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We have no choice but collaborate to bridge gaps in financing development

Wednesday May 20 2015

Deputy President William Ruto. PHOTO |CHARLES

Deputy President William Ruto. PHOTO |CHARLES KIMANI | DPPS 

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Last year I launched the curriculum for technical and vocational training developed through government partnership with the Housing Finance Foundation’s Army of One Million Artisans initiative.

Just two weeks ago, I commissioned the M-Pesa Foundation’s construction of a state-of-the-art, mixed boarding high school, which will provide first class education to gifted but economically disadvantaged children. Such is the power of corporate social investment to power our economy and transform lives.

The year 2015 is an important one in the global development calendar. It marks the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to a new set of global targets, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Open Working Group has identified SDGs’ 17 goals that reflect current trends and developmental challenges, including the potential of technology and innovation as a catalyst to inclusion.

By extension, Kenya’s role validates how our democracy could inform other global processes.

While the SDGs have addressed new problems, the proverbial challenges of poverty, environmental protection, disease, and illiteracy continue to feature prominently in these conversations.

These challenges are not new, but they seem to be accentuated even as we record gains in our economic development.

The Jubilee administration is not blind to the increasing inequalities in our society, poverty, corruption, unemployment, increased insecurity and terrorism threats, and exclusion of women and persons with disabilities. A community does not develop until it is inclusive and cohesive.

The challenges may seem daunting but there are also new opportunities that can be leveraged. Kenya is a functioning democracy with a growing middle class, a vibrant private sector, and a young innovative community.

We recognise that our ability to realise our Vision 2030 goals and determine our own development path is intrinsically connected to our ability to generate requisite and predictable financing.

The government, in partnership with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, has been exploring the potential of channelling the power of corporate social responsibility to address the gaps in our development financing. Indeed, the SDGs recognise the role of private companies in development.

We believe that the development challenge of the 21st century should be of interest to companies. A populace that has increased literacy levels, less disease burden, and is endowed with disposable income is good for business. Investing in development makes good business sense.

As we usher in the next development phase, it is imperative for these forces to collaborate with government, offer potential synergy in addressing our financial gaps, and increase our development potential. Private sector engagement is not only limited to financing.

The business processes and techniques within the private sector are a capacity that the government can draw from to ensure efficiency in the provision of services. We believe that we require local solutions to local problems.

In this era of big data and technological advancements, Kenya is poised for greater heights. The post-2015 agenda recognises the need for data and statistics to understand development challenges and design appropriate responses.

Agility in allocation of resources and designing strategy in a fluid world require real-time data and analysis. Such data may be useful for Kenyans in the diaspora and potential investors to make an informed choice on opportunities.

The data could also provide innovators with the raw material to build applications or SMS-based information services for farmers and investors. The development challenge is no longer the preserve of the government.

The President and I are committed to the creation of an inclusive data ecosystem involving the government, the private sector, academia, civil society, local communities, and development partners that tackles the information aspects of development decision-making.

We recognise that if Kenya is to move ahead, we must deliberately pursue collaboration between the government, academia, and entrepreneurs. It is no longer an issue of political will, but a matter of rational economic and political choice.

The writer is the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya