Ideas & Debate

How Uhuru can pick right team to deliver his Big Four agenda


President Uhuru Kenyatta with his deputy William Ruto. FILE PHOTO | NMG

President Uhuru Kenyatta has elucidated his four key agendas for the next five years being food security, affordable housing, manufacturing, and affordable healthcare for all.

These are important goals that if properly implemented, and with the support of the people, without evil will of “wanting to eat”; could transform the lives of millions of Kenyans.

The task, however, requires selfless individuals, who have the interest of Kenya at heart to help implement. They require complete political good will, support of the private sector, and proper planning.

That said, Kenya is a powerhouse of brains with global recognition. It is this powerhouse that the President needs to rely on other than the political clowns and cronies who will only implement policies that benefit “their” people.

Before shining on the global arena one needs to have performed exceedingly well at home. The leaders who the President will put on their shoulders the burden of implementing his four-point policy agenda not only need to be thorough and focused, but also tough and able to stand up to bullies who are only after implementation of the policies of the belly — “tumbocrats”.

Three key global leaders that Kenya can learn from are Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom, Nigerian Akinwumi Adesina and Kenya’s own Mukhisa Kituyi. These three gentlemen have a lot in common.

They are leaders of global institutions; the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the African Development Bank respectively, have doctorate degrees in their own area of strengths with strong policy implementation backgrounds, have been ministers in their home countries, and have won accolades for transforming the ministries they worked in.

They possess the kind of quality Mr Kenyatta should look for while choosing who will see to it that Kenyans have what they deserve.

While a minister for health, Dr Tedros supported the building of up to 4,000 health centres, managed to train and deploy nearly 30,000 health extension workers and developed strategic partnerships with the global health community such as Clinton Initiative.

During his tenure, child death rates fell by 30 per cent and deaths from malaria reduced by 50 per cent. This saw him lead other key global health committees.

For his part, Dr Adesina was a minister for agriculture and rural development in Nigeria from 2011-2015 where he boldly implemented massive policies in the agricultural sector that improved transparency in the fertiliser supply chain and innovative programmes that focused on improving agriculture with the participation of private sector. With the reforms, he won key awards including being the Forbes Africa Man of the year.

Dr Kituyi was the Minister of Trade and Industry in 2002-2007, having been a Member of Parliament from 1992.

During his tenure, he chaired the African Trade Ministers’ Council — not a mean feat — and the Ministers’ Council for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).

His role saw him participate in imperative trade negotiations at the World Trade Organisation and the European Union.

Mr Kenyatta can shape his agenda through the appointment of the right people for the job too. First, there is need to think beyond political reward and cronies and go for competence to implement the right policies.

READ: Uhuru bets on four key sectors to boost growth

This is a daunting task and may be interpreted, from the political quarters, as betrayal should the President do away with political losers.

Of the three leaders, only Dr Adesina was not a politician but they all implemented policies that saw them first shine for their countries in their various portfolio.

There is an impediment in mixing political reward and proper policy implementation; it leads to substandard policies and corruption and lack of achievement of the imperative goals.

Also political losers are sometimes puppets who are always willing to reason with their bellies other than brains.

Most of the time they ignore research and attempt to appease the higher hierarchy and deal breakers in the political arena. Additionally, political losers are in most cases just looking for jobs that come with power trappings that they may have been used to before.

I would imagine that a good leader is that who sticks to the principles, implements a policy because he or she believes it will work, and if there is a challenge, should be able to explain the same without fear or favour.

Yes, a leader who will not only critique and question decisions, but one who will support the use of evidence-based research.

For example, in healthcare, we a have a window of opportunity to align our desire of health for all with Dr Tedros’ plan of universal health coverage.

Therefore the health docket needs a strategic thinker, a man or woman who can openly lobby for allocation of 15 per cent in the budget and balance the service delivery by strategically engaging the private sector, or who knows that investing in the healthcare workers and motivating them is a priority.

Secondly, there is need to put together an economic recovery team akin to the one President Mwai Kibaki had that is composed of professionals who are passionate policy fellows and who can support in recovering the debts and meeting the strategic objectives of the Big Four plan.

This is not an easy task as in some cases it will come with bruising of political egos.

Thirdly, give opportunity to all irrespective of tribe. A capable Somali from Mandera or a Mijikenda from Kilifi or a Suba from Mfangano Island would be more efficient in executing the Big Four plan than an incompetent one of “our own”.

Furthermore, it would enhance healing, national cohesion and inclusivity. Yes, while the political votes matter, the implementation ahead is more important. Lastly, just like Tanzanian President John Magufuli did, cut unnecessary spending with firmness.

Lee Kuan Yew successfully engineered Singapore’s economic miracle through vision, economic policies that were of very high standards and could not be compromised, good growth incentives, true cohesion, and good political support.

Let us build institutions that cannot be compromised so that our children can learn from it. For instance, in America, institutions do not discriminate, and even the high and mighty are punished. Remember both presidents Bill Clinton’s and Richard Nixon’s impeachment tales. We can do better as a country!

Oyugi is a Health Policy and Health Economics researcher, and a PhD fellow at the Centre for Health Services Studies, University of Kent, England.