I once had a rather unnerving experience in London.
A young man of not more than 18 years rushed towards me at London Bridge Station and said he just wanted to say hello.
A bit weird, I thought. He informed me that he had just come off a lorry from Calais, in France, to England. (The Calais ‘jungle’ camp has since been closed.)
The young man said although he was in a rush, he still had to stop and say hello after seeing a familiar face in me. My jaw dropped.
I looked at him with bewilderment. I was really scared for him and still am. He seemed to know where he was going.
However, as he disappeared quickly into the crowd after our brief exchange, I gathered that he was from Eritrea.
Many people who dared to travel to Europe on the back of a lorry have ended up dead. The young Eritrean is among the lucky few.
There has been a spike in migrants’ deaths in lorries in Europe this decade.
In 2015, more than 70 migrants died in a refrigerated lorry in Austria. This year, 39 bodies were found in a lorry in Essex, England, having been trafficked across Europe.
According to the UNHCR, nearly 1,000 migrants had died at sea by October while attempting to reach Europe.
A majority of those who died in the Mediterranean are of African descent. The migrants, who make it to Libya from all parts of Africa, now face a serious humanitarian situation in the overcrowded camp as they wait for their turn to cross to Europe on inflatable dinghies that have become deathtraps at sea for many.
In 2017, the CNN reported how African migrants, mostly men, were auctioned in a slave market in the Libyan camp.
Despite the many challenges African migrants who have been victims of smuggling face, the continent is yet to have a comprehensive plan to address the problem.
Nigeria did attempt to rescue its nationals in Libya but many still attempt to return to Libya in order to reach Europe.
But who could blame them, with economies in Africa unable to offer employment opportunities to citizens?
Whilst the south-north migration used to be mainly fuelled by conflict and war that was synonymous with Africa, the main reason now is economic.
Corruption and impunity have played a big part in stagnating African economies, leading to influx of economic migrants to developed countries.
The saga surrounding the suspected Kenyan stowaway in the UK still goes on as the government continues being in denial over the security lapse at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
His plight is creating an indelible stain on our conscience as the country does very little to determine who he is despite fingerprints given to Kenyan authorities by London.
His body needs to be reunited with his family to offer them some form of closure.
The other important question that we need to ask is why young people are keen to leave the country.
Even siblings of presumably well-to-do individuals would rather find a way to live in the developed world than stay in their country to build it.
Conversation with random young people in Kenya tells you that the majority are disillusioned and think the grass is greener in the West.
That is why more and more young women move to the coast with the hope of finding wealthy foreign white men to rescue them from poverty.
Many more take their chances on people smugglers who lure them to the Middle East or Europe to their detriment.
Unbeknown to many who risk travelling abroad illegally, they find that the grass is not any greener there than at home.
Many end up in bondage, enslaved to the people smugglers as they work to repay the smugglers’ debt, accrued from the charges for trafficking them.
Others migrate to chase the lives depicted in foreign movies only to end up in concrete slums instead of the mansions they swam the seas to reach.
Those are the lucky ones. Many more end up homeless. Cases of migrants finding their way to Europe and dying in the streets from hunger and freezing temperatures have become far too common.
The call to empower the youth in Kenya is not just an empty one.
It is critical to make efforts to avert a humanitarian crisis that can easily befall young people willing to migrate for economic reasons. Empowering them would save them from preying traffickers.
Countries like Kenya can do a lot more not just for its youth but many young asylum seekers and refugees who are stateless.
By regularising the status of young refugees and asylum seekers, they stand to unlock the potential in young people from across Africa who have come to call Kenya their home. It may avert national security threats too.
Above, all the country needs to keep up the fight against corruption to safeguard the public funds so desperately required to create education and employment opportunities for young people.
Crucially, our political leaders need to think of how to build a stable and prosperous country for all.
Our wizards saw the Brave New World, but none saw coronavirus
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.
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.
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.
Stadiums progress welcome – Daily Nation
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.
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.
Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly
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.
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.
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.
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.