Leadership: Why Can't Kenya's Middle Class Deliver?
The dearth of good leadership in Kenya (and by extension Africa) is largely due to the use of "political buses of convenience" to ascend to power in place of well thought out ideologies. Good leadership is aided by clearly demonstrated goals and expectations. On this front, Kenya and the African continent urgently needs a political and development agenda anchored on a discernible set of ideas. An ideology is loosely defined as a set of ideas and beliefs that enable an individual or groups of people to interpret social, economic and political realities.
|Where is Kenya's middle class taking the country? courtesy|
Kenya, with over 42 ethnic communities spread out in 47 county governments and confronted with global challenges has no choice but to produce a leader who will defend her national interests. Such a leader must prioritize a set of ideals that will enable individuals to fully realize their talents. The country needs a leader who will not only focus on the defined 5 year electoral term, but also share in a vision that will take into consideration generations to come. It is highly unlikely that as we stand, the Kenyan middle class is positioned to deliver good leadership in the coming elections.
The Africa Development Bank loosely defines the middle class as those who spend $2 - $20 a day. Kenya reportedly has 44.9% of its population in this cluster. The country's middle class is further divided into three groups: the floating class, the lower middle class and the upper middle class. The floating class spends $2 - $4 a day; the lower middle class spends $4 - $10 a day and the upper middle class $10 - $20 a day. The last two constitute 16.8% of the middle class proper. Faced with inflation at 19.72%, the status of "middle class" in Kenya is precarious and the "floating class" is likely to drop to those who spend less than $2 a day.
The prospect of a shrinking middle - used to the taste of "a good life" will invariably kick in animalistic survival instincts as played out daily on Kenyan highways.
The deep-seated instinct of a "political bus" in the country has produced a culture that is mirrored in the middle classes behavior on highways and in the cyberspace. Kenyan motorists rarely give way to each other, resulting in unnecessary traffic jams. Drivers overlap and generally show little regard to pedestrian safety. They drive on pedestrian walkways and park on pavements, blocking human traffic in busy city streets. The false cover of anonymity on cyberspace provides the middle class the opportunity to exhibit the worst (or best true selves) designs on the future of the country. It is against this background that political classes shamelessly launch "political buses" of convenience as opposed to party ideologies and positions for Kenya.
The Kenyan middle class are also in the rush to become mirror images of other cultures. Urged on by the impact of internet connectivity, mega shopping malls and entertainment spots, they have no time to reflect on authenticity. While the middle class in developed and emerging economies drive the industrial and knowledge economies of their nations, their Kenyan counterpart is suffocating in imports and a "show off' attitude that delivers little onto the market place other than a cultural and political "traffic jam."
The Kenyan middle class can transform the country's political landscape much better in the open arena by discussing sound ideas that address causes of artificial famine, inflation, poverty; insecurity, rural and urban poverty among other issues. They have to be on the forefront to demand an ideology that can bring out both individual and collective talents and position the country globally. For the last 49 years, the wayward investments in "political buses" have enriched political elites at the expense of their hungry and needy nationals. A Kenyan middle keen to operate in the open will help evolve an ideology that can guide the social, economic and political endeavors of this country.
By James Shikwati
The author email@example.com is Director of Inter Region Economic Network (IREN).
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