Being an African country can be very tough in marketing yourself in the global market place. It is not being easy as an African to market your credibility in knowledge, skills and credibility globally. It is not easy as an African country to market your product credibility in the globe. Not unless if you have raw materials of a global scarcity and highly valued resource like precious minerals and oil, anything else African tend to be viewed with a lot of suspicion. This is informed by many years of African political, economic and social subjugation by most of the rest of the world. It is also informed by the sorry state of governance of Africa after the countries were granted political independence by their European colonial masters. In a nutshell Africa has seen the lowest of humanity life stretching social, economic and political conditions for eons.
Come the mid 20th century. After undergoing a lot of societal transformation which included the horrors of slave trade, scramble and partition into various states and eventually colonialism, most of the African states started gaining their independence. This turned another chapter in African society. To start with most of the African countries squandered their new found independence to create very authoritarian states led by political demagogues. Despite the vast minerals and other natural resources most of the opportunities in Africa were largely squandered. Other countries with heavy endowment in minerals and natural resources like the two nations named Congo (viz. Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo formerly Zaire) sank into immediate governance monstrosity, chaos or civil war. The battle of Western versus the Eastern powers chaotically showed up in Congo which led to assassination of the Communist leaning Patrice Lumumba.
Subsequently a smart but sly Mobutu came to power to restore order with the help of Western powers. Obviously the main focus was the vast resources in Congo, Mobutu turned then renamed Zaire into personal property. The mess which Mobutu created in Congo DRC is well documented. The Congolese up to now are struggling to create order.
The other Congo did not fare better. Though less prone to chaos it has been and is still led under a very kleptocratic directionless regime.
Many other African countries were us unlucky or worse than the Congo’s.
This context of unstable and poorly run countries strode the African continent, making it an eyesore in the globe. But with the cold war between West and East coming to an end in late 1980’s the African dictators started getting adversely exposed. With rapid changes in Eastern Europe, Africa was not to be left behind. Several African countries started adopting political pluralism. The wind of democratic reforms started blowing in late 1980’s as communism collapsed in Eastern Europe and demise of the USSR. Kenya was among the African states to experience the political turn around events of the era. Some of the African countries starting with Zambia did at the same time show their leaders the door. In Kenya this did not happen thanks to the tribal divisiveness in Kenya and its largely tribal politics.
But Kenya has however remained different over the political eons since independence. It has seen so many changes in her politics. The first president had his own style of leadership, Moi came and led differently and with multiparty coming to the fore in the middle of Moi’s leadership so many changes occurred leading to an overhaul of the old order in 2002 with the coming of Kibaki and NARC to power.
During Kibaki era so much has changed. His government faced a defeat in a referendum, to change the constitution in 2005 and there have been so many changes in political governance and freedom during his reign. The 2007 general election and the subsequent disputed presidential poll leading to violence shook Kenya to the core. This gave birth to so many other reforms subsequently that today Kenya has one of the most progressive constitution after the successful review, referendum and promulgation conducted in 2010.
Kenya despite having not discovered oil in its territory so far has one of the progressive economies in Africa. It is one of the promising non oil economies in Africa together with South Africa. Partly South Africa has precious commodities like minerals leaving Kenya to be purely non oil, non precious minerals progressive economy in Africa.
Her economy is facing a lot of challenges including unstable currency and inflation but you can bet soon this will give birth to one of the most innovative economies in the world. With governance structures improved the nation is on path to economic glory. The challenge in Africa has been governance and this is what has denied their nations great opportunities. Kenya has done well to address this at this stage. It promises to woo the world of investments in a big way. The only matter that should boggle minds now is who take the mantle after Kibaki. He or she need to be the man who will be too economic and reform minded. The nation cannot afford a populist or a joker in leadership. The nation is in a critical economic transitionary period.
The demographics are already showing that Kenya need to be growing economically very fast if at all it has to manage to keep the ballooning population well catered for, otherwise societal upheavals will follow. But this East African nation has all the promises of an economic giant in the making.
Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda
The writer is a Consultant and Researcher working for a Not for Profit Organisation with an office in Kenya covering the African region.