What you need to know:
- Politics should enable a country to pursue the greater good for a people.
I am very optimistic about Kenya, Africa and, generally, the world, but some indicators worry me. Key among these is unemployment and poverty levels. Recently I visited several towns and shopping centres within 100 kilometres of Nairobi for work.
I found so many people depending on luck or connections to even access manual labour jobs. I found it intriguing that competition to find manual jobs is as intense as looking for office jobs. This is a really bad sign.
There is a lot of bitterness amongst people on the state of the economy. They hurt deep inside. It has been made worse by Covid-19.
The hopelessness is manifested in many ways, including being prone to manipulation by politicians, alcoholism, drug abuse, prostitution, fraudulent schemes, con artistry, gambling and even readiness to join cults.
Last month, I made several study visits to slums in Nairobi and several towns. As a way to gauge politics, economy and social issues, I talked to many people. I found soft spots inside the many drinking dens. Therein stories, ideas and ventilating happen freely.
Politics is discussed with abandon. There is a desire to change the current dispensation. Opportunities for highly divisive politics exist. All this is rooted in economic hopelessness. Indeed, one of the reasons the so-called ‘Hustler Movement’ has gained currency, especially in Central Kenya, is the economic challenges and malaise the population is feeling.
In a sense, hopelessness is venting out. With parcels of land becoming smaller and unable to support profitable farming and with towns teeming with unemployed youth, we seem to be in a cataclysmic situation. It is economy, stupid.
One of the biggest headaches that should worry us is thus unemployment. Besides tribalism and corruption, we should realise that we cannot continue building an army of unemployed and poor people. This creates a lot latent anger and it’s also easy to misdirect the pain. If one observes the boda boda industry, though it has helped create employment, it is also breeding lawlessness.
If today a boda boda hits a motorist, in minutes you find a whole army assembled to ‘discipline’ the car driver. It does not matter who caused the accident. This culture is replicated all over the country.
I think the focus as we try to fix our politics should be on strategic economic empowerment programmes. Politics should enable a country to pursue the greater good for a people. That is how Singapore, South Korea, China, Malaysia, Germany and such have developed over the years.
In Kenya, politics has been a problem. Politics cannot be hinged on individuals but appropriate structures and the right culture. When you find so many people with so much anger, unemployment and poverty, it is a harbinger for trouble in the near future.
Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda, Nairobi