Thursday, April 25, 2013

Benchmarking lessons we all need today (Africa)

See my opinion piblished in the business daily today on Lessons benchmarking offers institutions.

Share you thoughts on the importance of benchmarking for Kenya and Africa.

Can we ever find a balance?

See the link to an article i wrote for the business daily just before the general elections on the need for Kenya (and indeed other African countries) to balance between business and politics.

I hope the President and his deputy are listening especially as the cabinet nominees prepare to take office after vetting by Parliament. Together let us build a prosperous nation.

Do you think we can ever find the balance? Are we doing enough?

See the link.

Your County: Will you participate?

One of the key objectives of devolution is to bring services closer to the people. It is a move from the central system of government to a government where people can contribute towards their collective economic and social welfare. Our legislators should know that it is no longer business as usual. The Constitution has placed the people at the core of every governance process either directly or indirectly through their elected representatives.

The County Government Act for instance is very clear on the role of a County Assembly representative which is to act as the intermediary between the people and the County Assembly. They are supposed to consult the electorate and present their issues in the Assembly for debate. The Governor and the county executive committee are also supposed to be accountable to the people. They should consult the people, eg through public forums before decisions affecting them are affected. Residents of a County will for instance participate in the formulation of county development plans.

I am mindful that we are fast approaching the budgetary season, if I may call it so. We are likely to see several tugs of war. One is between the national and county governments as the latter fight for their rightful share of the national revenue. The second is a fight at the county level as Kenyans seek to be involved in the budgetary process. With billions of shillings being allocated to counties, Kenyans should be keen to ensure that the funds are not wholesomely allocated to recurrent expenditure.

At the county level public participation is not an option or a recommendation, it is a legal requirement. Devolution has therefore heralded a new era whore the voice and opinions of the people matter. Governance is now participatory, it is not a matter of elected representatives alone. It is the representatives and the electorate.

However I must sound a warning that although the Constitution and various county legislations have opened the door for public participation, Kenyans must remain vigilant. I am sure some leaders will be happy if the public does not bother to participate since they will have been saved the rigorous duty of being accountable to the last coin.

If devolution is to truly succeed, you must participate fully.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Lets talk food, food, more food and water.

One may ask so what should be the new government’s top priority? Should it be implementation of the Constitution, land reform, foreign policy or job creation? To answer this very important question, we can borrow a leaf from China. At the moment Kenya is rapidly looking east to attract investments, support an ambitious development agenda and seek good export market. Kenya is also looking east for Economic Bench marking against the Asian Tigers like Singapore. Kenya therefore has both lessons and insights it can learn from the East. Now let us focus on China as we explore an answer to the introductory question.

China’s rapid economic growth started with a clear economic blueprint just at Kenya has the Vision 2030. However, most interesting is the first problem China sought to solve in the 1980’s, it was food security. China wanted its population to be well fed. They invested in efficient large-scale agriculture. On the other hand despite having a well researched vision, majority of Kenyans are still struggling to meet their most basic needs, food (including water), shelter and affordable healthcare.

I therefore believe that the most pressing need is ensuring food security. If my belief must have the most popular phrase in Kenya today ‘Implementation of the Constitution’, then I will do exactly that. A clear policy on implementation of Article 43 on Economic and Social Rights should be our priority. Article 43 (1) (c) specifically provides that every person has the right to be free from hunger and to have adequate food of acceptable quality. It does not mean that we will not address other aspects of development e.g. Technological innovations but we should have a specific priority target – food and water.

If Kenyans are well fed, we are most likely going to address the issue of preventable and lifestyle diseases. We shall also address the problem of insecurity since poverty and lack of food contributes to people’s desperation and they therefore result to petty crimes just to put food on the table. Within weeks and months, petty crime grows to hard-core and organized crime and then we have a security nightmare. Once people are well fed, they will not think about how to put food on the table. Instead they will seek ways of being productive and to generate and implement ideas. Women in arid areas will no longer spend their entire lives with on their hands and children on their backs, looking for water. They will instead apply their mind to developing the lives of their families. In the same way children will not miss school to attend to the daily chore of fetching water, they will instead be well nourished to attend school and develop their minds and transform society.

Food security has been a thorn in Kenya’s fresh for years. It is time the National and County governments addresses this problem. County governments have a golden moment to transform various counties into food baskets if they invest heavily in agriculture. However it is not the role of government alone, government facilitates. Corporate can for instance invest in agriculture as part of their Corporate Social Investment. Various companies can also partner to implement an irrigation project in an arid area which will go a long way in transforming lives.

Despite the fact that the implementation of Article 43 rights should be progressive. The government should start making such progress towards providing accessible, affordable and quality food and water. I am sure this will help us have a more prosperous and stable nation.