By Kiboyye Okoth-Yogo
Does communitarian values have anything to do with economic development?
My answer is, definitely. In fact any economic development program that ignores the anthropogenic perspectives of a society is bound to fail. Period.
Any revolution in a peoples’ thinking and way of doing things is better approached from the point of what is already lived to the new. It is on that proposal that I dare say that the Nyanza counties could do great to work their economic development initiatives from what their people are already very good at, to the novel!
I have lived in the North-Rift of Kenya for many years now. One thing continues to strike me about these people. Their athletic prowess. Through Kipchoge Keino and Henry Rono, they learnt of their world class potential in athletics. Instead of taking it for granted they took it a notch higher.
As early as four o’clock at dawn you encounter young men and women training on many a track. Such hard work is simply world class. No wonder their gold medal winning streak runs years on end.
Instead of depending on their natural potential, they work so hard at it until it has now become a source of socio-economic mainstay.
Any county government in this region must put athletics in perspective. The North-rift people are also many other things other than athletics. However if you are to visit Eldoret, the capital city of the region, you would grasp the symbolism of athletics economics.
The athletics money today has translated into many a high-rise buildings therein, competing with other monies. If you sport a four-wheeler or a beautiful sedan passing by most likely it belongs to an athlete.
Is there something for our Nyanza people and Counties to learn from this? Yes.
Emphasizing what a community values is a sure pathway to economic nirvana. There is no juju econometrics in this. Human beings tends to spend lots of time on what they like doing and if they are the best at it, the little coins these brings translate into employment, income, entrepreneurship, better livelihood, ability to pay taxes and richer governments that can provide better social safety nets for its people, among other economic freedoms.
Nyanza people for some strange reason are endowed with great communitarian value for schooling, football, fishing and Ufundi.
Any development strategy that ignores these four areas is doomed to fail.
Schooling: School translates in to a lot of things in economic development. First and foremost, as Francis bacon once put it many years ago, “knowledge is power.” School is one place where people dedicate their time to acquisition of knowledge. That reminds me of my college readings of Alvin Toffler, especially the “Future Shock”.Â Back in the in the eighties Toffler was emphatic that nothing else would drive economies more than knowledge. That’s exactly where we are now. Knowledge economics is it.
Our Nyanza people’s love for school is phenomenal. What shocks me is that our people have been made fun of for their love of school until they are beginning to inculcate the idea that there is something wrong with it.
I wish all our counties would put fanatical emphasis on schooling to an extent that each and every Nyanza child goes to the highest level of learning, and not just learning anything: learning to translate resources into wealth through great education.
From great emphasis of ground breaking early childhood, great primary education, great secondary schools to great TIVET, Universities and special academies. We can start producing great engineers, scientists, social scientists and engineers, bureaucrats, information and communication specialists and philosophers-those dreamers who thinks in today’s abstracts and tomorrow’s products.
All the Nyanza counties can then develop world class universities, special knowledge academies and link them with great innovation and production centers, producing great knowledge and products for home consumption and export. Such schooling apart from translating to employment, trade, industry, modern agriculture, fishing, industry etc would also result in export of top-rate intellect.
Great economics. Like the Kalenjins with no great stadia and training equipment but great culture and spirit, our people could turn their great spirit into reality even with the absence of good infrastructure.
With big economics everything will fall in place.
Fish and fishing. Fish in my opinion is one of the keys to unlocking protein deficiency, and cheaply so in the entire world. It is also great economics. Our people have been with it as part of their culture. In every fish landing bay in Kenya, be it in Lake Victoria, Coast, Inland dams, lakes Turkana, Naivasha, name it, there is a Nyanza fisherman leading the way.
In every Kenyan street where they sell fish, a Nyar Loka springs out, oily skinned because of the frying oil, voluptuous bodied, dark, an ever ready smile, wearing an apron…. I wish our County governments could consider this industry for serious world class attention.
Firstly, Fisheries should be an autonomous ministry in the Nyanza counties. Secondly, each county should advance fishing through ascertaining that fishing and fish processing is done locally and by locals, fish related industries-like boat building and making of fishing gear- are established locally, advanced fish farming by developing the cage and pond technologies, promote fish consumption culture in the market areas, invest and promote fishing and fish eating tourism, advance fish exports in great volumes, build fishing academies to promote modern fish technology education…..Fishing experts can say it better.
Football: Did you know that football pay better than Athletics. No Kalenjin Athlete dreams of earning what Oliech, Wanyama and the few professionals we have earn in Europe! However, I can swear to anyone that there is no single symbol of football wealth in Kisumu, Homa-Bay, Siaya, Kisii, Nyamira, Kakamega, Busia, Bungoma… the great Kenyan football hinterland.
Football economics does not add up because the numbers do not add up. Very few people have turned professionals, yet whenever I watch football in our villages I see world class potential.
Our people have simply refused to go modern with this great tradition. To date every single village in the region has a football pitch and a youth football club. That is a great potential. With great emphasis by the county administrations, great management, planning and execution our region can export in great numbers some of the world class footballers to some of the richest leagues in the World:Â England, Italy, Germany, Spain etc.
Ufundi: Don’t ask me why our people love mechanics, tailoring, radio repairs…. It is one of those historical-anthropogenic phenomena that takes great learning to unlock. What I know is that our people are great funde. Auto-mechanics top the list. Thought, what is annoying about our mechanics is their penchant for refusing to go beyond the Jua-Kali level. Plus have you heard this…“maa terne ja ‘wiring’, an atimo mana ‘engine’….mano tij ja ‘body’…”
I often ask some of my mechanic friends, is it that a brain that can trouble-shoot and revamp engine problems cannot master auto-body or electrical-electronics issues.
Be that as it may, that’s beside the point.
The potential for real growth lies in the real love for grease and great results, making things that work well…and there is another potential for great economics. Give vocational training and entrepreneurship the right economic and policy impetus and it will pay back and much more.
Kiboyye Okoth-Yogo is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and lecturer at Moi University, Eldoret.