There’s one story told about our national progression that’s prevalent in this country. A story I have faultily perpetuated too. Here is how it goes. In the 70s and 80s, our parents inherited a wobbly but functional economy where opportunities abounded. They could land good jobs with diplomas and certificates, buy land on the cheap, and advance in life rather ably because social mobility did exist.
Now this theory isn’t all that faulty. Here’s a slight retelling. Let’s say there existed 15,000 opportunities at the dawn of independence. The home guards who helped the British took up 5000 of those opportunities in the 60s; that’s the home guard privilege. So there still existed 10, 000 opportunities.
Then came the graduate privilege in the 70s. Anyone with any form of schooling rushed into the public and private sector as clerks, you administrators, low-level folks, to inherit the other 5000 opportunities. Later on, the remaining 5,000 opportunities got snapped up by the hard-nosed, the wheeler-dealers, the powerbrokers and gatekeepers in the 80s. By the early 1990s, the 15,000 opportunities were all but gone yet the population was growing and now exceeded the available slots.
Kibakinomics came in, in the early 2000s and progressively added a few more slots and for a moment those who missed out on opportunities in the 90s got to redeem themselves. The 2007 skirmishes, the 2008 drought and failed 2009 stimulus package pretty much sealed the tail-end of the Kibakinomics boom. Now anyone who cleared school after 2009 pretty much walked into an economy that had fast-shrinking economic slots.
Sky-high jobless rates among graduates, shrinking manufacturing, deteriorating fiscal and monetary policies and a general weakening of the political-economy have further messed up social mobility for the young. As I wrote in the myth of meritocracy it matters at what point one turns 18-23 years. Hard work, focus, and determination are good but mean little in a messed up context.
The 18-39 cluster are the most educated generation in Kenya right now. That provides a human dividend given that there’s a higher possibility a random person chosen from the cluster could prove to be manifestly competent. Also, this means that the overall skill pool available to the society is large and increases the probability of the economy growing from the cumulative use of this educated pool and skills.
Societies like ours tend to suffer from the curse of the prophet. Like the famed Titanic ship, the sailors are busy stopping the pistons and yelling, ‘iceberg!’ while changing course at the belly of the ship whilst the average citizen at the helm is listening to sax and flutes at the deck. Nations, just like ships, float along easily even when some compartments have taken in water, so the prophet yelling about icebergs sounds like a madman to the rendezvousing guests.
The society has grown increasingly complex and harder to comprehend for many, save for the specialists, to the perceptive, and the professionals. When economic and social prophets crunch their numbers, look down their crystal balls and can see disaster ten steps ahead, their role seems like a nuisance to those to whom current circumstances are nothing short of bliss. When Ciru Ngigi warns of internalized trauma and domestication of public violence it meant little amidst glowing national propaganda until spousal killings hit crisis levels. When Dr. David Ndii warned of impending fiscal and monetary mistakes at a point where the ship hadn’t taken in much water, he was seen as a traitor by some and a rebel without a cause by others. When Dr. Wandia Njoya warned of the perils of Bantu education christened as Competency-Based Curriculum we ignored until it’s too late and the demands pile on the frustrated parents.
Let me stick to the business environment for a moment: our fiscal indiscipline, mega-infrastructure binge, and unbelievable looting, unchecked have inevitably weakened the economy unleashing widespread business closure and loss of income.
There are a number of ways this could go for the younger generation. Scenario one involves the hand of Providence where we get a good leader that turns around this ship. Hallelujah!
Secondly, we might have to deal with ten years of more Jubilee (God forbid) and emerge in our 40s and 50s with sketchy CVs, few skills and little wealth to show for it. This carries numerous unintended consequences on mental health, marital prospects, family dynamics, and social stability.
Scenario three, the current colonial state could implode in a peacetime process unleashing a chaotic transition that hopefully ushers in long term changes to the economy and society forcing a reorganization of the economy and expands opportunities.
Scenario four, the 18-39 cluster are the most educated generation in Kenya right now. That provides a human dividend given that there’s a higher possibility a random person chosen from the cluster could prove to be manifestly competent. Also, this means that the overall skill pool available to the society is large and increases the probability of the economy growing from the cumulative use of this educated pool and skills.
On the other hand, if the Jubilee scenario persists, then lots of us will emerge in our 40s and 50s versatile and with relatively less wealth and with little possibility of retirement.
If you are in business you might want to diversify to markets across the border. Their economies aren’t as messy as ours, at least in the short run. Business is sales, and securing expanding markets across the border will keep your firm going in the short to medium term.
He was at the KICC and saw what the powers-that-be are capable of. He knew that if he’s to ever ascend to the presidency he’ll have to match them pound for pound. They’ve had a 50-year stealing head-start on him. As an outsider, his shortest route to a massive financial war chest has been the only way it is done in Kenya. Otherwise, the presidency is out of the question. He comes across as ruthless, but stupid he is not. Assuming he clinches the seat, he might be a different kind of disaster from his boss. Picture a corrupt, illiberal, competent presidency like Kenyatta I, as opposed to a liberal, competent, corrupt Kibaki presidency or an illiberal, corrupt, incompetent Moi’s presidency.
Either way whoever takes up the current presidency will inherit a broke government mired in strong economic headwinds. Given the current trajectory, it’ll get worse before it gets better. What are our options as millennials? Staying sober in an effed-up economy as we wait for a turnaround later.
One, go to Nyayo house secure a passport and flee abroad for a few years. There’s so much violent nationalism and xenophobia out there but still, pockets of sobriety exist especially the Far East, in the greater East Africa or parts of the Middle East. Go out there, prosper, and wait for the eye of the storm to pass then pop back up later. There’s no guarantee of progress abroad, though such sojourn to functional societies often offers relatively higher social mobility than the Kenyan economy.
Two, get in the government and racquet. That’s much harder though given there’s almost nothing left to loot except for those at the very top of the food chain. Consultancies, residencies, tenders, and deals are the stock in trade of a thriving economy. Given the falling M1 money circulation there’s little to go round.
Three, if you are in business you might want to diversify to markets across the border. Their economies aren’t as messy as ours, at least in the short run. Business is sales, and securing expanding markets across the border will keep your firm going in the short to medium term.
Four, one can scale down lifestyle, shore up your savings and liquidity, get rid of easily liquidatable assets, and play the long game as regards personal finances. There’s no easy way out for the treasury given that the SGR loan will kick in later on this year to worsen an already train-wreck debt situation.
Five, the possibility of a referendum, Census and the coming general election will shore up money circulation-temporarily though-in ways that improve trade for a short while. The possibility of having all 3 will have resultant blips and upticks in economic activities and who knows, the money might move around.
In the medium to long term, though we’ll need to fix this political economy, corruption has to be reigned in, big man politics curtailed, our agriculture systems overhauled, capital gains tax tripled, money laundering fixed and the robust pro-SME policies unveiled.