As I usher a new year into my life, I am both happy and optimistic of the future but also saddened by current state of affairs in many parts of the world.
As I reflect back to my childhood days, I am very optimistic about the future. When I was growing up in rural western Kenya, my village had mixed fortunes- there was no electricity and many people used kerosene for lighting, my school did not have enough classrooms and we sat on a dusty floor or under a tree in my earlier years of schooling, many people lived in mud grass thatched houses, health facilities were far away, early marriages were rampant, the village was inhabited mostly by people from one clan, very few had television sets, but, many youth were engaged in economic activities, many households owned larger pieces of land, many families had plenty to eat, the main tarmac road was in a good state. Today, the village remains with mixed fortunes- electricity in now in the local market and passes the main road even through many people nearby are not connected, most schools have brick wall classes, health centers are nearby even though they are ill equipped with few personnel and medicines, more young people are joining college, early marriages have reduced, more people are living in permanent houses or semi-permanent houses (iron sheet roof and mud walls), the village has mixed ethnic tribes. However, many people in the village remain poor, many people do not have access to adequate food, land has been sub divided into small unproductive parcels, girls are still dropping out of school, main tarmac road is in bad state, and many youth are idle and unemployed.
In Kenya, a lot of of positive progress has been happening. This week the World Bank forecast Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product to grow by over 6% this year, major roads are being constructed, airports are being expanded, Kenya enacted a progressive constitution that guarantees human rights and attempts to build institutions of governance, devolution of resources into counties is happening, free primary education that enhanced enrollment, rapid growth of telecommunications sector, a steady rise in the securities and bonds market, continued growth in profits for major corporates, and overall increase in the middle class. However, I am continually brought to tears with many negatives that shouldn’t be happening 52 years after independence. Some parts of Kenya, especially Northern Kenya, have been neglected for years- almost every week people are killed in these areas and the government is doing nothing. Unemployment is at its all time high. Cities are unplanned, with indecent housing, and emergency of more slums. Nairobi, one of the fastest growing cities in the world experiences huge traffic jams and does not have efficient mass public transport system. Poverty remains rampant throughout the country – various sources including government data indicate that over 40% of the population cannot afford basic needs. A few days ago, the government announced that over 1.4 million people face starvation. Many public health facilities remain in dilapidated state without modern equipment and enough personnel. Education sector is in a crisis- public schools don’t have enough teachers, middle level colleges are vanishing, many universities channel out half baked graduates mostly in humanities, universities do not carry out enough research, teachers and university professors are under paid, and the curriculum and testing methods are outdated. Affordable housing remains an issue with few people owning homes. Tourism has stagnated due to insecurity. Leadership is being auctioned to the highest bidder. Impunity is usual- ‘the big fish’ can do anything and get away with it, but ordinary citizens are victimized even for the smallest of mistakes. Mega corruption has become a norm and a never healing disease. Institutions that can investigate corruption are all in shambles- the police, Parliament, Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission are all facing corruption related questions. From Goldenberg, to Anglo-leasing, to Triton Scandal, to Hustler’s Jet, to Chicken gate, to Rubbergate, all we hear is the the president promising action. Those who do good are never recognized but those who steal public funds are worshiped and rewarded. Kenya is on the brink of greatness, if only our leadership can be be transparent and focused, and young people are supported to develop and enhance great ideas.
In most African countries, the story is the same as Kenya, economies are growing fast, but majority of populations remain poor. The African Union (A.U.) has attempted to remain relevant over the past several years even though it is still heavily funded by non African states. African governments have pledged to increase funding to agriculture, have invested in education and research through Pan African University, have spearheaded peace and reconciliation efforts in countries such as Ivory Coast, Central African Republic, Sudan, Madagascar among others. Regional bodies such as East African Cooperation are moving towards integrating trade, infrastructure and investment opportunities. Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have successfully fought Ebola over the past few months. African leaders under A.U. have united to discuss issues such as International criminal Court but have failed to allow free movement of goods and people, promote trade between African countries and develop actionable plans to reduce the high youth unemployment in almost all African countries. In South Africa, over 20 years after independence, the economic divide remains extremely high, unemployment is a major problem, despite vast mineral resources and the threat of racism and xenophobia remains. Ghana has experienced stead rise in social economic status but is facing high inflation that is threatening to collapse the nation’s fabric. Rwanda has been an example to several countries but there is growing uncertainty over President Kagame’s exit. Angola is among the most expensive countries in the world with high end properties and lifestyle but majority of its population remains in low income levels. Boko Haram and Al Shabab remain major threats to any meaningful development and A.U. has done little to help the situation. I remain hopefully that Africa is headed to the right direction, but it will depend entirely on new progressive leadership and more pressure from citizens towards there leaders.
On a global stage, the financial meltdown meant more focus to emerging economies while climate change is threatening to disrupt many positive developments. Europe has been recovering steadily under leadership of countries such as Germany but challenges of lack of meaningful employment remains high. Turkey is emerging as a major player in the political and economic affairs in the region due to its economic growth and its location. China, India and few other Asian countries continue to experience growth even though poverty remains a problem. China is poised to be the biggest economy in the world soon but remains with the most poor people. Air pollution in major Chinese cities is at an all time high but China is committing to invest more in greener technologies. Mexico has seen a steady increase in income levels for the middle class and number of drug related deaths has decreased. In Brazil, the fast growth that saw millions of people move from poverty to middle class in the past decade has slowed down. Argentina is emerging as another major player in South American region due to its steady social economic growth in the past few years. The United States has seen economic recovery under President Obama, but has seen increased focus on racial discrimination, and greater economic inequality. The strong emergence of ISIL is a major global problem- and in my view it is poised to be the replacement of Al Qaeda. Just recently, Boko Haram pledged to work with ISIL. Thousands of people have been killed in Syria due to a mismanaged attempt to change political and economic status. The conflict between Israel and Palestine remains far from over- Israel continues to occupy Palestinian land, even as Hamas and other armed groups continue to shell rockets to Israel people. A two state solution is the only viable answer. The United Nations still gives more priority to its major funders. The UN security council should be reconstituted and have permanent members with veto powers from all continents. I am excited that, with technology and access to information, millennials will continue to break down boundaries, collaborate and create new exciting opportunities across the world.
On a personal level, I am grateful for the support and belief I continue to receive from people around the world, my family and my friends. I am always humbled that I can travel in many new places around the world and I meet people who welcome me with open arms. In deed I have learned that resilience and hard-work, even in the midst of criticism are crucial to help you focus on the bigger goals you set for yourself. As I continue to take take risks, and dive into paths that seem unknown to many, I have learned that, ‘ a fan will always cheer, advice and criticize, but may never be a good player himself or herself ‘ . I accept both wins and defeats with both arms.