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Ideas & Debate

Let’s return to quest for a new vision

Kenya should return to quest for a new vision
Kenya should return to quest for a new vision. PHOTO | COURTESY 

In my last column I wrote about John Ngumi’s quest for a vision of Kenya, one that will help us emerge from our national malaise and offer a national goal and purpose that can excite and focus us.

Mr Ngumi worried that we live in a time of great cynicism and scepticism, with disbelief in the goodness, wisdom or purpose of anything government says or does, and a belief that those who lead us are uniformly selfish, greedy and immoral. This, he worried, has led us to having low expectations about our future, thanks to diminished national self-belief and self-confidence.

Despite these challenges, Mr Ngumi saw much to feel good about – in ICT, manufacturing, infrastructure development and elsewhere – providing an excellent base from which to galvanise our energies, drive and ingenuity. But for us to believe we must have a sense of purpose, a national ambition, he felt, and so – through me – he called for ideas.

What feedback did I receive from my article? What messages were proposed to inspire us, ones that previous vision statements (as laid out by Mr Ngumi in my article) failed to deliver?

Muriu Ngumi castigated the government for its fixation on numbers – ones like GDP growth and kilometres of road built. He called for not just the delivery of prosperity but alongside it for “a life of dignity”, where our children have a decent education that gives them a chance at a future where families can rely on the healthcare system and have adequate housing; a job to support them and their families; a police force and courts that are fair and protect society; and a government that respects our rights.

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In his column that appeared the day after mine – in which he referred to Ngumi and my challenge – Dennis Kabaara laid out what he saw as being required for Kenya’s new normal under Covid-19, a more human “whole of society” view of the future, one that Kenyan families want and that keeps us away from the BBI of “Big Baron Interests”.

Mr Kabaara suggested we must develop a sustainable agriculture sector that provides us with all the food we need. He called for a fulfilment of basic rights that comprise education (including skills for life – as in the new Competency Based Curriculum), health, shelter, water and sanitation.

Next, access to assets and income opportunities, with R&D and innovation centres in counties and their regional blocs. Then participatory governance; and finally security and safety at a family level.

Hindpal Jabbal’s input aligned nicely with these contributions, as he reckoned “the one vision that Kenya lacks is self-reliance”. So he proposed this vision statement: “Kuji Jenga”… referring me to his April 2016 Daily Nation article in which he bemoaned our culture of dependency (along with our corrupt ways and our extreme inequality).

Where does Mike Eldon fit into all this? First, building on the earlier point of going beyond measures such as GDP and length of roads, Muriu Ngumi and I ask the question “So what?”. What is the impact of these outputs, the consequential benefits for the people of Kenya? How do they lead to shared prosperity, as envisaged in our Vision 2030 but which has so far been, to put it mildly, elusive – now exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis?

I applaud the visionaries, while adding the need for managing the actualisation of their visions. For at least as important as crafting a vision is serious “performance management for results” (my preferred term over M&E). This has been sorely lacking, and partly thanks to the fragmentation of such functions between multiple agencies, each operating in its own silo.

We have the Presidential Delivery Unit, now in the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government; the Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate in the Ministry of Finance and Planning; and the Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat, a semi-autonomous government agency. Surely these should be brought together.

Having said that, more and more of our counties are establishing county delivery units, or service delivery units, and these are becoming increasingly effective in achieving precisely what they were set up to do, enhancing the delivery of services to citizens. And in the emerging economic blocs, in particular the Lake Region one, they are coordinating initiatives between counties to achieve synergy among them.

In Kenya as elsewhere, we must build that more inclusive society, one that reverses the trend towards wealth for the few and allows for universal dignity.

This conversation is far from over. Please let’s keep it going.

Eldon is chairman of management consultancy The DEPOT, and co-founder of the Institute for Responsible Leadership. [email protected]

www.mike-eldon.com

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