Mwanyani village in Machakos, under a sprawling thorn tree, does not seem the most appropriate place to achieve a Kenyan first, yet it is the venue the late President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi chose to initiate a call to action against soil erosion.
Not only was the setting remarkable, but the circumstances and the cast too were extraordinary.
This was the first and the only open-air Cabinet session ever conducted in Kenya.
The President, known for his dapper suits complete with a rose flower ‘boutonniere’, wore casual shirt sleeves.
Notable of his ministers was the late Charles Njonjo, the Constitutional Affairs minister, who abandoned his Saville row suit to present a cowboy look in jeans and T-shirt.
Eschewed formal attire
The ministers, assistant ministers, members of Parliament and the whole coterie of government apparatchiks that accompanied the President were also on cue and eschewed formal attire, opting for a more relaxed dress code .
Then Attorney-General Joseph Kamere sported a khaki safari shirt.
In this unique assembly, the absence of ties was universal.
With a smile, the President implored, “This parliamentary session is not meant for mere talkers; it is an opportunity for practical work.” To justify his words and to the astonishment of all present, he energetically sprinted across the landscape towards a large trench that divided the area.
With breathless haste, the MPs and ministers followed suit, commencing a three-hour endeavour of constructing gabions.
Cutting a sprightly and masculine figure, President Moi enthusiastically shouldered colossal boulders, deftly depositing them into the gabions, while ministers and MPs, though drenched with sweat but committed, diligently filled other gabions.
The sight brought immense joy to the multitude assembled, witnessing these officials embrace physical toil instead of verbal discourse.
Recently, a high-level Africa Energy Forum 2023 was held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi.
The four-day meeting brought together African governments, utilities and regulators and global development finance institutions, commercial banks, power developers, technology providers, EPCs and professional services.
This was a tie-and-suits affair that was conspicuous in glossy advertorial and LinkedIn posts.
While you may be familiar with the concept of whitewashing in the corporate realm, there’s a lesser-known counterpart called greenwashing.
Greenwashing occurs when an organisation prioritises marketing itself as environmentally friendly rather than taking real action to reduce its ecological footprint.
In essence, it’s a practice where emphasis is placed on image rather than substance.
In my travails to source financing for a renewable energy Public Private Partnerships (PPP) project for a public university I was handling then, it was then that I understood the saying: ‘The marketing and credit department of banks are never on the same floor.’
My efforts were met with so much headwinds it was surprising reading the Environment Social and Governance (ESG) of the target financial institutions.
Inasmuch as there was a business case for the project and being a PPP project, it was to be guaranteed by no less than the government.
I was aghast at bank staff lack of knowledge of renewable financing facility that the said financial institution purport to have.
I was referred from one unit manager to another until we decided to work with an international financier.
We, however, did not work on the PPP model but on a Results-Based Finance model.
Question is, why are the so-called green financing facilities with banks not marketed as much as personal loan products?
Commercial loan rates
It is my supposition, by virtue of impact and specific line of credit, that the facility should ideally be cheaper than commercial loan rates. Is this not a marketing preposition worthy of a billboard?
Financial institutions need to up their game with regard to green financing.
They need to market it with the same gusto and creativity they advertise commercial loans.
And even more important, they need to train their cadre to be able to place the same facility to end clients like schools seeking solar energy with the same aggressiveness they market school-bus leasing finance.
The late President Moi’s ubiquitous campaign against soil erosion will remain the most successful social engineering campaign for it was, as some politicians are wont to say, ’Kusema na Kutenda’ (action following words).
Climate change finance should resonate not in the conference halls and glossy brochures but on the ground, from Kathonzweni in rural Makueni to Kabati in Nyeri, from Ijara in Garissa to Gucha in Nyamira.
- Ms Rose Hassan is Business Development manager at Solarnow Services (EA) Ltd; [email protected]