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Let’s get out of Sonko personality cult model and build our Nairobi

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ROBERT SHAW

By ROBERT SHAW
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As the dust settles on the Friday Mike Mbuvi Sonko arrest saga, it is timely and necessary for Nairobians to look at the way forward options for their city.

Nairobi has increased in population by 50 per cent in just 10 years to 4.5 million people. If you add metropolitan Nairobi, the figure gets to 6.5 million.

The city is not just the capital of Kenya and the heartbeat of the country. It is the regional hub and epicentre of eastern Africa and beyond.

Regional hub business is a large driver of our economy and so what happens — or does not happen — in Nairobi is critical to the country and region.

When one walks around Nairobi County offices, one does not get the feeling that this is a serious and working devolved government.

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It is a labyrinth of offices and assorted spaces replete with dozens of desks and chairs. The best way to find out the number of people working in any one office is not to count the heads but the jackets and handbags on the chairs.

It all works but in a fashion and one gets the impression that despite the place being kept together by a dedicated few, it is only ambling along.

As to whether it is living up to or anywhere near its mandate, one only has to look around the city to see that it is work in progress but has a long way to go. It is equivalent to a fairly ancient vehicle chugging at 40kph where most are cruising at twice that speed.

That is the key to the Nairobi of the future. If we are not careful, it and the country will lose out.

First, there is the transition. Technically speaking, Sonko must step aside now that he has been charged. If he does not, the Ferdinand Waititu ruling given by Justice Ngugi is likely to be used to ensure he does.

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Then the County Assembly Speaker is likely to be the acting governor since there is no deputy. Fresh elections are likely to be called early next year. There could be some resistance to this avenue but it would be in the best interest of Nairobi and the country.

Nairobi County needs a combination of actions if it is to leap over this large hurdle and any ensuing ones.

One that is being muted is that the government appoints Nairobi County Commission for a set period. Such commissions have a mixed history and are also vulnerable to political manipulation.

It would also fly in the face of the devolution principle.

What would be important and helpful at this juncture is for the national government to appoint a commission of inquiry into the way forward for Nairobi.

Its terms of reference would involve examining major challenges facing the county administration and how to overcome them.

One is almost certain to be its weak administrative capacity and how to build and augment that expeditiously since Nairobi is growing by around four per cent annually.

A related one would be an audit of its core functions and how they can be improved. The audit should be categorised into priorities.

The issue of building or maximising its revenue base has to be addressed.

For example, it is clear that the county could be collecting a lot more money without even raising its taxes and levies but by improving capacity and efficiency. Some estimate that money collected from existing taxes could be doubled.

Considering its importance, should the national government be contributing more?

Should the county be subjected to more devolution to improve services?

Such a commission of inquiry could give a welcome template to future Nairobi City County administrators.

In short, let us get out of the Sonko personality cult mode, put it behind us and work on the Nairobi County we want and deserve.

Let us get back to the institution and how to resurrect, repair and build it so that Nairobi County can move into a faster lane and its citizens receive the services they pay for.

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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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