- This is a really bad sign on the state of the economy in Kenya. This can’t hold for long without causing a cataclysmic challenge for the country. We may ignore it as elite are used to, but it will surely come to haunt all of us.
- Last month I was on several study tours in various slums in Nairobi and in several towns and market centres in the country. As a way to gauge various aspects on politics, economy and social issues affecting people I found myself talking to almost everyone who was willing to.
- Thus one can understand why the ‘Hustler’ is popular even in probably in our ethnic divided country, in a place like Central Kenya. It is economy, stupid. If you move out of central Kenya, the economic theme is high on peoples lips as well.
I’m very optimistic about Kenya, Africa and generally on the world but some indicators worry me. Key among these is unemployment and poverty levels. Recently I visited several towns and shopping centres at a radius 3 – 100 kilometers from mid Nairobi for work and while just engaging with people, I found so many guys just depending on some level of luck or connections to even access manual labour jobs.
I found it intriguing that it is difficult even to find some menial jobs and that the competition to find them is as intense as looking for office jobs in Kenya.
This is a really bad sign on the state of the economy in Kenya. This can’t hold for long without causing a cataclysmic challenge for the country. We may ignore it as elite are used to, but it will surely come to haunt all of us.
If you would want to know there is a lot of bitterness amongst people finds time to speak to the common person in the streets and villages about the economy. They hurt deep inside. On matters their economic fortunes it is very bad. It has been made worse by Covid-19 destructive effects which combined with our successive economic challenges over time has made it worse.
They hopelessness is manifested in many ways and some of these include being prone to manipulations especially by politicians, a lot of alcoholism , drug abuse, prostitution, fraudulent schemes of all kinds, con artistry, love for gambling hoping to make instant fortunes, readiness for cultism and so on. It may not be very apparent on people as they look normal when you see them in public but there are far too many signs of people hurting if you dare to look keenly.
Last month I was on several study tours in various slums in Nairobi and in several towns and market centres in the country. As a way to gauge various aspects on politics, economy and social issues affecting people I found myself talking to almost everyone who was willing to.
I found soft spots inside the many alcohol drinking dens of all shades where on camouflage I was one of any of the groups I meet anywhere. Therein stories, ideas and ventilating happen freely with no limitations. So politics was discussed with abandon and there is a desire to change the current dispensation and it is all rooted in the economy. Opportunities for highly divisive politics some of extreme ends exist.
All this is rooted in economic hopelessness. Indeed part of the reason the called ‘Hustler Movement’ has gained a lot of currency especially in Central Kenya stem from the economic challenges and malaise the population is feeling and suffering from. In a sense hopelessness is venting out. With parcels of land becoming smaller and unable to support a lot of profitable farming and with towns teeming with unemployed youth we seem to be in a cataclysmic and catalytic situation.
Thus one can understand why the ‘Hustler’ is popular even in probably in our ethnic divided country, in a place like Central Kenya. It is economy, stupid. If you move out of central Kenya, the economic theme is high on peoples lips as well.
One of the biggest headaches that should worry us is thus unemployment. Besides Tribalism and Corruption taking us to a lot of quagmire we are in currently, we should be alive that we cannot continue building an army of unemployed and poor people.
This creates a lot latent anger and it’s also easy to misdirect the pain. If one observes closely the boda boda industry, it though has helped create a lot of employment for the youth is also breeding a negative culture of lawlessness. If today a boda boda hits a motorist, in a flash of minutes you find a whole army assembled to ‘discipline’ the driver or owner plus the machine. It does not matter who caused the accident but the car or vehicle is assumed to have caused the mess.
Disregard for the law and order is deeply rooted in the industry. This culture is replicated all over the country. The deep feelings stem from deep seated anger that are suppressed by their work but erupts if challenged or forced to come out in any way such as an accident or in a political rally or challenge. Yet still these are people who need to earn a living and need hope for a better future. Yet still there are many out there who live far worse than them. Unemployment fangs are biting so many people in the country.
I think the focus as we try to fix politics which has been one of the biggest let down to Kenya as it has been less of an enabler, should be in serious well rooted quick fix as well as strategic economic empowerment programmes. Politics should enable a country pursue greater good for the people. That is how Singapore, South Korea, China, Malaysia, Germany and such have been able to perform individual economic turnarounds over the years some so recent.
In Kenya politics have been a problem in as much as it has changed over time. Politics cannot be hinged on individuals but appropriate structures and the right culture. That said if we don’t pay proper attention to politics and economic transformation, we are doomed as a nation. When you find so many people with so much latent and palpable anger, suffering unemployment and many ending into old age in poverty, it is a harbinger for trouble in near future.
Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda
The Writer is a Political, Economic and Social Analyst and Commentator, the Leader of a Leading Renewable Energy Organisation in Africa, Researcher, Consultant, and Chairman Consumer Downtown Association and also represents Several Other Organisations in various capacities including being the Senior Executive of one of the Auto Industry Associations in Kenya.