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Beyond Covid-19: Building a better Kenya

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By Rogers Dhliwayo

By Julius Chokerah

Six months after Chinese scientists notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of a new virus that caused deadly pneumonia, Covid-19—as the disease was later dubbed —has spread to almost every country around the world. Globally, cases have reached more than 14 million and the pandemic has killed close to 600,000 people. As of July 17, Kenya has confirmed 12,062 cases and 222 deaths.

Following the first confirmed case on March 13, the government moved swiftly to curb the spread of the pandemic through a number of measures. However, four months after the detection of the first case, the economic impact of the pandemic is already being felt. Treasury has lowered its 2020 growth forecast from 6.2 per cent to 2.5 per cent. Among the key sectors mostly affected are aviation, hospitality, tourism, and horticulture. Generally, the export sector, has been adversely affected.

The livelihoods of roughly 14.3 million vulnerable Kenyans have been affected by the pandemic.  About 84 per cent of Kenyans are employed in the informal sector and movement restrictions have affected their income generation, which has reduced their ability to meet basic needs. Many went into the crisis without significant savings or liquid assets and have few personal assets to fall back on. The 36 per cent of Kenyans that live below the poverty line are disproportionately affected by decreases in income, more so for women.

The closure of borders has affected trade, including disruptions to the steady supply of staple foods from Uganda and Tanzania. The effects of the pandemic have strained an agriculture sector which was already suffering from locust invasion, raising food shortages concerns, particularly relating to maize, which is Kenya’s staple food.

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Covid-19 will impact learning, especially for poor girls and boys because despite the school curriculum having been adapted for distance learning, underprivileged children could not afford internet and other tools needed to stay connected.

The pandemic reminds everyone, in the starkest way possible, of the price to pay for weaknesses in health systems, social protection programmes, public services and economic growth that is not inclusive enough and fails to eradicate poverty quickly enough. It also shows the world the risks to humankind created by its own reckless exploitation of natural resources, including wildlife.

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The pandemic is laying bare the way in which the formal economy has been sustained on the back of an informal economy and invisible and unpaid care labour.

As Kenya responds to the spread and impact of the coronavirus, it has the choice to rapidly go back to the old economy and societal model or chart a path forward. Building forward better would embrace a fair and sustainable transition to a new social contract, capable of avoiding, mitigating, withstanding and recovering from such extreme crises in the future.

Building a better, post-pandemic future for Kenya will require environmental, social and economic interventions that lead to greater resilience. Recovery efforts need to accelerate, rather than undermine decarbonisation and protection of the country’s natural capital.

A clear recovery path that recognises the role that environmental and natural capital will play, is critical so that everyone in Kenya can be whatever they aspire to be in life. Attention must also be paid to peace, good governance, gender equality and empowerment as well as the protection and promotion of human rights for all.

Rogers Dhliwayo is an Economics Advisor at the UNDP Kenya Country Office and Julius Chokerah is a Development Coordination Officer/Economist at the United Nations Resident Coordinators’ Office, Kenya. Both authors provide policy advisory services to UNDP programme in Kenya.

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Our wizards saw the Brave New World, but none saw coronavirus

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By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

Last year in December, Nation Media Group held its first Kusi Ideas Festival in Kigali. The festival tried to peer ahead the next 60 years in Africa.

There were many Brave New World ideas about how that future might look like, and also the perils that progress almost always brings. Needless to say, no one saw Covid-19 coming.

A futurist curtain-raiser in The EastAfrican, titled Africa in 2079, came close to outlining a mirror universe to the one Covid-19 is bequeathing us.

Between London, Zimbabwe, and the corners of Africa where Econet’s fibre optic network reaches, Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chairman of Econet Wireless and former chair of the board of AGRA wrote:

“I recently invested in a tech start-up that has created an Uber-like platform for tractors, enabling farmers to link up with a central database and order a tractor via SMS…freeing the farmer from the drudgery of the hoe. This service is particularly valued by women farmers, enabling them to circumvent social norms that might otherwise hamper their ability to hire a tractor.” From wherever we are hiding from the virus, unable to roam the farm, Uber farming could be the new way a lot of our food is produced.

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From Tanzania, Aidan Eyakuze, who is executive director of Twaweza East Africa and has been confined in-country as an elegant prisoner for nearly two years because of his love of inconvenient data, painted an intoxicating but strange utopian-dystopian picture of Africa at the end the century.

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By 2079, he foresaw the “vast majority of Africans earn their living through multiple micro-tasking (MMTs) ever since every ”job” was unbundled into its component tasks…leaving only those unbundled micro-tasks needing social intelligence, creativity or dexterity to be done by people. All ”taskers” are always-on private contractors who bid relentlessly for the privilege of tasking.

Incomes are kept low by the relative scarcity of tasks requiring the human touch.

“The unrelenting competition for tasks is both stressful and socially divisive — you are competing against everyone all the time…even marriages have renewable term limits, ‘in case someone better comes along.’” With work-from-home regimes, the former has come 78 years earlier.

Indeed, even for the latter, more people now probably think being cooped up with the same man or woman in the house “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part,” is a very archaic model.

Between Italy and Kenya, the Society for International Development’s Arthur Muliro, peered into a what a truly borderless Africa might look. Among others, his gaze settled on, of all places, Libya.

“Libya…was now welcoming other Africans and allowing them to settle. The peace deal that had come after a decade of civil war was holding and there was new optimism, in part boosted by the arrival and expansion of new migrant groups who had settled there and were helping rebuild their adopted country.”

On a close re-reading, turns out Aidan hinted that Turkey, which jumped in the Libyan fray as the coronavirus made its way out of Wuhan, might have something to do with it.

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Stadiums progress welcome – Daily Nation

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By EDITORIAL

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Last week, the Sports ministry’s top officials, led by Chief Administrative Secretary Hassan Noor Hassan and Principal Secretary Joe Okudo traversed the country to access the ongoing construction of stadiums.

President Uhuru Kenyatta also made an impromptu tour of the Nyayo National Stadium to ensure that all is well besides giving Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed full support. That has made sure that renovation works resume at all the stadiums — including Kasarani, Nyayo, Kipchoge Keino, Kamariny and Wote — and that everything is running on schedule.

Upon completion of some of these arenas, the country will have positioned itself to host major world events, especially in football, athletics and basketball. The ministry must, therefore, ensure that, while it has given contractors an ultimatum to finish their work, it also insists on quality delivery.

But there are concerns about work at county stadiums, especially in Mombasa, where those who redesigned the arena have done away with the internationally approved running track.

The new stadium has been designed for football only hence won’t host any track and field events. The four lane track will only be for warm up and this has raised eyebrows.

Mombasa County Chief Sports Officer Innocent Mugabe said Bububu grounds in Likoni and Kenya Ports Authority’s Mbaraki Sports Club will be upgraded for sports use. Mombasa being at low altitude, it is suitable for staging major World Athletics events, having staged the 2007 World Cross Country Championships.

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Kenya is bidding to host the 2025 World Championships in Athletics and Mombasa can easily be the venue with a good stadium in place. There is still time to build a county stadium.

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Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly

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By EDITORIAL

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When Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha announced a fortnight ago the postponement of school reopening to January next year, he gave an exception. Universities, teacher training colleges and technical training institutions were directed to be ready to reopen in September.

Consequently, they were asked to put in place safety measures prescribed by the Health ministry, including reorganising classrooms and hostels to ensure social distancing. Just a month to the planned reopening, are those institutions really prepared?

In the past few days, Prof Magoha has convened meetings with the heads of the institutions to plan for the reopening and visiting the colleges to assess their preparedness. Preliminary reports from these engagements indicate that just a few institutions are ready.

POOR STATE

At the university level, so far, only Strathmore has been declared ready for reopening. Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly

For teachers’ colleges, three — Murang’a, Kibabii and Kericho — have met the threshold. Assessment is ongoing for the technical training institutions.

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But the broad observation is that most of the institutions are not ready. Though not surprising, most of them are ordinarily in poor state and Covid-19 has just exposed them. Beyond the situation, long-term actions are required to revamp and revitalise them.

Reopening the colleges in September will be the starting point for relaxing restrictions in the education sector. The reason for beginning with colleges is that they have mature students who understand the health protocols and can, therefore, take care of themselves and minimise infections. Their experience would then inform plans for reopening primary and secondary schools.

REPEAT CLASSES

Closure of schools and colleges has dealt a huge blow to education. Learners in schools have lost a whole year and have to repeat classes next year. This comes with high social, economic and psychological. Indeed, this is the first time in history that schools are being closed for a year.

The last time the education sector suffered most was in 1982, when, following an abortive coup, the University of Nairobi and then-Kenyatta University College were closed for nine months. That created a major backlog and that took five years to clear. This is the reason steps should be taken at the earliest opportunity to mitigate the damage.

The challenge, therefore, is for the colleges to work on those health protocols to prepare for reopening. All other sectors, such as transport and tourism, are reopening and, therefore, colleges have no reason to lag behind. We ask the management of the institutions to expedite the required processes and get ready for reopening in September as directed.

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