By Innocent N
CNN’s Richard Quest has been in Nairobi over the past couple of days to interview one of the greatest Kenyan track athletes of all time -Eliud Kipchoge. He has had an opportunity to talk about, among other things, his sexuality and the fact that he is gay (which caught me by surprise) and to diarize his African experience.
And Kenyans have been openly fascinated to read some of the positive things Quest has said about Nairobi. He’s compared JKIA to Heathrow and JFK, talked in glowing terms about the serenity of Karura Forest, and basked in the beauty of Nairobi. Interestingly, we are surprised because these are things that we don’t see. We only know of the terrible traffic, poor drainage especially during the rainy weather, land grabbing, corruption, etc.
In 2014, I attended a Pan-African Youth Conference in Dar-es-Salaam that attracted delegates from across the continent. During one of the plenary sessions that I was moderating, I introduced myself and said that I was Kenyan. After the session, almost everyone came to me to express admiration for my country. I was treated differently (with a lot of respect) just because I was Kenyan.
Like any other nation, we face our own share of challenges. But compared to our neighbours, this country is a great one. Take Rwanda for example, which we all are quick to point out as a success that our political leadership should emulate. The size of our economy is almost 10 times that of Rwanda. That means that if we stagnate at this point, it will take Rwanda decades of playing catch to be at par with us.
Take Tanzania which some of us erroneously think might soon be the East African economic powerhouse given the one-man show that President Magufuli is putting up in the country. In Tanzania, 67.9% of the population lives below the poverty line compared to the 44% in Kenya. In fact, it was former Tanzanian President Mwalimu Julius Kabarange Nyerere who once remarked that you don’t have to travel for over 7 hours to see London. You simply come to Nairobi.
Can you imagine that we are at the same GDP level with oil-rich countries like Sudan and Angola. So what if we had the same volume of natural resources that they have, where would we be? We are a blessed country. We are one of the few nations in Africa that recognizes what politically stability and democracy are. The tech-revolution in Africa is happening right here in our nation. We are able to feed our populations without relying on food aid. We only hear of civil wars on CNN and BBC.
We are a great nation. We are a wonderful people. And it is important to recognize this even as we work to correct some of our failures. I’m proud to be Kenyan and forever will be! Daima mimi mkenya, mwananchi mzalendo.