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Why rural areas are missing out on economic development

By XN Iraki | October 7th 2020 at 07:00:00 GMT +0300

Remember the best and the brightest students in your school from your primary school to the university days?

They all left for the cities. It’s the dream of every young man and woman; to leave the countryside and unintentionally drain the rural areas of their brains. 

Devolution did not make the countryside that attractive. Beyond county and teaching jobs, counties have no other major attractions. Which major industries have been set up in the countryside since devolution? 

County capitals should become economic capitals to attract investors. Remember Nairobi, though capital city is run mostly by private sector. Who owns most of the assets in the city including the tallest buildings? 

One reason for the vibrancy of the city is openness. Nairobi is for everyone, from locals to foreigners; they all feel at home, valued for their ideas and entrepreneurship.

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In the countryside, your ethnic affiliation often matters more than your qualifications or skills. This puts off would be investors. It seems the popularity of devolution was about exclusion than inclusion.

Even national institutions within counties are now seen as “ours.” 

The soft underbelly of the counties is this lack of diversity. It so happens that investors are likely to be non-locals with their money and new ideas.

The locals are blinded by familiarity. Check the most enterprising people in your village or hamlet. They are likely to be immigrants or new comers. 

Immigrants or newcomers are catalysts of economic growth everywhere. They are behind US economic dynamism.

If the Soviet Union had embraced diversity, it could still be a superpower. Even China is embracing diversity with a semblance of a Green Card. 

Our countryside is drained of the best brains but does not attract new ones. That is why the countryside, read counties are dull. That is why Nairobi is the place to be. Surprisingly, county officials are always in Nairobi, going by the number of special number plates we on city roads. 

The countryside is now a place for nostalgia, to visit when bored in the city, to greet parents or when there is a funeral.

It is the only place we celebrate for having left. Its only bright spot is providing food to the people who left, the urbanites. 

Left on their own, the ‘countrysiders’ keep themselves busy in their farms, in religious activities and chamas with some digressing to cheap brews.

The place only come alive during poll times when politicians flock there looking for votes. 

We could argue that the internet finally connected the countryside to the rest of the world. But not its supply chains and what really matters, economic productivity.

Next week, we'll look at how to reverse the fortunes of the countryside.  

Hustlenomics XN Iraki Economic Development
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