Monday, 27 August 2012

Dialogue and engagement among youth key pillars for positive change

The Late Prof Wangari Maathai (Nobel Laureate)  on receiving the UN Africa Prize for Leadership, 1991 she said:

“Another value Africans must adopt is love and concern for young people. One of the most devastating experiences is to see youth wasting away because they are unemployed, even after they have completed secondary and tertiary education, or because their health has deteriorated. African governments should give priority to investments in technical education and HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care, and support programs.
Without skills, people find themselves locked out of productive, rewarding economic activities, leaving them unable to meet their needs for housing, healthcare and nutrition. They get trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and, sometimes, crime. 
Africa needs to prepare for the opportunities and challenges to come by deliberately working for peace and security.”As a youth, I am inspired by the kinds of dreams that motivate us to become leaders in new and innovative ways; because let’s face it, our generation needs a revolution to move this world forward always
More importantly, a good leader needs to be able to lead others and uphold the interests of their followers. Leadership does not only provide the path on which others may follow, it also ensures that leaders will point her or his followers in the right direction.
Consequently, the many youths within the country are looking upon these very leaders who will enable us to stand up and say “I’m going to change the world, I’ll start today.”

Despite us having either gone to school or completed, we find the outside world not ready to embrace us. The world behaves like we the youth have become the intruders and it will do all it can to oppress us. We grapple each day on how we shall fit in the society, how we shall get employed and above all how we shall be seen as agents for change.
This can only be achieved through sound leadership, leadership that values diversity, leadership that sees each as a valuable component for transformation, but is this arrived at?

The year 2007, I became aware of and knew the importance of effectively participating for change as an electorate. I became a voter. I tried all the best, I travelled all the way to Kakamega to vote within Lurambi constituency before I returned back home in Kitale.

Being a first voter among the many youth who had yearned to feel that inner feeling of being part of positive change and transformation, the elections of 2007 were the most competitive in Kenya’s short history of multiparty politics.
 The country was fractured with protracted ethnic clashes that lasted a couple of months. People lost lives and property and thousands others have been displaced permanently.

My dad used to travel often in Nairobi then, it became difficult for him to travel by road, and thus, he was allowed to be using a plane from the Eldoret International Airport all the way to Nairobi. However, to reach Eldoret via Kitale was not easy, along the way, one could witness houses, shops burned (that is around Soy, Matunda areas) one could see Lorries packed with property, people were fleeing from their homes, roads had been barricaded. Yes, that is what I used to witness as we escorted him to the airport. It was an eye sore.

Near our home, one of our neighbour’s house was torched, the tension that arose was indescribable, then a few days later, one of the big farmers around the area (comes from Central, but had relatives across the region) his head of cattle were stolen. The whole neighborhood was left asking questions, why? Why? These were people who had lived there most of their lives, they had married, sired children, whom many were among my friends. Yes, it had happened to them because of the ripple effect that was being witnessed all over the country.

I hate going back down memory lane but the Kenyan experience demonstrates that ethnic identities are not rigid. They are functional and instrumental in the competition for political power.
Kenya is sadly polarized ethnically. Elections as a vehicle for democracy are therefore, an obstacle to accountable and legitimate government as well as socio-economic progress.

The problems Kenyans face today, lack of political voice and inequitable access to services and opportunities have become a perennial predicament that leaders use to have their way out.
Making us forget so easily where we were from -Kenyans forget easily.

The same way I was in 2007, is the same way many youth like me will be casting their vote for the first time.
The same youth are becoming a force to reckon with, they are the pillars of peace, social economic advancement both as an individual, the community and the nation at large. They know what they have to do. Where they are going, but between their resilient spirit to forge ahead:

Petty self-interests are the greatest obstacles to structured social mobilisation for political and economic transformation in Kenya. However, through you and I as the Kenyan youth can mobilize virulent violence when our collective racial or ethnic interests are threatened.

The youth in their own innovative and creative ways are coming together to share ideas on why they do not want to be poisoned by the decisive thoughts of not becoming agents for social change. This is also why is bringing on board youth with diverse talents to share our goals and aspirations.

It is a forum that is giving the youth a voice for positive change. A voice that tells the leaders who are our politicians that they should get it clear, that the empowered Kenyan is not looking at the “what” they would want us to have because to them, this has been a pipe dream to them.

A voice that is yearning for what they would want to listen to, to get inspired and become a call to a common goal of achieving the country’s hopes and aspirations in the “how” by bringing forth good policies that will make them feel appreciated as Kenyans and not Kenyans ready to vote because the same leaders are competing against each other.

Sustaining self esteem among the youth is key. Walking within Western Kenya, many are striving to make ends meet; struggling each day with the little they have within their hand may be to see if the proverb says the truth- a drowning man clutches at a straw.

Many have given up, a reason they would not want to return back to their homes because of shame, they cannot feed themselves, and they do not have a roof above their heads. How many youth are employed but cannot still meet ends meet? How many are employed but still under the care of their parents? They are out there.
Yet, they cannot give up.

We hold on to the hope to achieve that change to which we look forward every day. The realities of the problems that face our country have solutions and or can be improved. Investing our energy to reach a point where we can all listen and concentrate on achieving our common goals as Kenyans. 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Tell the African story, Kagame urges East African media

We all know that the media plays a critical role in shaping national, regional and global politics,  economics  and  diplomacy.  Equally  important  is  the  continued  political  and economic integration of  the East African Community member states in our increasingly globalised environment. It is therefore essential that we accelerate implementation of the Common Market and other protocols, and more importantly, ensure East African citizens understand and fully participate in the process.

In this endeavour, the media will be an invaluable partner in communicating our agenda, advancing  our  interests  and  being  among  the  key  narrators  of  our  story.  In  addition,  by holding both our governments and citizens to account, a responsible media will promote our core values,  good  governance and democracy on which a successful integration can best be built.
The Rwanda President Paul Kagame. Photo Courtesy 

I  am  pleased  to  join  you  today,  and  to  our  visitors,  let  me  welcome  you  all  to  Rwanda and, on behalf of all Rwandans: Karibuni. Nyote mko nyumbani.

The  fact  that  this  summit  has  been  jointly  organised  by  the  East  African  Community Secretariat  and  the  East  African  Business  Council, with  the  participation  of  the  media, reaffirms  our  belief  in  a  private  sector-led  and  people-centred  integration  process.  This high level participation is testimony to the importance attached to the role of the media in   advancing  the  visibility  of  the  East  African  Community  and  a  better  understanding  of regional integration issues.  

We all know that the media plays a critical role in shaping national, regional and global politics,  economics  and  diplomacy.  Equally  important  is  the  continued  political  and economic integration of  the East African Community member states in our increasingly globalised environment. It is therefore essential that we accelerate implementation of the Common Market and other protocols, and more importantly, ensure East African citizens understand and fully participate in the process.

In this endeavour, the media will be an invaluable partner in communicating our agenda, advancing  our  interests  and  being  among  the  key  narrators  of  our  story.  In  addition,  by holding both our governments and citizens to account, a responsible media will promote our core values,  good  governance and democracy on which a successful integration can best be built.

In  order  to  do  this  effectively,  we  should  develop a  critical,  competitive  and  profitable home-grown  media  that  will  foster  debate  of  relevant  issues  and  influence  the  way  the rest of the world sees and understands us.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

Let me make two points about the media in East Africa that, in my view, should facilitate the telling of our story and advance integration.

First, governments and the media need not be adversaries as is sometimes the case. Nor should  it  be  the  norm.  They can be partners without  either  compromising  the independence and effectiveness of the other.

Second, together with banking and education, the media, especially broadcast, has taken advantage of the integration process to spread into the region and report on matters East African.

However, it has not gone far or deep enough. More still needs to be done. For far too long the  international  media,  with  its  own  objectives,  has  dominated  the  region  and  set  the news agenda. 

This often means that they tell our story from their perspective at best and, at worst, distort  it  all  together.  As  has  become  all  too  evident  in  our  region,  such misrepresentation  derails  our  progress  or  even  fuels  conflict  and  other  problems  that destroy our gains.

This  is  made  worse  when  our  own  media  either  remain  silent  or  just  relay  the  same stories  told  from  a  biased  standpoint,  becoming   complicit  in  perpetuating  these  views imposed from outside. 
There are interesting and relevant stories in our region that do not get the coverage they should.  These  include  the  steady  progress  the  East African  Community  has  made  in  various  areas  –  from  Customs  Union  to  the  Common  Market,  free  movement  of  people and  capital  to  ongoing  talks  about  monetary  union  and  movement  towards  political federation.

When  we  build  stronger  professional  and  business  partnerships  with  the  media,  there should  be  an  improvement  in  accurate  and  positive  reporting  about  what  East  Africans are doing to make integration move even faster than it is doing. 

Ladies and Gentlemen;

In  order  to  nurture  a  pan  East  African  media,  all  partners  –  be  they  government  or  the private  sector  -  have  the  responsibility  to  invest in  it  and  raise  professional  and  ethical standards.   For  the  media  to  tell  our  story  well,  it  has  to  have  access  to  the  right information and the freedom to disseminate it. This in turn helps it articulate, guarantee and advance other freedoms.

In  Rwanda,  in  spite  of  what  outsiders  might  say,  we  regard  the  media  as  an  important partner in our country’s development. That is why we have made reform of the media a priority.  Among  the  key  reforms  are  self-regulation  and  access  to  information,  both  of which should benefit the industry and also raise responsibility among practitioners.

We need common reforms across East Africa so as to establish norms and standards for the media to enable it carry out its responsibilities effectively. It is, therefore, gratifying to note that all our Partner States have continued to create a conducive environment for the media to operate, which should lead to an increase in the number of media outlets and better reporting in the region. 

The  era  of  fast-evolving  social  media  that  we  live in  presents  us  with  immense opportunities  for  far-reaching  instant  communication  and  immediate  feedback.   Social media  provides  a  new  front  that  gives  East  African citizens  a  voice  and  challenges  the influence  of  traditional  media  dominated  by  a  few  voices.  It is  an  important  tool  for citizens to hold all of us, including conventional media, accountable. 

In conclusion let me reiterate that the media has both the power and responsibility to get the region to embrace regional integration with passion, dedication and commitment for the  benefit  of  the  present  and  future  generations  of  East  Africans.  And because  no  one else will do it for us, they have the duty to help tell the true story of our region, including our collective desire for peace, security, stability and development. 

With  these  remarks,  I  thank  you  all  for  your  attention  and  wish  the  Fifth  East  African Media Summit great success.

Keynote Address By H.E. Paul Kagame, President Of The Republic Of Rwanda, 5th EAC-EABC Media Summit Kigali Serena Hotel, 9 Th  August 2012 

Monday, 6 August 2012

The Search for Miss Fabulous 2012 Africa Beauty Queen ends with Aisha Shollei

Aisha is also Sh.100,000 richer as a result of winning the pageant. She is also due to receive an additional Sh.200,000 from Aida Odinga. With the title, Aisha is going to be an ambassador of change. She is signed under NOPE for the next one year to work on projects such as promoting health and peace awareness to the youth, she will be the voice for the less privileged and above all be a role model to the youth.

Miss Fabulous Africa Beauty Queen. This is a unique beauty pageant which aims at bringing out the inner beauty and abilities in the talented youth, according to the organizers Beki Promotions Limited.

Miss Fabulous Africa is a beauty pageant that is held every year, the main objective of this pageant is to help young women achieve personal growth, development and take pride in their heritage, discover their inner beauty in achieving their humanitarian goals in life and laying a strong foundation as leaders of the future.

It is a community driven Competition committed to addressing health, education, value of beauty; this are the key leading social issues in every community, an endeavor at bringing youth together to explore, discover and advance their creative talent.

What are the Advantages of the pageant?

The pageant redefines the African woman as a leader and a vital partner in the development of Africa and the world. Participants learning character building, peer education, Team building, critical thinking skills, confidence, positive self-esteem, personal identity and cultural diversity are just some of the advantages and benefits introduced by Miss Fabulous Africa Competition.

Opportunities presented

The winner of the pageant is crowned an Ambassador of Change and uses her position to influence and better the lives of others by promoting health and peace awareness to the youth, the plight of the less privileged while contributing to society development and most of all be a great ambassador and role model to the young people.

The current Miss Fabulous Queen is Teresia Nandunda.

During the previous event, a new category was created Miss Confidence in which, Ruth Mueni , a 27-year old, is the current reining Miss Confidence. She   is currently working with National Organization of Peer Educators NOPE as the head of a programme Tupange which aims at teaching the community about Family Planning methods.

Miss Confidence Ruth Mueni . Photo Courtesy | Mia Collis Traveler Photo Contest 2012 - National Geographic via   
Ruth is three feet tall.

Nonetheless, she refuses to let her physical challenge prevent her from pursuing and achieving her goals. A graduate of the University of Nairobi, Ruth works as a clerical officer in the Kenyan Ministry of Youth and Sports. 

She won a silver medal for Kenya in a regional table tennis tournament in Egypt. She is part of a local dance team. And, she is a dedicated role model to young girls who are struggling with low self-confidence. 

The message she shares with them is also the message she lives by: Accept yourself as you are and always keep a positive attitude.

Additionally, the event will give all the participants a shot at fame and on a political level, the unity of the diverse communities shall be present with positive effect as it will give all the involved a sense of real hope.

Who can participate?

A competitor may come from any country and participate as they get the chance to perform and network with others in an attempt to breakthrough in their respective talent category.

Miss Fabulous Africa Search will be held on 5th October 2012.  Like the Miss Fabulous Page on Face book for more details concerning the audition date.

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Sunday, 5 August 2012

Youth employment is more of a mirage

Lack of enough employment opportunities is a problem faced across the globe. This even according to the World Bank Report of July, North Africa: finding jobs for the 9.8 million young people entering the labour market between now and 2020 will require a new approach to economic growth says, “The fact is that though the supply of graduates has increased rapidly, economies remain focused on sectors of activity that are incapable of providing jobs that correspond to their level of studies, such as clothing and textiles or the mechanical industry.

They further say, “Tomorrow’s jobs must be mainly provided not in the public sector, which is often already saturated, but in the private sector and in particular in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).”

With all these obstacles, there is still a big hope; the role of the youth in any society is a specific hope and a basic step for the transforming society. Over the history, world transformations have been brought into being by the youth themselves.

Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world after escaping the worst of the global financial crisis – but the phenomenon of jobless growth combined with the world's youngest population threatens progress, according to the African Economic Outlook (AEO).

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Why Kenya needs bank of industries

Ministries have returned over Kshs.101 billion to Treasury over the last financial year.  These funds were earmarked for development purposes and represent a tenth of the 2011/12 budget.  With the myriad of projects the Government of Kenya needs to fund, it is a great shame that these funds have not been put to immediate use.  The ability to mobilize and deploy capital efficiently is a crucial skill Kenya needs to develop.  As this is available right now, I propose that Treasury uses this money to fund a Bank of Industries with a capital base of Kshs.100 billion.

A Bank of Industries would be used to fund the industrial and manufacturing sector that would in turn help boost our exports.  The funds would be for new industries or for the expansion of existing industries.  Increasing industrial output would be a way to stabilize the shilling and contain inflation.

We have previously argued that the CBK should let the shilling depreciate because it would be good for economic development in Kenya for the following reasons: a weak shilling would be good for development as it would help stimulate exports and move the country from import focus to export focus, help promote manufacturing, encourage remittances from the Diaspora, develop Nairobi as a financial/services hub, and discourage conspicuous import driven consumption.

To boost industrial and manufacturing output in Kenya, we need to tackle the current challenges to the sector which include the need for cheap capital and cheap energy.  A Bank of Industries would be set up to finance the industrial sector through the provision of loans with low interest rates i.e., below 6% for industries.  The large capital base will enable the Bank to participate in sell and lease back financing which industries with large asset bases can use to unlock capital.  Finally, In order to fund the capital expenditure the Bank would also act as a conduit for trade finance such as Export Credit Agency financing.

There are people in Kenya who are serial entrepreneurs and industrialists.  However, even with their great track record with their existing businesses they struggle to get funding for new ventures.  These are the people Kenya needs to push their industrial and manufacturing agenda and a Bank of industries would become a great facilitator for this sector.

Historically, banks or private wealth have been one of the key drivers of industrialization.  Alexander Gerschenkron, a political economist, formulated a model of late industrialization which is widely known as the “patterns of industrialization” which identified key institutions which drove industrialization.  From a working paper by Jang-Sup Shin of the National University of Singapore titled The East African Industrialization in the Gerschenkronian Mirror: Catching-up Strategies and Institutional Transition, the author noted that Gerschenkron developed a three-country paradigm to explain “patterns of industrialization”.  Gerschendron identified:

Distinctive institutions spearheading industrialization as follows: (1) In Britain, the forerunner who pioneered the Industrial Revolution, the accumulated private wealth of capitalists was a major source of finance and individual entrepreneurs played a central role in industrialization.  (2) In Germany, a moderately backward country, “the universal banks” played a major role in financing industrialization and organizing the private sector.  (3) In Russia… the state directly mobilized financial resources and created new industries.

Where would Kenya fit within these frameworks?  A Bank of Industries would be the answer especially one that is supported by a Government with a strong industrialization agenda.  The experience of countries like Japan and Korea demonstrate the need for a banking sector that works to fund industry.

In Japan, the state played a pivotal role in pushing economic development as an agenda through the enactment of favourable industrial policies.  Hand in hand, the Japanese keiretsu (known as business groups) played a key role in mobilizing capital to finance Japanese industrial expansion.  Jang-Sup Shin noted, “The keiretsu facilitated high-speed economic growth through “interlocked shareholdings”, internal resource transfers, loan guarantees and other in-house services.”  Thus Japan was able to finance its industrialization by mobilizing domestic capital within supportive government frameworks.  For Kenya, local keiretsu would need the backing of a strong local Bank of Industries in order to mobilize capital from within.  A bank that would be able to finance sell and lease back activities which would unlock capital from industries’ asset bases, would be extremely beneficial in pushing industrialization.

In South Korea, family owned business groups called chaebols, were the drivers of industrialization.  The state was also influential in designing industrial policy and highlighting strategic industries.  The state then went further and nationalized commercial banks in the early 1960s in order for them to finance industrialization through the chaebols.  Again, the role of the banks in financing industrialization was critical.

So how would the Government of Kenya go about creating a Bank of Industries?  One solution would be to convert and recapitalize Industrial & Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC) or Industrial Development Bank (IDB) into a Bank of Industries and ensure the best talent work for them by offering competitive salaries.  Another option would be to create a Bank of Industries from scratch with equity contributions from Treasury with the ability to obtain concessional loans from DFIs and other governments in order to lend onwards to industries.  The Bank of Industries would also be able to finance industries through export credit financing if they need to import capital goods.

It should be recognized that Kenya has a class of entrepreneurs and industrialists who are ready to push industrialization.  Kenya also has the ability to attract more.  However, these efforts will remain futile if the industries cannot find an adequate source of funding.  The Kshs.101 billion returned by Ministries becomes very important when viewed in this light.  This is money that is available now so why not use it to immediately develop a Bank of Industries?

Jimnah Mbaru is the former Chairman, Nairobi Stock Exchange & Chairman, Dyer and Blair Investment Bank

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