4 thoughts on “I’m more valuable than Ksh. 280B I Sent You In 2019 Mr President”
But when the rubber meets the road, from the MCA to the MP, Governor to President we eat deep into our budgets for bench-marking tours abroad. But even with these bench-marking tours, our problems persists as we insist that we can solve them ourselves. Unemployment threatens peace and stability, for the unemployed is a college graduate;
Our rivers and lakes host raw sewer and toxic industrial waste; Our curriculum still teaches that Dr. Krapf is the first ‘person’ to discover Mt. Kilimanjaro; education devoid of thought, substance or skill; Our roads are still clogged for 3hrs after sunrise and 3hrs after sunset;
We upgrade slums instead of eliminating slums (akin to putting lipstick on a pig); Our balance of trade in increasingly negative thanks to SGR and COMESA (the train goes back to Mombasa empty);……..Tuju has to be frown to the U.K. for treatment or surgery that is done using the same human five fingers in every Kenyan Surgeon’s hands.
On September 11th 1959, eighty one students mostly from Kenya arrived in New York on a chattered airplane for higher education in North America, an opportunity that was severely limited under colonial rule. Known as the African student “Airlift”, it was borne out collaboration between the then Senator J.F. Kennedy and a 28 year old Kenyan named Tom Mboya. Mboya’s vision was captured and articulated well in J.F. Kennedy’s words that, “Education is, in truth, the only key to genuine African independence and progress.”
In this statement the phrases “the only key” and “genuine independence” highlights the problems that have hampered Africa’s progress since those words were first spoken. This alumnus of Mangu high school had himself studied Industrial Management in Rusking College, Oxford and understood the power of education and international EXPOSURE. The airlift gave us Nobel Prize Laureate Wangari Mathaii and the columnist Philip O’chieng among others.
African leaders insists that we can solve our problems and we need not to be treated like a basket case or little children that need hand holding to cross the street, and they are right. But when the rubber meets the road, from the MCA to the MP, Governor to President we eat deep into our budgets for bench-marking tours abroad.
But even with these bench-marking tours, our problems persist as we insist that we can solve them ourselves. Unemployment threatens peace and stability, for the unemployed is a college graduate; Our rivers and lakes host raw sewer and toxic industrial waste; Our curriculum still teaches that Dr. Krapf is the first ‘person’ to discover Mt. Kilimanjaro; education devoid of thought, substance or skill; Our roads are still clogged for 3hrs after sunrise and 3hrs after sunset; We upgrade slums instead of eliminating slums (akin to putting lipstick on a pig); Our balance of trade in increasingly negative thanks to SGR and COMESA (the train goes back to Mombasa empty); Development is synonymous with construction of tall buildings, malls and apartments most of which remain unoccupied for years even as we embark on UN-funded housing construction in Mavoko; Tuju has to be frown to the U.K. for treatment or surgery that is done using the same human five fingers in every Kenyan Surgeon’s hands.
These “benchmarking” efforts by African leaders acknowledges that there exists a product or a system that is superior in quality than ours and their goal is to improve theirs to the same level or standard as the market leader. Again, they are right. Benchmarking may inspire and provide a barometer with which to orient your improvement efforts but is not magical on its own.
So, while the African leader is quick to embark on benchmarking tours ( which are simply that, tours) under the guise of gathering inspirational information that will solve problems using Africa human resource, systemic failures are still persistent as delineated above.
In his September 2012 Ted Talk, Ernesto Sirolli who worked in Kenya, Zambia and other African countries with an Italian NGO, just like the African leaders, tells us that, in deed it’s very hard for others to solve our problems. In his words, “Everything we started failed, everything we touched died.” In a nut shell he wondered why Zambians in a valley along Zambezi River would not simply take advantage of the free water to grow food and vegetables for themselves. 200 hungry Hippos quickly taught his team that Zambians were not a lazy lot who were oblivious to the opportunity the river and the valley provided for successful farming as they ate, just before the harvest, all the tomatoes his NGO had planted .
The implication is that deep cultural, experiential and historical knowledge is necessary in solving problems that plague Kenya and the continent at large. In late 90s and early 2000s thousands of Kenyans straight from high school privately went to the North America and Europe in search of education.
They now hold professional jobs in the U.S and Europe in Education, Healthcare, Engineering, Finance and Scientific Research. They are Professors, Doctors, Nurses, Engineers, Managers, and Directors. They hire and fire, they lead,they manage, they make policy, they conduct research, and consult for fortune 500 U.S. Companies. These are not Ernesto Sirollis, they are Dr. Wachira, Dr. Muteti and Dr. Opot. They are PhDs, MBAs, MSc, MA and more.
They are so many that the term “daring abroad” does not carry any weight any more for the Kenyan diaspora. They daily solve problems in other countries that continues to hamper Kenya’s economic progress. Yes, they work in the very same offices, departments and industries where our leaders go to benchmark.
In August 8 2014 President Uhuru while visiting Kenyans in Dallas, Texas wondered why Engineers were coming from Ireland to help with oil extraction in Turkana while Kenyan diaspora should be guiding the efforts owing to their experience in the oil industry in Texas. Did he create channels in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to catalog or head-hunt Kenyans in different fields who are vital in these effort or was it just talk to excite for the moment? For Kenya to succeed, it has to be a deliberate strategy no just talk.
Most Kenyans leaders focus on diaspora remittance which stood at Ksh. 280 Billion in 2019 when they think of diaspora importance to the Kenyan economy. They are unaware that remittances are peaking and in coming years will face a sharp decline throwing our financial system into a dizzying spin for which we are unlikely to recover. When a country relies on a transitory foreign reserve earner that supersedes coffee and tea exports combined and does not plan for it eventual demise is dancing on the edge of a cliff blind-folded. The remittances are transitory due the fact that these Kenyans’ offsprings have minimal attachments in Kenya or have no obligations that would necessitate sending money back home. These is coupled with the fact that their parents are retiring back in Kenya and thus for each relocation is thousands of dollars in remittances lost permanently. I expound this in my book Dollar Altar.
For the wise like Tom Mboya, the real treasure in Kenyan Diaspora is not the money they send back home but the wealth of their training, experience and exposure. Remember, training, experience and international immersion was the purpose of the African Airlift. With this lot, there is no need to benchmark, they are the benchmark for they’ve worked and lived in the benchmark. They are comfortable in any boardroom in the world. They are not Ernesto Sirroli and thus don’t need to listen to the locals because they are the locals; they grew up on these valleys and know the hippo problems need to be solved first before Zambezi can be used to make Zambia food secure. Whether these internationally trained and exposed diaspora have already relocated to Kenya or still living abroad, Kenya has to be alive to its need of this human resource if it has to progress economically.
A registered nurse who earns Ksh. 50,000 in a day in the U.S. is not about to board a plane to start working in Kenyatta or Nairobi Hospital for a monthly salary that approximate what she makes in a day. Making it easy for her to start a healthcare system by endorsing her license with ease would help in transferring her skills and influence to the healthcare culture and practice in Kenya. After all, Mr. Politician, when you go to the U.S. or U.K. for “higher level of care” you will be surprised that this very Kenyan Nurse that you will not allow to practice in Kenya because she studied in California State University and not KMTC is the one who will administer your chemotherapy, recover you immediately after your open-heart surgery and sustain your life in the I.C.U. with minimal need to consult a doctor. The university professor is not going to abandon his 1.4Million monthly salary to start lecturing in Dedan Kimathi University or the Engineer leaving Edison for a job at Kenya power.
This is not to say that these Kenyans are condescending or don’t want to be part of problem solving but its simple personal economics. Thus, there has to be creative incentives to engage them even if it’s on consultative basis. This is because, the truth is, Kenya needs them than they need Kenya, economically speaking. These Kenyans will tackle increasing Diabetes, hypertension and cancer; create a self sustaining manufacturing base permanently solving the trifecta problems of unemployment,housing and trade deficit; Unclog our roads with simple but effective solutions; Clean our rivers and lakes with cutting edge research based technology; Develop coherent and practical curriculum for our education institutions that is relevant for the global job market.
The Kenyan who is already relocated from abroad is a private ‘Airlift Treasure’ that can be utilized to infuse his experience and training to bring different sectors to the benchmark level. But she is tired of bureaucracy and corruption barriers to endorse professional licenses to practice in Kenya. There seems to be a systemic effort to block their integration in different professions with the mindset that “they are coming back to take our jobs.” Or why is Mwende Mwinzi not the Kenyan ambassador to South Korea? Why is a medical lab practitioner who is a graduate of Oklahoma State University who tried to endorse her license but was told that she didn’t perform well in K.C.S.E Kiswahili and thus her license cannot be endorsed in Kenya? Why is a foreigner allowed to practice medicine on medical tour but a Kenyan trained abroad cannot obtain a license to practice here? How do you do benchmarking in countries where Kenyans form part of the professional and licensed labor force but yet when they relocate they are deemed not be qualified to the “Kenyan Standard’ to practice in Kenya? Duhh!!!
Unlike the fears surrounding Airlift Student in terms of the influence the U.S. or Canadian government might have on them, these Kenyans went to the West privately, paid their school fees by holding down 3 jobs in their twenties and thus, regardless of their dual citizenship status, are not beholden to any foreign government. They are simply Kenyans, ready and willing to help transform this economy if only you will stop frustrating them or not acknowledging its what Kenya need.
Robert Mwangi holds an MBA in Finance from California State University and is the Author of the Book DOLLAR ALTAR.