An interesting phenomenon is playing out in the United States’ current electoral season. Contrary to every known elections playbook and conventional wisdom, a media celebrity with little regard for truth and facts and barely concealed contempt for minorities and women, is slowly emerging as the Republican Party’s presidential front runner.
Mr Donald Trump’s campaign is seen by many pundits as playing to the fears of white working class Americans who feel increasingly economically irrelevant and culturally eclipsed by changes in demographics and the global economy. Trump has cleverly exploited these fears as a tool to rally an electoral base around a certain platform.
Playing into fear is not a novel concept and has been a powerful political strategy with mass appeal for politicians globally. In Europe, the rise of the far right is attributed to its fear mongering against immigration and Islam to secure electoral victories. In Africa, the tribe card has been cynically used to create a siege mentality and ensure ethnic capture in certain communities.
We are of late witnessing a more sophisticated use of fear mongering to pit Kenyans against one another as we prepare for the 2017 elections. The Opposition and its sympathisers have of late been conjuring up images of a country collapsing because of runaway corruption and looting.
Kenyans have been repeatedly scared into thinking that our economy is on the verge of collapsing as plunderers have a free reign on the national treasury. Like many sophisticated forms of propaganda, the invocation of plunder and grand corruption is meant to create fear and anxiety rather than to identify a real problem.
Dr David Ndii’s article published in the Daily Nation of January 2, 2016 titled “What Magufuli presidency means for Uhuru’s reign” is representative of the targeted and deliberate campaign to perpetuate fear of the Jubilee Government.
Dr Ndii essentially argues that Kenya is doomed because of corruption and Tanzania is on course to overtake Kenya’s economy in size in five years at most on the basis of its political stability and clean government.
Sadly, this theory is not supported by facts. First, with regard to Tanzania, our southern neighbour is not as politically stable as Dr Ndii would have you believe. The main opposition party in Tanzania refused to concede defeat complaining bitterly of election rigging. Businesses were closed in major towns like Zanzibar and Arusha after fears of violence.
The election commission annulled the local elections in Zanzibar citing gross violations of the electoral process.
The Opposition party Civic United Front (CUF) said that annulling the result was a ploy to re-run the election it had won. In Kenya it would be difficult to fathom a scenario where election results of one major regional block are summarily annulled thus violating a people’s fundamental right of electing a government of their choice.
But in Zanzibar contested elections are the norm, not the exception. Following the elections of 2000, the army and police shot into crowds of protestors, killing at least 35 and wounding more than 600.
Government forces, accompanied by ruling party officials and militias, also went on a house-to-house rampage, indiscriminately arresting, beating, and sexually abusing residents. Approximately 2,000 temporarily fled to Kenya. Yes, Tanzania is no stranger to Post-Election Violence.
One of the true tests of a democracy is a peaceful handover from a ruling party to the Opposition which Kenya underwent in 2002. Tanzania is yet to experience this and after last year’s close and contested elections, many pundits are now calling into question whether CCM would ever accept handing over power to the Opposition.
On media freedom, Tanzania is on record as having deported six senior Kenyan journalists following what some considered to be unfavourable media coverage of the government.
Further, Freedom House states that only five radio stations have national reach in Tanzania and all are viewed as sympathetic to the ruling CCM. Contrast that with President Barack Obama’s statement that Kenya is one of the places on this continent that truly observes freedom of the press with fearless journalists and courageous civil society members. Outside South Africa, Kenya is probably the only country in sub-Saharan Africa with uninterrupted independent ownership of the media stretching back the last 50 years.
Regarding the Kenyan economy, Dr Ndii and the shrill voices in the Opposition have overlooked to mention the tremendous progress made in the last three years of the Jubilee administration.
In 2014, Kenya rebased its economy and is now the 9th largest economy on the African continent having been elevated to middle income status with a GDP of $53.3 billion and GDP per capita of $1,246.
Kenya is one of the very few African economies that can boast of the extent to which it is diversifying economically. In 2014, the country registered GDP growth from multiple sources including manufacturing, which contributed 9.21 per cent, wholesale/ retail trade 10.18pc, transport and communication 9.33pc and agriculture 25.94pc.
In an editorial piece by Bloomberg titled “the 20 fastest growing economies this year”, Kenya is cited as an ‘economy all-star’ by virtue of being the 3rd out of 20 countries with the highest growth projection for the year 2015.
This is echoed by other reports and publications, which hype Kenya as a rapidly growing economy. In a February 2015 article by Fortune Magazine, on the new world of business, Kenya was singled out as one of seven outstanding emerging markets worth investing in globally. Worth noting is that it was the only African country on the list.
That is not all. A recent report by Deloitte and research firm Africa Assets also found that private equity firms prefer Kenya to other African countries owing to its prospects of growth and open market policies with a high inclination to the financial sector.
Similarly, for the same the reasons, in the 2014 Ernst and Young attractiveness survey for Africa, Kenya was reported as one of the three top investment destinations in Sub Saharan Africa and the most preferred in East and Central Africa. It is also worth noting that a recent survey released in 2015 by the Intelligent Community Forum reported that Nairobi is Africa’s most intelligent city.
In the field of Information Technology and Telecommunications, Kenya has been a global pioneer and world leader in telecommunications technology, particularly with the M-Pesa technology, the mobile banking service that allows people to make payments and transact via cell phones. The uptake of the technology has grown exponentially over the years. In the year 2014 mobile money transactions in Kenya hit $26 billion while mobile subscriptions currently stand at 32.8 million people.
There’s more good news. In the recently released 2016 World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index, Kenya jumped up 28 places and was declared the 3rd most improved country.
According to the report the improvement was largely due to the introduction of Huduma Centres which have brought different government services in one place across the country; have helped accelerate the pace of reforms, removing some of the red tape that investors have been struggling with in their bid to access public services. In addition, Huduma has received numerous awards both nationally, regionally and globally which is unprecedented in the public service sector.
COMPETITIVE HUMAN CAPITAL
Studies have shown that Kenya is also very competitive in terms of human capital. It ranks at the top in terms of adult literacy rates. The adult literacy rate in Kenya is 87pc, Uganda is at 73.2pc and Tanzania is at 72.9pc. In comparison to other East African countries, meanwhile, Kenya has the highest public expenditure in education at 17.7pc, compared to second place Uganda, which spends an average of 10pc.
Tanzania is ranked even lower. Education plays a major role in increasing productivity and economic growth and reducing poverty and inequality.
Studies comparing the state of primary schools in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania conclude that a child from a poor household in Kenya is more likely to succeed than a child from a wealthy household from Tanzania or Uganda.
Tanzania exhibits the worst performance among the three East African countries. Kenya also ranks on top in terms of enrolment of students in higher education, followed by Uganda and then Tanzania. The Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) 2013-2014 ranks Kenya 44th in quality of education out of 148 countries. By comparison, Rwanda ranks 51st, Uganda 82nd, Tanzania 100th, and Burundi 143rd.
Like the right wing campaigns in the West, it is clear then that the fear mongering strategies from the Opposition on the status of the Kenyan economy are not supported by facts on the ground and neither do investors nor international institutions share the same bleak outlook.
The Opposition leaders seem to be clutching at straws and using anything and everything to discredit the government and our economy in order to score cheap electoral points.
For many Kenyans, it is worrying that that this campaign of misinformation and propaganda is from those who are supposed to provide an alternative recourse to the government.
It should also be mentioned that it is a tad disappointing for a PhD holder (from Oxford no less) to make outlandish statements without crosschecking his facts. With regard to the defamatory insinuation that I bought my house with cash from the proceedings of corruption, had Dr Ndii bothered to make some basic preliminary inquiries, other than relying on rumour mongering, he would have established that the house didn't cost anything near what they have been spreading out there and that is mostly financed by a government mortgage at an interest of 5pc for the next 15 years.
On matters pertaining to the National Youth Service, Dr Ndii conveniently forgot to mention that this is the first time in the history of this country that corruption money has been recovered and assets frozen as a result of whistleblowing by a government official.
I understand that such an admission will render their rumour mongering campaign null and void, but choosing to ignore the facts doesn't change the truth. The shouts by the Opposition and the likes of Ndii on the NYS have nothing to do with corruption but their fear of its successful impact on the ground and its implication on the 2017 election in favour of the Jubilee administration.
In conclusion, to make the case that Tanzania will overtake Kenya in five years because they have done away with serving meals during meetings and such token gestures does not constitute economic transformation.
Unlike Kenya, Tanzania's constitutional review process failed. This failure means that Tanzania is yet to undertake fundamental institutional and structural changes brought about by a people driven constitutional review process.
It is that kind of constitutional and governance re-engineering that lays the foundation of economic success. In this regard Kenya is miles ahead of Tanzania.
The book of Ecclesiastes says that ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens’. This is not the time or the season for electioneering and selling ourselves to voters.
There will be time enough for that in 2017. Right now, leaders need to be reminded that they have a mandate from the people of Kenya (both as government and Opposition) which is by far more important.
It is time for them to show some maturity and conduct themselves on the high plane of dignity and decorum to seek ways to build and unite our nation. Let us put a stop to this needless rumour and fear mongering. The fact that Kenya is on the rise and the Jubilee Government is on the right track is plain to see and not in question.
Anne Waiguru is a former Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning