Sunday, October 28, 2012

Here's how to create 3 million jobs and grow at 20%.

I share these ideas in the hope that they will change the fortunes of my nation. I share these thoughts, as a moral obligation to my generation and our common offspring, as a patriot's remit. Partly to offer leadership out of our economic and political morass, and as a repayment for the opportunities that Kenya has offered me. And to spell out my vision for an Africa that has come of age, and steadied itself for the long leap that sustained, common prosperity demands. I hope to inspire actions that will push and finally lift Kenya over the high horizon of hopelessness that has prevented us from reaching the promised land; from attaining our heritage of splendour.

Our zero-sum politics, xenophobic, tribalist society, burgeoning hordes of disillusioned youth and a leadership that leaks courage and lacks conviction have been our fate for too long. Yet, that is not as it should be at all. Indeed, as any sensible person knows, much gathers more and loss leads to greater loss. Our challenges are bound to grow, and our few opportunities will only lessen, if we fail to stand up for good, to reject the worse and choose the better way out.

All of our good people will be safer in the long run, if they offer and effect positive solutions. And again, their little good efforts will gather more, and cause ever larger gains. Convinced thus, here is my way out; my considered view of an immediate solution: a solid path out of the palpable despondency and obvious distress in whose vicious swirl millions of Africans find themselves inundated.

How To Create Three Million Jobs Immediately.
It might appear simpler than you credit - too simple, in fact.

The government should offer minimum interest long-tenure mortgages to qualifying citizens. Let us  give Kes. 2.5 million at 4 per cent interest rate, to build decent homes, to every person who earns Kes 40,000 or more a month, payable over a term of 25 years. Let us give this to our policemen, teachers and soldiers every year, for the next two decades to create 10 million homes for every person.

Why this is important:
First, decent housing is a core promise of our Constitution. It is a progressively attainable right under our Bill of Rights. Secondly, the real estate sector, as presently structured, is privately driven in the free market, which profits from shortages, and caters only to the already rich. And private sector real estate growth is predominantly urban orientated. It is controlled by fewer than 100 companies which are limited by financing and administrative bottlenecks. Thirdly, and most critically, this idea will create three million jobs each year.

From a psychological stand-point, a decent home is a spur to social decency and increased economic aspiration. Consider a child raised in the opulent greenery of Runda and Kitisuru, and another in the filthy trenches of Mukuru and Mathare. Their outlook on life is to a larger than acceptable extent, determined by the sanitation of their environments. I am persuaded to think that housing impacts self-esteem and an estimation of social worth. And that is a possibility I would want to sponsor. If children will want more than their parents had, I would rather we prop up present age parents, so as to raise motivated future parents whose worldviews will be unlimited and very vibrant.

On the jobs score: let's start with lending out Kes. 2.5 million to 50.000 Kenyans to build 50,000 new homes all across the countryside per year. Assume, for a second - no, truly think long and hard about it - that, this will create direct employment to 3 million workers:-

  • Three sand harvesters per lorry of sand, 10 lorries per home: 30 on 50,000 = 1.5 million;
  • Two workers on each lorry ferrying sand = 100,000 lorry transport jobs, assured.
  • Three workers producing each concrete building block, 3000 blocks per home = 9,000 by 50,000.
  • Market and jobs in the cement production and stone-masonry and hardware businesses.
  • A construction tradesman and four assistants working on each home = 200,000 jobs
  • a) Wood workers making windows and doors, three per new home, 20,000 homes: 60,000 jobs supporting the carpentry and timber sector, creating market for wood products, and improving furniture standards around the country.
  • b) Metal workers forging steel doors and windows on 30,000 homes: 90,000 jobs to support the steel market, and improve skills in the housing supplies sector.
  • Three workers on each roof: 150,000 jobs. A huge market for roofing materials - wood, tiles, iron-sheets, ceiling materials, chimneys, - support for 450,000 sector jobs;
  • 10,000 electricians and power installation jobs; 10,000 power inspectors, and 50,000 new customers for the electricity market, creating more background jobs: an assured market for manufacturing of housing supplies, increased demand, production efficiencies, supply chain efficiences, profitability.
  • 10,000 plumbers, and increasing demand for water and sewerage services, perhaps 20,000 new jobs created in expanding that sector.
  • Overall increase in transportation of supplies will provide a market for transport business owners, increase road fuel purchases, earning revenues for government and sustaining jobs.
  • Home equipping after construction: painting, fencing, garbage collection, upholstery and furnishing, household energy - better homes will encourage uptake of better energy sources - i.e. less firewood, more biogas, liquefied petroleum gas, solar power and mains electricity, about 200,000 related jobs.
And the total annual cost is almost minimal: Kes. 2.5 million on 50,000 homes is Kes. 125 billion only, all invested in Kenya, with the related stimulus impact you can imagine. And it will be productive, not consumptive capital expenditure, to boot. 

Housing Influences People
Housing changes tastes and preferences, and substantially redirects economic choices. It is the perfect starting point to a growing and working nation, since people will generally protect and promote their own personal wealth and private interest. The people will be more tolerant of their neighbours and will defend peace in their neighbourhoods, as they have interest in national peace, to preserve what they will have worked hard to own. Homeless people are more easily agitated against home owners or their more prosperous communicants.

Improving housing will increase demand for government accountability and action, as people will demand services like wastes treatment, improvements in transport infrastructure and spread of opportunities for skills training, employment and local investments. It will lead to technical training of youth in construction skills, and create opportunities for employment across the country, and people from good homes are more likely to seek self improvement and better opportunities, both within and outside their communities..

Women and mothers will demand better nutritional and health choices, improving our nation's overall state of national health. Better housing will spread access to durable, higher quality home appliances, higher access to information and literacy through television, digital radio and the internet, and better choices in leadership. Better standards of life will improve attention to matters of national importance, and increase interest in government policy, with the expected improvements in demand for more  focused leadership.

Women's & Youth Economic Empowerment
When our women and youth are assured of good homes, they will invest emotionally and economically in their societies, seeking value in themselves and lower social tensions. It is the shield and cross-spears of our national coat-of-arms that will defend our peace and deliver the promise of a proud and rich homeland of Kenya, a new home for people with vast opportunities for progressive action.

But most importantly, increasing the gross national housing capital will reduce the housing inflation - artificially exploited by the private sector to make prices of homes unaffordable and prohibitive. It will keep our youth busy, and reduce the despondency and economic exclusion that keeps them bitter and easily prone to political exploitation and irresponsibility.

Hope and Progress
It will engender hope in the idea of Kenya, promote academic and economic effort to earn higher incomes that will qualify individuals into the promise of this programme, and higher incomes will improve family nutritional and health prospects, stabilizing birth rates. Great housing will be its own collateral, its own security and our nation's path towards faster devolution of government and social equality. It will be the first step to national transformation, and a guarantee of our cultural progress.

Again, mortgages will afford everyone the owner-occupier housing tax-breaks for families, reducing their tax burdens and increasing their purchasing power, hence lowering poverty. It will save women from total dependence on men for shelter, and improve their socio-economic independence.

For these and all the other reasons and ideas you will associate with this call, and which my thought has engendered in your mind, this is Kenya's most urgent agenda, and I enthusiastically promise to pursue it with all people of goodwill and similar opinion.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Coming of Power - Preparing the Lake Basin to Lead Kenya

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, said a British statesman of the past. He spoke for all time in these seven words.

Power without Preparation
But there is no greater corrupter than power attained without preparation. Most people go into politics with the very best intentions. In fact, the majority of leaders are amazingly superb souls: better humans than most would anticipate, upon first hearing the bleak histories of their failings and weaknesses. Yet, in all circumstances, the corruption and odium that reflects their tenures and blights their age is embodied in the exertions and over-zealous actions of their supporters.

It should not come as a surprise that most traditions insist on moulding and mentoring future power-wielders. Monarchies and organisations, homes and businesses are known to identify future leaders and to train them for the wise performance of their expected social authorities and responsibilities.

Understudies and apprentices learn over time and become so good that at the onset of their appointed time, everything flows seamlessly. This important preparation is almost a lifelong calling. For example, if Queen Elizabeth II - of the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland - if she were to leave her majestic and powerful offices for any given reason, few expect to feel a blip of the scales of state, because her heir apparent, Prince Charles, is so thoroughly prepared to be King that his talents are awasting...

When I say few, I especially refer to her subjects, both loyal and disloyal, as well as the rest of the global public. And that is my foremost intention. The world would remain stable as is, if Charles became King today, because we are long mentally prepared for the circumstance.

Power in new hands
To return to Kenya, it is fated that there will be a new president, yet none of the 'probable presidents' has prepared his or her people for power. There is absolute need to prepare for power, for the president to be, but especially for the communities that the prime leaders will come from.

In our situation, one can say that Gema communities and the Kalenjin have had the experience of producing a president, i.e. the power of ruling a nation, hence require little remedial training. What they require is the assurance and acceptance in the national common upon relinquishing that power.

Perils of Losing Power: Our history
The experiences of the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin peoples upon 'losing' power have been of pain and rejection. The first Kikuyu president died in office, without having prepared his community for the end. Then President Moi and his Kalenjin elite fought hard to ruin their economic power.

Sackings from public office, witch-hunts, public humiliations and stereotyping pushed the grieving Kikuyu into a hard shell of suspicion and angst. They were a community of 'children bereft', who longed for the days of privilege. That is why they fought so hard to dislodge Moi from power - using all means, local as well as foreign-instigated. And when they regained power, they acted as ruthlessly as is permissible by their collective conscience.

When the Kalenjin gained power unexpectedly following the demise of Mzee Kenyatta, on the other hand, they made it a tribal celebration. Upon Kenya was foisted the most incompetent and egregious regime of kleptomania and illiterate arrogance. A rapacious breed of people whose badge of honour was a warlike mentality and huge doses of low self-esteem filled the public sphere, causing the nation untold harm.

Their primal conservatism saved this nation a lot of pain, though. One shudders to think what would have happened had such thin-skinnedness boiled in the cauldron of wicked adventurism. Kenya would be a failed republic!

Then Moi left power, and the Kalenjin faced the wrath of the returning Kikuyu - sackings all around, replacements in all major positions of public privilege and horrendous chasticement. The Old Warrior clans clammed up into a shell of anger unknown. Just a piece of it was shown when they thought they had "got" the Kikuyu at their weakest, in 2008.

These two cases help me to sufficiently illustrate why it is important to prepare for power - both to exercise and to bequeath it. Such preparation, now, is especially important for the people of Luo Nyanza and Western, who are at their closest possible leap to power.

Luo/Kikuyu Rivalry
One other vital reason is the traditional rivalry that has been created, both by the Kikuyu and Kalenjin, against the Luo. How will the Luo people relate to the common Kikuyu, when the former obtain the reins of state?

Even though our new Constitution has restructured our government and sufficiently emasculated the Presidency, so that the President is not the omnipotent Collosus that he has been in this land, the institution of the Presidency (including the powerful position of Deputy President) is still an overwhelming estate. It is such as to earn any county or community with which it is temporarily associated extreme pride and unfathomable prestige.

Which is why we should not be casual and simplistic, using cheap excuses and unverified legalisms to take for granted the benevolence of any of our next ruling communities. I will not buy the childish optimism of the 'one Kenya, one people' idealists. That is merely our hope; our intended destination, folks. It is certainly not our current position on the journey.

If the Luo/Luhya people are not actively prepared to be gracious and magnanimous in victory, then we face a tough fourth republic as a nation. It is especially important to direct the Lake Basin peoples to start thinking of themselves as leaders of a nation - both of themselves and of their former rulers. They should be helped to set aside extreme haughtiness and pomposity, highfalutin braggadocio and feelings of vengeance against their losing opponents. They should also divorce themselves of unreasonable expectations.

Producing the next President
This is the time to lead the Luo and Luhya, who are likeliest to produce our next President and Deputy President, to start thinking of themselves no longer as passengers in a bus or just clients at a restaurant, but as the drivers of the bus, or the staffers of the restaurant, whose main concern should be the safety, peace and satisfaction of their esteemed clients. The Luo and Luhya people must be made to understand the value of tolerance, community and charity.

It is our chance to seek a co-operative, collegiate society that accomodates those with who, for too long, we may not have seen eye to eye. It is time for the peoples of the Lake Pole to become 'bigger' souls, citizens who will more closely embrace their brethren from the Mountain Pole. Like a powerful magnet, let both polarities attain an indissoluble, mutually attractive and uniting force of national cohesion.

Opportunity to Serve the Nation - It's Work, not Play
They should be leaders in service and hospitality, in times of joy and of difficulty, and should above everything else, know that leading a nation is a responsibility, not an endless barbeque party. Over every other groupings, they will be watched and harshly judged for the defining errors of their own era in power. For history to be kind to all of us, the Luo and the Luhya should totally seek the pragmatic balance that only well-mentored rulers ever attain.

They must be prepared to share with others and accept those who may not look at issues from the same angle, or speak like them. They must be taught to be accomodative of criticism in their direction from those who ruled before them, and should be made to learn that they will one day leave the stage of power.

It is not good for a people to attend the banquet of state power with unwashed hands and untrimmed nails.

I am concerned that the polarising politics of the election year might not leave enough time to address these vital matters of community manners. Yet, it seems written in the stars that the Luo and Luhya will be leading Kenya, at least for the next decade.

What we witnessed in 2007 showed a people unprepared for the sacred duty of governing a nation of 43 different societies. Eventhough the Kalenjin muddled through for 24 years, the strict expectation that we have learned from their mistakes, and our own avid clamour for a better Kenya require that these two communities behave better and conduct their affairs in a much more dignified manner than their predecessors on the festival stage.

Better than our Predecessors!
This way, they will reclaim Kenya, not just for themselves, but for all the 41 remaining groups, whose turn might come too late to straighten a steadily bending tree. The mistakes of the Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki administrations should not be used against their people, but rather to set the minimal standards of good that the next leaders should attain.

There is a certain inevitability about it. this time around. Unlike in 2007, when President Mwai Kibaki still retained hope of returning for a second term, and his supporters and all the business interests reliant on his umbrage could afford some form of lackadaisical complacency, 2012 bears certainty of change. We will be electing a new President of Kenya, whatever the result. And, therefore, everyone is bated in their breathing. We do not appear to have any noticeable group of disinterested citizens. Some are feeling sure to win, others fear the uncertain weight of loss.

For this last group, their leaders too should prepare them to hand over power and accept the dynamics of time and fate. It is not their rights they are giving up, just the privilege of leading our shared, beloved nation to the able and steady hands of their loving compatriots. They should be assured of prosperity and peace in the next chapter of this verse.

I thank you, and do sincerely hope you too are preparing to lead exemplarily in this next dispensation.