Profiles

Vision 2030 boss sees light at the end of Covid tunnel

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Mr Kenneth Mwige. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenneth Mwige in July assumed the leadership of the Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat, the team tasked with spearheading implementation of Kenya’s growth blueprint for becoming a newly industrialised middle-income in the next nine years.
  • His appointment to the position of director-general came in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic when the organisation, like all others in Kenya, had to reset the strategy button.

Kenneth Mwige in July assumed the leadership of the Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat, the team tasked with spearheading implementation of Kenya’s growth blueprint for becoming a newly industrialised middle-income in the next nine years.

His appointment to the position of director-general came in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic when the organisation, like all others in Kenya, had to reset the strategy button.

He spoke to the Business Daily about his work and why he sees a promising future despite the challenges of Covid-19.

HOW HAS COVID-19 AFFECTED VISION 2030 PROJECTS?

Covid is not something that will disappear. It will not come and go. Our third Medium Term Plan (MTP) has received a knock from Covid-19. In the current Budget, we are having to increase investment in healthcare because that is the problem right now.

We have to live with Covid-19 the same way the country has had to live with HIV and Aids from the mid 1980s. Covid is long-term. We are going through the initial shock of dealing with the pandemic but then a new normal is evolving. For example, Kenyans have learnt that they can conduct their business online.

Covid is a double-edged sword. It is bad because it is killing us but there is a silver lining because it is teaching us that there are other ways of being productive and adapting.

WHERE IS VISION 2030 TODAY?

I would say we are doing well. Vision 2030 is not an event, like the coming of Our Lord. It is not something that will happen on December 31, 2030. It is happening. It has been happening since 2008 through the Medium Term Plans (MTPs). The first was in 2008 to 2012; the second was 2013 to 2017. We are in the 2018 to 2022 phase now.

These days we have project-based budgeting. Ministries are not just given money to run. The money they get is meant to do measurable things, including projects with impact. That is a big change that has happened in the way government budgeting is done.

We are asking; when we spend this one shilling here, what is the outcome? What is the impact? We are developing budgets which are focusing on impact and this has led to the reduction in the number of white elephants, waste of money and misplaced projects. These are some of the developments that are not seen but have a huge impact on the ground.

HOW HAS DEVOLUTION IMPACTED VISION 2030?

The second MTP happened when the devolution experiment started. By and large, the experiment has been good. I think it is fair to say that most Kenyans have tasted the fruits of devolution. Whichever county you are in, you can see something there to remind you of the fruits of devolution.

Now we are in the third MTP, which is focused on the Big Four Agenda —trade and manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare and affordable housing. However, the government is not just implementing the Big Four. It only means these are the priority areas.

Vision 2030 is like a duck in the water. You only see the duck floating, but a lot of furious paddling is going on under the water but is never seen, even in counties. We have 187 flagship projects. All these are happening.

HOW DOES VISION 2030 IMPACT THE ORDINARY CITIZEN?

We have 356 programmes in MTP Three. All of us will enjoy the Express Way (in Nairobi). The fear of Mombasa Road will end. What will that do? It will open up all those areas past Kitengela and Mlolongo because everybody who does not want to think about investing in that part of town will start doing so. Then you will find billions of shillings going to Mavoko and Athi River and Kajiado County.

When you look at the return on such investments in terms of private sector going in or in terms of changed investment priorities at a personal level, you will find that lots of money will go there. The government has a long-term view.

The criticism coming to the government is good because money comes from taxpayers. But we have a duty to explain to them why these investments are important.

WHAT MEASURES HAVE BEEN TAKEN TO ENSURE THAT VISION 2030 PROJECTS DO NOT END UP AS WHITE ELEPHANTS?

We have an annual procurement plan. Through that we ensure that not only is the project planned but the budget is provided for. We are trying to ensure that nothing which has been started becomes a pending bill or is not completed by the end of the financial year.

There is internal and external auditing going on. For flagship projects, you will not find white elephants there. This is happening both at the national and county government level so that the wildness that was there initially is curtailed. When the government has a big project, it cascades some of the functions to county governments. That way you have synergy.

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER AS THE ONE BIG CONTRIBUTION THAT KENYANS SHOULD YOU JUDGE BY?

I hope to engage the youth and challenge them not to look for jobs; not to wait for the government to employ you. We grew up hearing that song that used to say: someni vijana, mwisho wa kusoma, mtapata kazi nzuri sana.

That is the orthodoxy we grew up with but it was a terrible orthodoxy. We need to end it. At the end of one’s education, young people should be empowered to create their own jobs.

The challenge for the government, going forward, is to seriously find a way to inspire the youth to come from their mental prisons and expand their world view.

The youth, who make 70 percent of our population, have to start thinking of Garissa, Kwale, Moyale, Lodwar as places where they can live and work. That is the future.

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