KENYA AT 52:Kenya is medical hub of Eastern and Central Africa.
December 12, 1963, looms large in the minds of nationalistic Kenyans. On this date, Kenya became independent after 70 years of often brutal British colonial rule. At 52 years old, Kenya’s report card draws mixed reactions.
On the one hand, we have a government with a bullish development agenda. The Jubilee administration says, at 52, the country has achieved a lot, and agrees a lot more remains to be done. A few facts stand out. At independence in 1963, the country’s population was only 8 million.
Today, due to improved healthcare, the population stands at 42 million, and is growing. Though probably undocumented, Kenya has become the medical hub of Eastern and Central Africa. On any day in Nairobi, one is likely to meet an Ethiopian, a Tanzanian, a Congolese or even a Cameroonian seeking advanced medical treatment not available in their home countries. As medical facilities get better, so will Kenya’s revenue from the so-called medical tourism.
For years, Kenya has also been the commercial hub and the gateway for investors targeting the region. The country’s massive investment in education, provides commerce and industry with highly educated workforce of marketers, engineers, accountants, lawyers and other mid-level graduates in all sectors of the economy.
Add to that, world-class infrastructure, telecommunications and political stability. With headquarters of UNEP, Nairobi also enjoys the status of the 3rd largest UN center after New York and Geneva. The city’s hotels, conventions and conference facilities have over the years attracted major international meetings.
In the pipeline is the WTO 10th ministerial conference. UNCTAD 14th is also scheduled to be held in Nairobi in parallel with World Investment Forum 2016. Coincidentally, the UNCTAD Secretary General is the well-spoken Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, who is Kenyan.
The so-called diaspora bunnies visiting the country this festive season will hear this pleasantly positive version of the story from the team that markets Advantage Kenya. On the other hand, visitors to the country will also be confronted with the Opposition naysayers’ version of the Kenyan story.
Whatever issue is in contention, be it labor disputes, national security or investment projects, the Opposition in Kenya seeks to force the government into a deadlock. They also portray the government as inept and corrupt. The long-term effect of this Government versus Opposition tag of war is polarization of the country along party and ethnic lines.
Kenyans of goodwill and other Kenya watchers should worry that the Jubilee government’s vision of the country should collide so often and so dramatically, with that of the Opposition. After all, the government and the Opposition are institutions of governance created by the constitution to serve the same people.
Kenya’s relevant policy makers and bureaucrats should study, investigate and neutralize all forces that encourage conflicts along the lines of SISI versus THEM. These conflicts threaten Kenya’s national security and stability. The horrific events of 2007 showed clearly that Kenya’s social fabric is delicate.
Kenya’s future economic growth and social harmony will depend on consultations and exchange of views across the political divide. Parliament and the county assemblies have the mandate to shape Kenya’s future that is good for all.
On this Jamhuri Day, the country’s leaders should drop their hard line positions and respectively listen to those they oppose. That way, they will lower the rising political temperatures in the country in honor of those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, and in honor of the current and future citizens of Kenya.
By Leonard Njoroge, DM Media Contributor