There is much talk of election politics in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report launched on 26th November 2019, but the report contains radical suggestions for Kenya to modernize and avert social and economic catastrophe.
The report was published by the BBI Taskforce which was formed to collect views from Kenyans and propose solutions. In the report, the BBI taskforce calls for revolution in politics, economics and in society. The taskforce warns that Kenya is at a critical point where failure to change could expose the country to ethnic strife, worsening corruption, vast numbers of unemployed and intense poverty.
“Our narrow personal and sectarian interests, particularly in the political class, have frustrated genuine transformative actions. We cannot go on in that way, not now. The risks to our country are too great,” says the BBI taskforce in its report.
The taskforce warns that a continued deterioration in the politics and economy of Kenya could encourage ambitious state and non-state actors in the region to launch attacks against the country.
“Our narrow personal and sectarian interests, particularly in the political class, have frustrated genuine transformative actions. We cannot go on in that way, not now. The risks to our country are too great,” -BBI REPORTThe BBI report makes wide ranging recommendations on reforming the political system, revitalizing the economy and remodeling Kenya’s culture through changes in the education system. Quite importantly, BBI calls for law that would ensure that national and county governments spend at least 70% of their budgets on development. Recurrent expenditure (salaries, fuel, electricity bills, office expenses) will be at a maximum 30% of national and county government budgets.
Kenyans will be taught about their rights and responsibilities to family, community and to the nation at large. Young people may be required to engage in a mandatory period of national service in order to inculcate the values of personal responsibility towards the growth of the country.
Reading the BBI report, one gets the impression that the authors of the report paid a lot of attention not just on getting Kenya out of stagnation, but also on growing the country into a 21st century African power house. A lot of thought was put into discussing the role of family values in shaping the coming generations of Kenyans. There is great emphasis on political power sharing and accommodation of all ethnic groups into the national decision making. It is unfortunate that the politics of the 2022 elections (three years away) are watering down what really are well-thought out sets of recommendations.
Key in BBI proposals is the definition of a national ethos. What is Kenya? What does it mean to be a Kenyan? Where are we going as Kenyans? This national ethos, once defined, should guide the country’s development plans for the next 100 years. “Our national ethos will emerge from a trusting expansion of our circles of brotherhood such that we regard every Kenyan, and our collective existence as a nation, to be worthy of our commitment and ownership,” reads the report.
Hand in hand with the definition of a national ethos is the teaching of ethical values throughout our lifetimes. This means ethics education at all levels of schools, at universities, religious institutions and in professional development courses. There should be a definition of the values that make up a national hero followed by the identification of individuals from Kenya’s history that lived up to those values. Such persons are to be the new role models in the national value system.
Still on the subject of history, the BBI taskforce calls for, “collaborative and professional efforts, by libraries, universities, museums and individual historians, to research, analyse and present a thorough and definitive Kenyan history to Kenyans and the world.” The initiative would focus on the past 1,000 years to include narratives from all communities. This proposal is important to remove distortions of history that were deliberately introduced during colonialism to show the African as inferior to the European.
To revitalize the Kenyan economy, the BBI taskforce calls for a 50 year growth plan with focus on industry and agriculture. The taskforce calls for the government to take steps that would make it easier to start and run businesses, including the lowering of taxes. Kenyans are to be encouraged to move from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture. BBI recommends that the National Intelligence Service lead investigations into cartels that use state agencies to undermine business rivals in order to monopolize trade. The taskforce proposes an end to unlimited funding of state corporations such as those in the sugar sector. In such cases, farmers would be encouraged to venture into more profitable crops.
The taskforce calls for the unification of regulatory agency tribunals into a National Administrative Appeals Tribunal under which the separate appeals tribunals (for example, water, energy, sports, and environment) may be managed. Similarly, due to complaints on inadequate public participation in government projects, BBI proposes that all public participation activities be conducted by a single entity to be known as the Office of the Public Participation Rapporteur.
On the use of state resources, the taskforce recommends that Parliament pass a law setting the minimum development expenditure by national and county governments at 70% of their budgets. The ‘70:30’ law is expected to resolve situations where some county governments are spending almost all their money on salaries leaving very little for development projects. The share of national government funds going into the counties would increase, but the focus of development is to be at the wards should the BBI report get adopted. Efforts would be made to remove duplication of functions between national and county governments so as to cut the costs of running government in line with the 70:30 principle.
The BBI taskforce did not go into detail regarding land matters in Kenya, but it called for digitization of all land records in the country. This would make land ownership transparent and therefore minimize corruption through “lost files.” It would also make it easier for the public to identify the boundaries of government land. Easier identification of land boundaries is among the key factors proposed that would encourage investors into commercial farming.
The proposed office of the Prime Minister seems to be attracting all the attention, but it is worth looking at the report as a whole in order to understand where Kenya should be heading as a country. As the taskforce warns, the country’s future will be in real danger if Kenyans choose to continue with politics and business as usual.
Godfrey Kimega is a communication professional with lots of experience in
media, civil society, government, and manufacturing. Currently residing in
Voi town, Godfrey has a keen interest in matters affecting communities generally
and weighs in various opinions on how best we could change the narrative positively.