We have written and talked enough about the last 50 years, the failed opportunities and the great triumphs. We have downgraded one national triumph, however: pacifying Somalia where a superpower had failed.
Let’s focus on the next half century. On a selfish note, if I live to be Mandela’s age, I shall be there to celebrate Kenya’s centenary.
We all hope that we learnt our lessons in the past 50 years. A few issues will predominate the next 50 years.
The first will be the environment. Wangari Maathai may be gone, but her legacy will live on. The earth is our mother, and we must continue taking care of her. In the next 50 years, there will an increased demand for Earth’s resources, both renewable and non-renewable.
We are yet to get a replacement for oil and rare earth metals. Even renewable resources like water and trees are getting depleted. In the next 50 years, we must strike a balance with our physical environment. No one should be surprised that political violence has roots in land.
The view of economic progress as skyscrapers is outdated. We see every open space as fit for rental houses or offices blocks. But paradoxically, after leaving our offices, we look for open spaces like golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools and parks.
The next issue will be social; transiting from a society that valued kinship, neighbourliness and a sense of community to one based on a nuclear family will have its challenges. Nyumba Kumi and community policing are trying to return us that golden age, when crime was rare and we cared for each other.
The Government was supposed to take care of the functions of the traditional society like security, but it’s returning them to the community. Have we realised we became too individualistic for our own good? Relationships will be another big issue, from divorces to marriages.
Inequality is the other big thing. Capitalism was never about extremism. A society plagued by high inequality is often unstable. Have you noted how perimeter walls around houses have gone up topped by razor wires found in battlefronts? In other countries, perimeter walls are for beauty, just as dogs are pets.
There will also be the “search for meaning”. As we progress economically, we leave behind the drudgery. We no longer need to fetch firewood, water or carry heavy loads while harvesting crops or walk long distances. Most work is automated.
That leaves us lots of leisure time and “emptiness”. The same applies to the poor, who see little meaning because of deprivation. Religion over the ages filled this void, but it no longer has the power it used to. Crime, materialism, sex, gossip, drugs and other short-term pursuits are filling the void. The biggest problem with the search for meaning is that it is personal and can defy conventional solutions.
Let’s focus on the economic front. The Africa Development Bank forecasts Kenya’s growth will reach 5.2 per cent in 2014, while World Bank has 6 per cent.
The World Bank last year made suggestions on how the Government can accelerate growth by investing in infrastructure, increasing domestic energy production, addressing bottlenecks that affect the cost of doing business and continuing with sound monetary and fiscal policies.
To reduce poverty, the State was asked to emphasise job creation, enhance productivity of smallholder farms, strengthen and expand cash transfer programmes and target public spending programmes to provide quality education to the rural poor. Jubilee seems to have taken the cue.