This weekend I attended a dinner hosted by the Kenya@50 Planning Committee to invite the private sector to partner in the upcoming Kenya@50 events. The committee explained that the celebrations will not be a one-day affair but will run for 12 months – December this year, to December next year.
The committee also explained why the ‘Lion’ is the official ‘mascot’ of this effort. I learnt that it is because Kenyans have the same spirit as that of the ‘King of the Jungle’; strength, resilience and confidence, which is what we are celebrating at 50. Kenyans also, like the Lion, move together in a ‘pride’ to the extent that the Kenya we have today is the result of people working together in groups, cooperatives, ‘chamas’ or work-teams; all the way from the fight for independence.
I agree. During this dinner I learnt that the Kenya@50 celebrations start with a series of events that roll out this November and build up to the December 12 Jamhuri Day celebrations that I assume will be the actual official launch of the Kenya@50. The events focus on legacy projects, socio-economic projects, but also include several sports events, youth concerts and prayers.
My only concern is that Kenya@50 seems to be focusing on what should essentially be a ‘feel-good’ moment, towards the usual ‘hardware’ areas of our country i.e. the economy, development projects and infrastructure. Kenya is moving along pretty well in ‘nation-building’ (tangible hardware) projects; especially because President Uhuru inherited a pretty solid foundation from President Kibaki.
This means all we need to do to achieve our Vision 2030’s Economic Pillar is manage our costs, leverage the emerging economic opportunities, enhance the development projects already underway and strategically initiate new ones in weak areas of our economy. What worries me is that there is a high likelihood that we will achieve this Economic Pillar, but fail miserably on the other two pillars – Political and Social growth.
This is because we do not spend as much time thinking about ‘nation-hood-building’, as we spend on ‘nationbuilding’. Our nation-hood structures are impressive for an African country that is only 50 years old. We have made a mark in the world on ICT innovations, infrastructural development, education, healthcare, business and entrepreneurship. However, our nationhood- building (intangible software) structures like national cohesion, unity, patriotism, national pride, are really struggling.
This makes Kenya look good, without feeling as good. Kenya@50 is a terrific opportunity to positively affect this, if only the committee can have a paradigm-shift of their focus, from hardware to soft-ware legacy projects. The committee needs to realise that the structural goals they have set could still be achieved by the government and private sector even if we were not celebrating 50 years. What is special for this moment is the opportunity it gives us to spend the next 12 months establishing a ‘nation-hood-building’ legacy. I suggest that the
Kenya@50 Committee start by inviting county governments to arrange their own ‘Kenya@50 party’. The counties would then invite national leaders from various sectors, including politicians, to a key flagship event hosted by the governor and graced by the President. The advantage of Kenya@50 county celebrations is that everyone will participate in one of the 47 ‘parties’ over the next 12 months.
Our vibrant media will also bring each county’s party into our livingrooms, to ensure other Kenyans in the diaspora celebrate Kenya@50 through the eyes of each county, 47 times! The political unity it will call for at local and regional level will go a long way in building Kenya’s software.
We need to use Uhuru a lot more during these celebrations. By name, birth and upbringing Uhuru stands out from the crowd as a potential national unifying symbol. Kenya@50 is a terrific opportunity to use him to charm Kenyans across the political divide and urge them towards nation-hood. Kenyans love a good party and Kenya@50 should give us one. They could make the next 12 months look like the holidays rolled over from 2013 to December 2014.