Friday, February 1, 2013

Scenarios for the Future: Role of the Youth?


Friday, 1st February 2013

Abraham Rugo Muriu
Institute of Economic Affairs

It pleases me to share with us this morning. Thanks to Emmanuel Dennis and team for constantly reminding us that we have a responsibility to our beloved country. We are here because we desire a better Kenya. One that we can proudly associate with. This calls for deliberate actions by each of us individually and collectively. At 50 there are many things I hope to have achieved. I think you too. I would like to be a proud father of well developed children. To be a man whose life has made a difference to humanity. To be a person described with three words: Righteous, Just and of Integrity. What about our country at 50? In August, 1962 The Kenya we Want Conference was held here in Nairobi. It aimed to take stock of Kenya then and “to stimulate constructive thinking of what Kenya the people wanted after independence”. The convention envisioned a country where people lived in peace, had a quality education and made gainful employment in whatever industry they put their efforts in. They envisioned an inclusive and supportive society.

50 years later, we have much to be proud of and much to be ashamed of. We are proud of our great natural endowment, but ashamed that we have not used it for the good of all. We are proud of our diverse cultures and communities, but ashamed that instead of being better together we are bitter about each other. Proud of great brains but ashamed that we have not given them room to innovate and reach their highest potentials (at some point we even persecuted them for thinking differently). Proud of hardworking people but ashamed that we have not created sufficient opportunities for them to find or create gainful employment. Proud of a youthful population (78 per cent below 35 years), but ashamed that their potential remains largely untapped and are only engaged for advancing selfish – economic and political – interests. Proud that we have one of the most literate populations around the region, but ashamed that we have not used this to tap into the global service opportunities. Proud of having democratic space, but ashamed that we have not adhered to democratic values and principles. This must not be the case moving forward. We must get down to the business of undoing our shame and building our pride.

As we gather under the theme of My Country My Responsibility, it’s worth noting that the future we once desired and wanted to live in is here with us. I am particularly happy with the theme for it is inward looking. For many times we have looked at what can be done to us by Kenya. Today we are asking what we can do to Kenya. To make it the country we desire. To be part of the solution as much as we could have been part of the problem. To make national building our individual and collective agenda. This realization and the immensity of the challenges facing us can either make us do something or recline and give up.  I pray we do the former.

So in line with our three pillars of Peace, Leadership and Entrepreneurship, what does the future look like? What are the scenarios of the future? In the year 2000 the IEA Kenya developed scenarios dabbed Kenya at the crossroads. In it there was a possibility of an elnino scenario that would see a total collapse of Kenya. Then there was envisioned a maendeleo scenario where focus would be on economic growth but without clear regulative and distributive mechanisms only a few would benefit and this would lead to a disaster (year 2007/8) is indicative of this scenario. Then there was envisioned a katiba scenario where focus would be on constitutional and institutional reforms, there would be so much faith in the constitution but then without parallel economic recovery there would be little to offer hope to the many unemployed in Kenya. This feels like the road we are currently in. Lastly was envisioned the flying geese where we as country would collectively share the burden of nation building. Where we would labour together through the solutions to our country. We would have visionary leaders who walk the talk and keep their word. They would harness us to apply our potential in all aspects – economic, social, cultural, political, spiritual etc. I feel this is the scenario we would break into depending on the choices we make in the next four weeks. How badly do we want it?

As a result of the Kenya at the Crossroads conversations, The IEA Kenya put together a team of 42 young Kenyans in 2003 to deliberate on a national vision. This was dabbed The Promise of our Generation. The average age of the team was 27 years and hence they dabbed it Vision 2027. Their desire was to think constructively of how Kenya could usher herself into the flying geese scenario. It was thus no surprise that in 2005 Kenya embarked on the process of developing Vision 2030. So where we are now headed? And what role shall we the youth play in making the Kenya we want to come true? This was the question that saw the IEA Kenya bring together youth from across the country to reflect on possible scenarios of the future. I invite you to reflect on their output....

Indeed we are standing at a crossroad. We cannot stand there for long. We must decide and move forward.  But here comes my concern? Are we ready to make that choice? A choice out of a clear conscience and not just to clear our conscience? As you have seen, it will depend on us. And this calls us to ask and answer the right questions as Dr. Bitange challenged us yesterday. Questions of what can I do to promote peace, leadership and entrepreneurship? Questions of what are my special skills and talents that I can use to make Kenya a better place? Knowing that each gives what they have. This is not the time to blame anyone for past wrongs, it is time to right them. It is time to rise to the occasion and be counted. It is time to resolve that Kenya shall be changed not by them but by me. That Kenya shall export talent not of others but mine too. That Kenyan shall be on the world map for all the good things done not by others but by me. That I will be the peace maker Kenya needs. That I will be the leader Kenya needs. To provide solutions those are long overdue. That I will be the entrepreneur that Kenya needs. That if it is to be then I will do it.

Kenya is a focal point, an epicentre of development in the region. Over the years we have attracted investors and partners in all spheres of life. We not only host world acclaimed institutions such as those affiliated to the UN but are also attracting heavy investments in technology and service industries. I have in mind Ihub, 88MPH, Konza City just to mention but a few. We produce the best in many fields - sports, education, ICT innovation etc. However, world leadership in this and other fields requires we the youth to think and act differently. Times have changed and they are changing real fast? Have we changed? The world is moving to a knowledge economy where ideas and their pursuit has greater value. We are becoming borderless and much more internationally integrated. Thanks to technology, for as you listen to me now, you could be updating your friend across the globe. Innovations that would have attracted a laughter of mockery years ago are today made possible. The world is becoming a village, what about the villagers? Are we changing how we do things. The finesse with which we package and deliver our ideas.  We cannot do things the same old way and expect new results. 

It is time we change the story. It’s time to develop other hubs in finance, in agriculture, in sports, in arts and culture. It is time we used technology for a productive course. To research, develop and deliver cutting edge innovations. To build on the good of the past as we correct the wrongs of the same. To focus on what matters most – improving our health care, food production, environmental conservation, and creating employment. To commit ourselves to the ideals of justice, integrity, human dignity and meritocracy. To work and create opportunities for all so that we can develop together. To avoid avoid lonely ascents for as John F. Kennedy wisely advised ‘you cannot protect the minority who are rich without addressing the plight of the majority who are poor’. Towards this we have learnt an important lesson from the older generation that you cannot walk alone. They will differ and vehemently so but when one needs the others support they are there to help. This we need to emulate.

We have two major opportunities. Regional Integration and Kenya’s Devolution. While others may see only the political opportunities to this two I see a peace, leadership and entrepreneurial advantage. Devolved units provide us with an opportunity to develop our leadership and professional skills, to experiment in peace ideas but most important to nurture our innovations. Regional integration gives us a wider platform to market our innovations and products. When others are thinking of power and sharing the spoils of devolution, I suggest we spend time developing inter-county cooperation that will leverage on our county’s competitive and hence comparative advantage. So that Kwale county seeks cooperation with Bomet county. That they will supply them with all the nuts and Bomet will supply them with Milk. That Transzoia will produce the Maize and Machakos will produce Fruits. Our future is in cross border cooperation and trading. This is the conversation we need to have. That instead of each county having all services separately, we have shared services and facilities located on boarder areas hence reap on the economies of scale. Our focus should be not so much on sharing wealth but in creating that wealth. Creating conducive environments for investment.

The future is in consolidating our efforts. Creating cooperatives and companies that can leverage on economies of scale. It is in coordinating efforts so as to ensure that we are not duplicating efforts. It’s in building each other’s competitive edge so that we each shine in what we do best. The future is in technology not as something to be happy about but as something we use to solve our everyday problems. The future has never been brighter than when we have so much behind us to learn from. I am hopeful for I am seeing people with potential. Today I stand and urge you who may be seeing HOPEISNOWHERE, to just tilt your eye and see HOPEISNOWHERE. We can be the best we ever were. We can rise to the highest of our potential. We can do it and do it with style.  And when all is said and done, let much more be done than said.

In Service to God and Our Country 

Abraham Rugo Muriu

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