By Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda, Nairobi-Kenya
I have been closely observing and doing some analysis on Nairobi Stock exchange lately and comparing it with trends in some of the other African markets and after consulting a good number of financial experts found there are great opportunities in it and African markets as well. Nonetheless countries like our neighbouring Uganda which looks economically promising have a very delicate future politically. President Museveni having already turned into a typical African despot (a story for another day) is a big cloud that darkens Uganda’s political dispensation into the future. But staying purely on Kenya’s political and economic trajectory, the country looks very promising but still has an albatross called political succession on its neck.
Most of foreign experts and investors that I had an opportunity to talk to, rate the very unpredictability of African politics as one of the biggest hindrance for greater investments in Africa. It is a big headache for business conglomerates in planning their business strategies in Africa. New and potential investors have it as a big hindrance in their attempt to make forays into the African business space. In a continent that has already seen a horrid political past not many would like to take chances. Those who have dared in the past have seen their fortunes grow in Africa but yet still some have been caught in quite nasty political developments in Africa. Kenya for instance is right now on the throes of an impending presidential succession and a complete transformation of its political map. With a new constitution in place (though requiring a lot to be done with urgency) the future looks more positive than it could have been with the old constitution.
However there is a big concern on the person to inherit the presidency and what his or her presidency would portend for Kenya and the region as well. Speaking with a cross-section of Kenya most do acknowledge tremendous changes that has occurred politically and economically during president Kibaki’s presidency after he took over leadership in December 2002. Most cite the rapid reforms in the economy, revival of then dying or dead industries, infrastructure development and widening democratic space. This plus the many social programmes and obviously the rebirth of the nation in a new constitutional dispensation are some of the things often cited by Kenyans as some very positive things that has happened during his presidency.
Kenya however is facing some uncertainty and this still rest on the politics. One often cited weakness in Kibaki’s presidency is that in as much as he created space for his ministers and civil servants to perform, people tended or still tends to take advantage of it. Kibaki created room for everybody to do his work but apparently people have taken it as a weakness or negatively exploited it. For instance implementation of the new constitution is being blamed on trusted senior government officials and the numerous wrangling between PNU and OPM partners.
Obviously there seems some people ready to take advantage or create vacuum to create advantages or to strongly position themselves to inherit the presidency by exploiting or creating loopholes. Hanging on the president cocktails are a number of his lieutenants and not least of them the vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka . They would cherish to inherit the presidency by having state advantages over their rivals. The Prime Minister Raila Odinga who looks to have the most of the grassroots work sewn up save for Central Kenya and lately Rift valley is viewed as a common enemy and most of the presidential contenders seem to push for their case for presidency playing a very hostile and anti Raila card which has inevitably crossed reason and created tribal feelings at a time this nation would better forestall the madness.
The ground in Kenya is quite fertile for any of the contenders who would be perceived to bring more positive transformation and revolution of the state to a more friendly reformed environment to spur investments, tame the many ills bedeviling the country and give the energetic, intelligent and very promising youths and women who have so much to offer the country. The two groups have already shown they have the mettle to transform the economy given an opportunity. The two groups main disadvantages lie in limited opportunities and access to resources such as land.
In the meantime there is a lot of dithering and alleged conspiracies especially in the implementation of the new constitution. One wonders when Kenyan leaders will learn to move in tandem with the needs of the public and needs of the state. Methinks the country would be positioning itself to take the advantages bestowed by nature, geography and the potentials of the East African countries. It would make sense if sorting out the implementation of the constitution is facilitated while busy engaging to ensure the economic integration of the East African economies which has lately expanded is given the right gear.
The writer is a Consultant and Researcher working for a Not for Profit Organisation with an office in Kenya covering the African region.