and dissipates as the country grows economically.

Do you recall how corruption subsided when Kanu left power and the economy boomed? Can you now fathom the risk of corruption becoming our way of life? We shall stagnate and even 200 years after independence, we shall not have made progress. I have nothing against Haiti but it’s a good case study.

The first long-term effect of corruption, whether it involves the exchange of money or favours, is the dearth of innovation espoused by new ideas, new products or services. Economics Nobel laureate Robert Solow (1924-2023) explained how innovations and technological growth explain more than 50 per cent of a country’s economic growth.

Corruption stifles innovation as resources are relocated to non-productive sectors. The national anger, fear and helplessness over corruption mute our creativity, the spark that lights up innovation. Check the number of patents registered in South Korea compared to Kenya last year. Patents registered are a good proxy for innovation.

How can we be innovative when we have to worry about exam leakage, fake certificates, missing the job because of your ethnicity, fake fertilisers, policemen asking for bribes, struggling to get a passport, medical services, and other services?

Corruption exhausts citizens because they have to work harder to pay for it. If you have lived in a developed country, you will appreciate that people in Africa work. I can confidently say; if all the hardworking Kenyans were rewarded for their sweat, we would be a developed country.

How can you be innovative when you wake up in the morning unsure of your daily bread, of your rent, and in some regions living the next day?  How can you be innovative when corruption erodes your dignity? It’s demeaning to pay bribes.

Tipping point

Without innovation, it’s easy to reach a tipping point. We import our ideas, even what we teach in our schools. In fact, the more foreign scholars you quote in your bibliography, the more learned you appear, even if the topic is on witchcraft.

Without our own ideas, our thoughts, and perspectives about life are controlled remotely. We think traditional wisdom is useless. How many reading this can’t communicate in a local mother tongue and are proud of it?

The situation is made worse if the best brains leave; they have alternatives. They could also find corruption sweeter than hard thinking. With time, the ‘designer thinking’ is frozen and passed from one generation to the next, it becomes a way of life. The thinking can be about who should rule us, what makes us successful, or our place in society, relationships or what gives us meaning in life.

Dig deeper into Haiti or South America and you will find a frozen culture, after reaching a tipping point. I fear our culture is about to be frozen.

Without innovation, we import our products and services. We think they are better, such as mitumba. We even import churches and education. Noted the growth of well-branded churches, some offering you transport on Sundays? Note the popularity of the ‘international curriculum’?

In the absence of homegrown ideas, nothing to call our own, the county ‘hollows out’; we all lose. Noted the rarity of robust debates on national issues? What was the content of your last sitting with buddies? What’s the content of your last WhatsApp conversation? A hollow nation is fertile ground for corruption. Will CBC help us tame corruption by filling the void?

What of the gainers, those who perpetuate corruption? They are also hollowed out by meaninglessness and natural justice. How? You can invest or consume stolen money but you fail to find happiness in that. Guilt will haunt you or your children; often with ‘unexplainable events’ in the family. Is that natural justice? Are curses real?

You hollow out once you find that material things never satisfy and the invisible audience you are trying to impress with ill-gotten money does not care. If corruption is through favours, such as sex, that too gnaws on your spirit and dehumanises you.

Meaninglessness follows. It’s worse when happiness is elusive, like a rainbow. Yet for all corruption deals, the end game is simple - happiness! 

Are you corrupt and haunted by meaninglessness and wished you had walked the straight path? Nimekuguza? Talk to us.