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The likely owners of Kenya by the year 2063

By XN Iraki | August 5th 2018 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300


An old car: technology changes often create new forms of wealth and its distribution. [XN Iraki, Standard]

In this second part, we analyse why Kenya will get new owners by 2063 and who they are likely to be. Immigration will lead to new asset or wealth ownership structures in Kenya.

This is the paradox of our times. It is easier for non-Kenyans to come, settle and make money here than indigenous Kenyans to move from one county to another. Seen how few counties have satisfied the 30 per cent rule for hiring “outsiders”?

The new immigrants from other countries are often more motivated, less tied to the ethos and cultures of their new homes and more likely to see opportunities indigenous can’t see.

Remember the promises that came from county investment conferences? Were they for the local or non-Kenyan investors? Can Kamau get 200 acres to invest in the neighbourhood of Shamakhokho? Can Otieno get 50 acres to invest in Kirinyaga? What of Charles Jackson from America or Helmut Borde from Germany?

Immigrants are traditionally more entrepreneurial with countries like the USA leveraging on their dynamism to remain competitive. China has started doing the same with a semblance of a green card.

Russia might still be a leading superpower if it allowed more immigrants to stay. Google founder has Russian roots and so was Igor Sikorsky, the helicopter inventor. The US absorbed lots of German scientists after WW II; they formed the nucleus of her space programme. Remember V 1 and 2 rockets?

Immigrants find it easier to own the choicest assets as investors. Don’t believe it? Kiambu had “banked” land in coffee plantations since uhuru till the mighty dollar came knocking. While my dad could not get land there in 1927, non-Kenyans are getting the same land. Remember the post-election violence? It was easier for locals to lose their land than foreigners.

Let us not forget that the 2010 Constitution ensured there are no core owners of Kenya, making it easier for outsiders to pursue their economic interests. Noted how American cars that were very rare in Kenya came through the counties? Kenya intellectual or mental space is also not defended, and easier to influence. Foreign envoys occasionally write in the Kenyan press. What of our ambassadors in other countries?

Kenya will get new owners by the year 2063 because of globalisation and its disregard for borders. Capital and ideas are no longer localised; they seek the highest returns, wherever they can be found.

Population growth could also determine who owns Kenya by 2063. In Kenya, the election winners have an impact on how resources are distributed and by extension ownership of assets or wealth. Noted how handshake has changed the way big jobs are given out?

Looking at population growth patterns in different regions of the country can point out to the future wealth distribution or wealth ownership. Unfortunately, population growth is countervailed by the concentration of wealth into a few hands.

The other possible route to new national ownership structure by 2063 includes ending political incest where same leaders stay in power.

Without competition, leaders lose their motivation to lead or are manipulated by new indirect owners, through wealth. Who sponsors our elections? Does it surprise you that the USA was opposed to British monarchy as they won their uhuru in 1776?

Related to new ownership is failure to invest in research and development. New ideas or innovations change ownership structure. Think of new wealth created by technologies such as rail, telephone, internet and more lately social media espoused by Facebook.

More importantly is the use of new innovations to influence our thinking. Social media is not just about emojis and photo exchange through Instagram, it affects the way we relate, and create wealth.

Needless to say, new owners will emerge as the most important institution; the family comes under attack from the courts of law and changing social norms.

Noted how it’s becoming easier to divorce in Kenya? Engrossed in family feuds emotionally and sometimes physically, the world will move on. Does it surprise you that emerging economic powers like China or Korea have very stable families? Does it surprise you that single parenthood is so prevalent among the African-Americans in USA and natives of Central Kenya?

Without stretching the truth, it is also possible that the ownership of Kenya could be decided through “negotiation” like coming up with a new constitution.

Noted how 2010 constitution altered the structure of asset ownership with national wealth shared by counties unconditionally?

In deciding who owns what, the power of the market will continue contesting with the government. After all, 70 per cent of the profit goes to the entrepreneur with the government taking about 30 per cent as tax.

Have you noted how non-indigenous Kenyans have started getting elected to Parliament from Meru to Eldoret?  That might be a sign of things to come. It is possible that by 2063, the Kenyan president could be of Indian, European or even Chinese extraction, voted by universal suffrage.

The return of tribal feelings, which we thought would die with the new constitution, might accelerate the possibility of having a non-indigenous Kenyan as president or prime minister as we seek “neutral” leaders.

That has already started in the corporate sector where we have no qualms if a non-Kenyan is at the helm. Some observers suggest this neutrality is making it into our “hearts” with the number of cross-racial kids on the rise.

The 45th tribe will be the most influential in Kenya by 2063 and controlling lots of wealth. This tribe will be made of Kenyans, immigrants and cross marriages. They are blind to parochialism, tied at the umbilical cord by wealth.

This tribe already has a small group; they patronise exclusive clubs, hotels, and holiday destinations, political and economic power. The handshake, despite all the surprises it elicited, is a sign of things to come.

Family feuds

While the cohesion of 45th tribe is almost permanent, even when they pretend enmity in public, the cohesion of other tribes is too loose, only whipped by emotions during the polls time.

We can say loudly that by 2063, central Kenya will have lost its economic power for two reasons. One, its women will be married off to other tribes to make this community “insignificant.”

Two family feuds driven by accepting westernisation without question will weaken the entrepreneurship spirit that has been the region’s economic bedrock.

Without a cultural anchor, economic power will continue slipping away from the central region. Which other community have their children bearing their mothers name as surname?

The economic power will slip away from this region because the old money has not handled succession well; they handed over wealth to global players, not their progeny. Old money should have cloned itself.

And out of curiosity, did war in neighbouring countries like Somali and South Sudan affect ownership of wealth in Kenya? What of elections and the passing of the pre-independence generation.

If your father fought in Mau Mau or in Burma, it is unlikely that his views on wealth, land ownership reflect yours. Just visit Ruaka and Muchatha in Kiambu. Did any woman from Kenya fight for British overseas?

Surprisingly, religion will remain a conveyor of ownership in Kenya. Noted how churches and other religious organisations have started accumulating assets with land, buildings and even banks?

Some churches even have investment arms. They have now gone beyond the call of duty. In the extreme case, Kenya could be owned by aliens from outer space.

By 2063, they may have visited us. The arrival of mzungu altered the ownership of wealth in Kenya, aliens might do the same.

The discovery of water on planet Mars might open a new frontier in ownership structure of the universe. Maybe by 2063, my progeny might be proud owners of a few plots on Mars, the red planet.

The current debate could change from who owns what on planet Earth or Kenya to who owns what in the universe, or on a smaller scale in the solar system.

For your homework; what else will determine ownership of wealth in Kenya? Shall we get new owners like the USA where innovations keep spawning new billionaires? Or, will current owners indefinitely clone themselves? Talk to us.

Wealth transfer is a long game; few notice the transfer till long after it has taken place. We have tried to analyse the trends objectively but not without some speculation, which is considered a legitimate source of knowledge.

We may not be completely right, but we have played our small role in preparing for an era, we may not partake in. Those who will come after us have a benchmark.

Finally, some good news. Wealth transfer in Kenya will not be violent; it will be peaceful but could be emotionally draining to the older generation as they witness the passing of their most prized assets to new owners.

How would my dad react if he found that the land he failed to get in 1927 has new owners, some not born in Kenya?

To be poetical, asset or wealth transfer in Kenya, to quote poet TS Elliot, will be through whimpers, not bangs. What will your grandchildren own by 2063?

— The writer teaches at the University of Nairobi.  

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