In a matter of days, President Barack Obama will be in Kenya to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. As with other travelling global leaders, undoubtedly someone is laboriously conducting meticulous research, including poring over local media reports, seeking to understand Kenyansâ€™ priorities.
Unfortunately, with the ongoing next-to–nil coverage by local mainstream media, the leader of the free world may be forced to adopt imagined priorities to address during his visit.
One would expect that by now our media would be awash with pertinent issues that require global partnership as well as those home issues to appeal to Obamaâ€™s support for. Since our formal leadership has failed to flag-post the nationâ€™s agenda, I am hereby exercising my civic responsibility to illustrate the Mwananchiâ€™s agenda for the visit.
Kenya is touted as Africaâ€™s first and the worldâ€™s third fastest growing economy. It is therefore imperative to showcase to international investors the opportunities that exist, including the flagship projects being run under our Vision 2030.
However, the historical significance of a sitting POTUS visiting Kenya appears equally lost on county and national leadership notwithstanding he will be accompanied by an entourage of significantly high net worth investors. One would expect that with devolution having created 47 counties to champion regional development, the Council of Governors and local investors would have fashioned an exhibition of sorts to display the business opportunities available in their respective counties and why any of the entourage should Choose Kenya. President Obama can certainly play an ambassador-at-large role to influence his entourageâ€™s investment priorities on this trip.
A key ingredient to investment attractiveness is security. Terrorism has been described as an international phenomenon that requires a coordinated international approach, as well as determined local solutions. President Obamaâ€™s visit presents a platform for Kenya to advance the gains made on the war on terror and share government challenges and achievements thus far, while benefitting from the visiting dignitariesâ€™ contribution towards the same. It is saddening to observe that our leadershipâ€™s approach to address this problem has been more of targeting of communities which has primarily hurt the lives and business of Kenyans of Somali origin.
Reciprocity dominates the minds of many business folks. Aside from viewing America as an investor, it is apparent that there is potentially a vast untapped market for Kenyan goods in America. Kenyans will be happy for the chance to travel to and mingle with Americans even as they conduct small businesses on American streets in the form of micro-retail of basic goods. Americans investing here and allowing our entrepreneurs on American streets can definitely reduce youth unemployment in our country.
President Obama should also concern himself with plight of thousands of poor farmers who put a lot of sweat and time into farming are suffering because of the senseless and unethical businessmen who import cheap sugar from Brazil through the port of Kismayu and some who export imported cotton, not grown in Kenya to US under Agoa partnership.
Then there are extremely weighty matters of internal nature that Kenyans expect President Obama to raise with his brother President Uhuru. The US is certainly a diverse nation that capitalised on the vital force of the immigrants to develop and perhaps President Obama may have pointers on how to manage a diverse population while prioritizing common development. Social, political and economic exclusion of ethnic groups is a serious problem in Kenya, especially under Jubilee. It is not a new problem but it is taking new dimensions.
In 2006, in a speech at The University of Nairobiâ€™s Taifa Hall, President Obama was outraged by the runaway corruption in the country, which he then termed a crisis. Corruption thrives in an environment of exclusion. Unfortunately corruption has grown into a catastrophe. Back then government leaders and well placed personalities used to steal at midnight, these days they rob our public resources at high noon.
Land grabbing and stealing of public money has become a contest among custodians of our nation to the extent that we wonder whether State Houseâ€™s title deed is safe or already belongs to an unscrupulous individual.
In addition, as countries with certain shared democratic ideals, the visiting President can certainly delve into the role of freedom of expression in safeguarding or guaranteeing those ideals. There is a serious problem of government crackdown on the media whenever they carry news that government finds unpalatable. Extra judicial killing and disappearances, both symptoms of a dictatorial leadership, have returned.
President Uhuruâ€™s aide Albert Muriuki and a prominent blogger by the name Bosire Bogonko went missing in 2014 and up to today there is no word from the government. The government has also used the excuse of fighting terrorism to claw back our rights and freedoms. Arrest, jail and harassment of activists by government and State operatives is now the order of the day.
With the agitation for and achievement of a new constitution, it was certainly hoped that the constitution would deliver a more robust society. However, even constitutional institutions continue to be used for individualistic advancement. Some brave souls have attempted to sound the alarm and demand respect for constitutional rights. It would not be lost on either presidents that freedom of expression is at the center of democracy in allowing citizenry an avenue through which to ventilate their frustrations and visions for their country. To suppress or in any way manipulate this freedom, including by media interference, only fuels rising tensions and makes it difficult to avert war conditions.
Recently mainstream and social media have carried the chilling story of
an elected leader who is allegedly arming a local youthful militia to crack down on those who oppose the government of the day. Our country is nolonger at ease. The situation is worsened by the existence of millions of jobless youth.
In 2010, Kenyans gave themselves a progressive constitution that articulates the framework for robust institutions that can stabilize and move Kenya forward. However, short sightedness of our politicians and government leaders continue to deny us the environment to realize this dream. Most of our crucial institutions such as security, police and electoral body face credibility deficit.
Kenya is endowed with natural resources. We are teeming with wildlife. These natural resources are in extreme threat of extinction especially our rhinos and elephants. Recently a container was seized with more than 3000kilograms of elephant ivory in a container shipped from Kenya. It is however not just the Chinese who are killing our elephants and rhinos â€“ rather it is well placed government leaders and operatives behind this business and the Chinese are their market. We expect our most famous son, President Obama to raise these issues and our leaders to seek his help because he can.