Ideas & Debate

BBI report is a roadmap to re-engineering Kenya


President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga during the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report in Nairobi on November 27. AFP PHOTO

From the look of it, the BBI (Building Bridges Initiative) report is a great document that collates humble and sincere requests by Kenyans to correctly redefine and implement the Kenya that we need. There is an apparent sincere acceptance that all is not right, and that going forward it cannot be business as usual.

The document itemises the root causes of socio-political obstacles that have often made Kenya take more steps backwards than forward, at an age in our history when the population is growing fast with resources and opportunities remaining mostly static, unexploited, and often wasted. This is mostly attributed to absence of a cohesive and collective national socio-political vision, direction and purpose.

My assessment is that the issues analysed by the document can be grouped into three main chapters - governance and electoral process; national ethics and unity; and national economic modeling. Although these groupings are complementary and inter-related, they will however require different expertise to institutionalise into actionable policies, laws and strategies. It has to be a carefully selected blend of experts (economic, social, religious, political) to move the BBI to the next stage of review and synthesis. The changes should carefully balance needs of today and far into the future.

One very critical and defining statement from the report is “We need an economic revolution, to build an economy that can produce the jobs we need, urgently”. This is a wakeup call to re-model our economic instruments - including policies, strategies, governance, institutions, trade, investments, taxes, credit, value addition, technology, skills, among others - to correct known weaknesses while targeting inclusive and sustainable economic growth into the future.

Yes, a surgical economic review that removes the wasteful duplications and contradictions we have in many current economic policies, laws and regulations. It has to be an economic blueprint that harmonises the needs of today with those of future generations; that ensure equity in economic participation; that prioritises production and value addition; and accommodates private capital participation and entrepreneurship.

The overall target should be to maximise Kenyans’ opportunities for jobs and better incomes. Yes, the BBI presents an opportunity to re-engineer the “Economic Tiger’ that Kenya recklessly allowed to bolt away in the decades past.

Turning to the political aspects of the BBI report, I am not sure the proposed restructuring of the government to include the Prime Minister position will necessarily solve any of the perennial problems we encounter every five years. Political and ethnic homogeneity will only happen when it is sincerely and routinely demonstrated and practiced by top leadership.

When common national purpose and bipartisanship take priority over vocal competitive politics and cynicism, then we shall have begun the process of creating mature elective politics that accommodates others irrespective of their ethnic or social definition. It is a step by step process that must start and be demonstrated today not tomorrow. I believe the handshake on 9 March 2018 was such one critical step that involved personal sacrifices by the two leaders involved.

The BBI report demonstrates honest and sincere determination to unify Kenya and give it a new start.

I have voted in every election since the 1969 elections - though I skipped the 1988 Mlolongo elections - and it has always been a long journey of dashed hopes and missed opportunities. The BBI review should enhance electoral processes and ethics to ensure that every election adds value to the country. The “money factor” should be significantly removed from electoral processes, as this feeds the self-serving corruption cycle.

On devolution, any additional increase in budgetary allocation should be conditioned on counties meeting the 70/30 development/recurrent budgetary requirement, and meeting specific financial governance deliverables. Otherwise we shall be starving national projects without getting meaningful budgetary value at the counties level.

Going forward, I think the BBI report should be re-organised into actionable policy and legal instruments by experts. In the meantime, the 205 Articles of the BBI report should be abridged and made available to all Kenyans to read. I do not see any need for public political sensitisation before the experts have had a good look at the BBI outputs.