Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rebuttal: 14 seater Matatus should be phased out

When someone like Kwame argues against something I hold dearly, most of the time I end up changing position because he always makes a strong case. So when I recently saw an article he had written arguing pro government decision to revoke the ban on registration of 14 seater matatus, I was intellectually excited; I could not wait to delve in and read his argument. I had not seen anyone in the mainstream media argue this direction, everyone was picking on the president for making a bad choice, albeit popular in some quarters.

I was therefore anxious for someone to argue contrary and actually make sense. So when I saw Kwame’s article I jumped in eager to know his point of view. Three paragraphs Later, I was still waiting for Mr. kwame to make a convincing point,... any sort of point. I have never been more disappointed! Frustrated, I turned to twitter and the following transpired( I think I need to apologize);

  1.  That the justification for enacting the policy was weak-What exactly was weak? He never said
  2. Asset value of the existing vehicle got eroded( or would be eroded)
  3. Public service vehicles registered in the country form only four percent of the total registered vehicles.-I think to Mr. Kwame this is an insignificant value which does not significantly impact on the traffic )
  4.  Choosing to only ban the 14 seater vans was a biased move

And what exactly is my argument;

First of all, I have to admit I do not have empirical evidence as to whether the 14 seaters significantly impact on the traffic or not. What I have however, is my experience as a daily commuter on these Nairobi streets (I don’t own a car) and common knowledge that one bus carrying an equivalent of three Nissans (or their about) would occupy less space, hence less congestion in the long run.

Secondly, there is no policy (with direct implications on the economy) that would favor everyone with the same weight. Be it subsidies, regulations or direct monetary policies, someone somewhere would definitely be hurt. So When Mr. Kwame argues about how owners of the vehicle were being implicated negatively, I thought that was a bit farfetched.

Thirdly, I am currently working on the National Green Economy strategy (Ps. I have been at an event where Mr. Kwame was speaking on this topic), and one of our key aims is to see the transport sector made more efficient, less polluting and well regulated. Having numerous low capacity vehicles on our streets is explicitly bad for us. The county government of Nairobi is already planning on setting up MRTs, it would therefore be counterproductive to encourage small vans on our highways with such a vision.

I loved the fact that the president revoked the ban on Matatu graphiti, that was an impressive move worth my accolades. I am however strongly against the revoking of the ban on registration of small vans, it does not align itself with the vision of this country.

Congestion, increased emissions, difficulty regulating and most of all their poor design ( quite uncomfortable) are the main reasons I am against the revocation of this policy. The president was himself on that particular day not using a 14 seater, he used on of the bigger (25+) matatus.?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Green Economy strategy Kenya-Sneak Peak

This more of an executive brief...the type you write for government officials and bigwigs who don't have a lot of time in their hand. I have basically reduced an 87 pager into a two pager...

The Overall Goal of the Kenyan Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan (GESIP) is to ensure Green Economy aspects are mainstreamed(I dont really get this word...) into economic, resource and social development. It is premised on importance and value that comes with integrating green aspects into our macro and micro economic engagements through promotion of new markets, increasing resource efficiency, and balancing of systemic risks and threats. The plan has four inherently connected objectives that touch on strengthening the human and natural environment, they include; ensuring the country develops the needed infrastructural base for a low carbon development pathway, sustainable management of natural resources for food security, building resilience against the impacts of climate change and managing resources efficiently for them to contribute to development of the country.

The strategy makes a case for a green economy for both the global and local scene while carefully outlining its imperatives, including, but not limited to impacts of high population growth, traditional economic development patterns, unsustainable consumption patterns, and ineffective technology transfer. It looks at the Environmental, Economic and Social Opportunities that will exist if we chose the Green Economy model; these have been highlighted as increased savings, job creation, reduction of environmental damage, and enhanced social and gender equity.  It also takes an analytic look at the existing national policy and strategic frameworks that can serve as a basis of a Kenyan Green Economy.

This plan does not shy away from highlighting the barriers that the plan will face, ranging from financial, technological to regulatory. They include:               
1.       Regulatory framework is not currently designed to attract green investments.
2.       Few standards for green technologies, goods or services
3.      Economic policy framework in Kenya needs to account for the intrinsic value of its natural resources.   
4.      lack of knowledge regarding the costs and performance characteristics of available green technologies
5.      Need for increased funding to effect the transition to a green economy

The strategy pays special recognition to the building blocks of a green growth strategy identified earlier on to include Creation with Less Resources & Less Pollution, harnessing Renewable Energy sources and reducing Fossil Fuel use, and investing in Natural Capital & Ecosystem Services. These building blocks played a major role in the development of the four Major Focus Areas( herein reffered to as pillars) of the GESIP which form the main body of the plan; these four pillars are critically analyzed with a special focus on the current policy framework relevant to them as well as outlining future actions plans of the country.
They include:

 sustainable infrastructure development:  
Key sectors being looked at under this pillar include Energy which has a National Energy Policy 2012, the Feed-in-Tariffs (FiT) policy for wind, biomass, small hydro, geothermal, biogas and solar; Transport sector that has the Roads 2000 programme; Building and manufacturing; water/ sanitation/irrigation which has National Water Services Strategy (2007-2015), National Irrigation Policy and Legal Framework-under development and public health.

Natural resource management
The GESIP identifies key sectors here as agriculture, forestry, water resource management, fisheries, land use, fossil fuel extraction and mining. It also suggests several measures that would be essential in the green economy scenario, these include; promotion of Agro-forestry, sustainable water management, education and capacity building, addressing livestock scenario in the ASAls and investing and promotion of Research and Development.

Building resilience to climate change
It has looked at three key components of resilience building; Human capital, Gender Equity (National Gender and Development Policy), Disaster Risk Management (National Policy for Disaster Management), Education and Ecosystems Management.

Promoting resource efficiency-
This is mainly about avoiding waste and maximizing the benefits of resources. Key sectors include Manufacturing and Industry-National Industrialization Policy Framework (2012-2030), Agriculture -Agricultural Sector Coordination Unit (ASCU), The Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (ASDS) 2010-2020, mining (Mining and Mineral Policy) tourism and buildings-National Urban Development Policy (NUDP)

The document also outlines an implementation plan whose main components have been identified as mainstreaming green economy principles in government decision making process and actions, strengthening enabling conditions through fiscal instruments, regulations and standards, strong and well coordinated institutional mechanisms, innovative financing approaches and promoting buy-in from all relevant stakeholders.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Voices for youth Vs Voices of Youth

Should we participate for the sake of participation or should it be because we have something very key to say? Are the issues we are raising any different from what the older generation is raising? Do we need to be involved if what we are raising similar to what is being raised by them?

The recent clamor for youth participation can almost be compared to the fight for women involvement in influencing development during the 19th century. Young people are coming out in large numbers with demands of being engaged, being consulted and most of all being granted opportunities to influence the decision making process. We are aggressively calling on our leaders to listen to our views on the various aspects of development.

 Does this mean we do not trust our leaders, our parents and our community elders to curve out a good future for us, or that we do not think they are in a position to speak on our issues on our behalf?  
Among the arguments we are putting forward to justify our need for involvement is that we come bearing fresh ideas. We have an honest desire to see change since we are at an age where idealism means so much for us. Our lifestyles also dispose us to creativity and we are therefore very likely to provide innovative approaches to tackling old problems. Such thinking would probably be countered by the argument that experience is much more important and that we have not been through enough to discern what really matters in development. That as youth we are just forcing to be included when in real sense all the knowledge we have has been impacted on us by them, the older generation,  through mentorship as well as in school. Experience they say is the best teacher and that although the new broom might sweep better, the old broom knows all the corners; and that youth is no guarantee for innovation.

Do fresh ideas and innovativeness trump experience? 

We also say that the mere fact that we are huge in numbers give us enough leverage to champion for space in the negotiating table. Africa for instance is experiencing a youth bulge and according to UNFPA 43% of the world’s population is below 25. As much as this might be true, you realize that development is no democracy; development is about results, effectiveness and efficiency.  I personally think using our numbers is not a basis for reasonable argument; I feel like this might set precedence for abuse of minority.

But most of all we are fond of arguing based on the premise that since we are young, the future automatically belongs to us and therefore we should be involved in planning for it. Well as much as their might be some truth in this statement, we will still need to offer credible reasons as to what value we are going to offer and that we actually understand issues. This argument also totally shows our lack of trust in our elders.

You will agree that some of the issues we raise to justify our need for participation are not very credible. Personally, I feel the whole need for us youth to be engaged and to be allowed to express our own issues is purely because we are growing up at a time that has not been experienced by anyone before.  Our elders have no idea how it is to be young in this day and age. We know so much about the present social challenges that our leaders and policy makers might have no idea about; this puts us at a position where we are able to easily offer solutions. I am also advocating for arguments based on critical points and tested knowledge that are actually aimed at improving the present day challenges. 

Finally, there is an issue that has been of concern to me for a while now; why are youth not very vocal when it comes to issues of security. Why are we so numb on the Syrian issues, the recent Iran nuclear discussions, the North Koreas threats, the Central African intervention mechanisms, involvement in the UN Security Council, and other similar situations?  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Currency of leaves? : Questions in "The green Economy"

Picture 40 years from now, you are probably sitting on your balcony having an afternoon chat with your son. He has just returned from college where he is taking a course in “the 20th century economic models”. Out of curiosity and with knowledge that you were actively engaged in development issues, he asks what role you played in shaping the economic model that the world adopted. He is curious to know what your input was, even however small, into the debate .  What do you think your answer will be?

Young people have not really put their teeth into fully understanding the essential elements of the green economy. Most of the youth-led organizations that are vocal on global policy debates are not critically engaging in the economic models debates, their attention is mostly on issues of sexual reproductive health rights and overall youth participation in development discussions. Being that economic models being adopted at present will effectively take shape in our adult age, we need to pay more attention to them since we will be the ones to leave with the consequences. 

As it stands, there is no universal definition of the green economy; most interest groups have however agreed to look at it in-terms of its outcomes. UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) defines the green economy as an economy that results in improved human well-being and social equity with significantly minimal environmental risks. This definition, however much comprehensive, begs the question, how do you achieve such an outcome?

From what I gather, the process of integrating the green economy is already being widely advocated for. Several indicators that will illustrate whether progress has been made have already been developed. For instance, focusing on the issue of Natural resource use, indicators to be used will focus on consumption levels and whether they decline as investment in efficiency is increased. The indicators therefore come in handy when designing intervention measures and policy options.

With this understanding in mind what is the youth position on this very important concept. Do you think a green economy will be in a position to create the millions of jobs that we are desperately in need of as young people? Do you know what qualifies as a green job? Is our capitalistic model able to accommodate a green economy or are we merely proposing concepts we know cannot work out? What is our basic role as youth in this macroeconomic shift being proposed?  what type of future are we walking towards with or without a business as usual state of affairs?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I am writing this rebuttal as a potential beneficiary of the funds. I am not where I thought I would be after my December 2012 graduation. I know the anguish of being educated and unemployed; I know the stress that comes with being broke and almost hopeless. The worst feeling ever.

Resolved: unemployed University graduates should be given monthly unemployment benefits of  KES 15,000
Consider a single mother, she sold her little piece of land, her single most valuable asset so she could pay for her son’s subsidized university fees. Four years later the young man has graduated, he has looked for work in all corners without success. He has no source of reasonable income, no possible social cushion, nowhere to run to! Not even his home village, the shame would kill him and their only peace of land was invested in his "promising" education. 15,000 KES a month to this young man would change his world. 

Kenya’s formal labour market has no ability to absorb the more than half a million graduates clearing campus every year. This means for several years after university young men and women are going to stay unemployed. The longer they stay the worse things will get, options will get limited, talent will get eroded and most of the skills they had acquired will get wasted. Disillusionment is always knocking.

In my tweet to @IEAKwame (CEO Institute of Economics Affairs),  I told him that there are social benefits associated with the KES 15000  unemployment "payout", this is after he wrote an article arguing against the bill terming it as the worst policy idea ever. He asked that I justify my argument. 

Below are my justifications.

Social cushion
As things stand, I cannot afford to take any investment risk; I have nothing to fall back to. In case I fail, I burn completely. With a guarantee of 15,000 every month, more and more young people will be a bit bolder in their endeavors; they will pursue business ventures with more confidence. The benefits will be multiplied in terms of opportunities getting created.

Incentive for more people to pursue higher education
Nothing can be a better incentive for people to join university education than a guarantee of “income” after you complete. The more educated a population gets, the better a country gets both socially and economically.

Government Commitment
I think a government has to take responsibility for educating its citizens and then failing to provide them with an income source; whether through direct employment opportunities in government sectors or creating an environment for multiple employment creation. It is therefore noble that this government is committing to making life of the educated-unemployed a little bit bearable. Evidently, as it has been pointed out by several economists, the government will not be able to support this program for a long time, so once its muscles get stretched towards its limits they will have to come up with better alternatives for tackling youth unemployment. They will have to commit much more towards developing innovative targeted employment programs.

Disposable income
If the government takes up the responsibility of supporting the unemployed graduates, parents will be relieved form the burden. This means more money to spend on clothes, entertainment and other luxuries. This creates a value chain that leads to the creation of jobs even for the unskilled people.

As Kwame clearly highlighted, the government of the day seems to throw money at every policy challenge it faces. It is as if the money is readily available and somehow it will make everything better. That is totally not the way to go, but in this situation the money will go a long way in improving this country and sparing a lot of young people from unnecessary misery.

I am no policy expert; I am a concerned policy enthusiast.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ending Extreme poverty within a generation

“The transition to sustainable development must not mean any diminishment whatsoever in the commitment to ending poverty” UNSG Ban Ki Moon


The recently released report by the SG was a very important synthesis document. First, it was his highly anticipated report on the post 2015 development agenda after the HLP input and secondly, it acted as a summary of the annual report that he is mandated to release as a monitoring element of the MDG progress.
My main interest in this report was to analyze how much emphasis had been put on youth unemployment and poverty eradication. Sadly there was very little mention of youth in the whole document let alone youth unemployment.
This post majorly depicts how the UNSG explicitly focused his report on poverty eradication. It is a compilation of a variety of extracts touching on inequality and poverty.

Ending poverty within a generation

Vehement is the right word to use to depict how the UNSG brought out the poverty angle in his report. From the first page, he displayed his commitment to eradicating poverty in all its forms. The document has more than enough mentions of how poverty eradication should form the heart of the next global agenda. He talks of how our global quest for sustainability and an end to poverty has reached an unprecedented moment of urgency.  Although the poverty target of halving the number of those living with less than $1.25 a day has been met, the fact that 1.2 billion people are still living in extreme poverty is a clear indicator that we have made reasonable progress but the problem still lingers.

He admits that among the promises made in the Millennium Declaration was a compelling pledge to spare no effort to free all women, men, girls and boys from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of poverty. We therefore need to fulfill this promise within our generation because we have both the means and the know-how. If ours is the generation that can end poverty, there should be no deferring this essential mission, no shrinking away from the task. We have to address, among other challenges, the issue of income inequality as it was one of the major impediments to progress.  

Looking forward, the next development agenda needs pro-found economic transformations and a new global partnership. It can bring together the full range of human aspirations and needs to ensure a life of dignity for all with poverty and income inequality totally eradicated. The transition to sustainable development must not mean any diminishment whatsoever in the commitment to ending poverty

Achieving MDGs
Significant progress has been made in the fight to eradicate poverty; this can be attributed to inclusive economic growth with decent employment and decent wages, reforms in the agricultural sector, policies that increase social spending, expand social protection and raising the minimum wage as well as policies promoting rural employment.(I love this excerpt!!!!)
National ownership and international commitment backed by reliable, timely financial resources were among the other elements responsible for the progress so far and also what is needed to accelerate progress.
MDG initiatives
Among the targeted initiatives that got mentioned by the UNSG include:
1.      The €1 billion Millennium Development Goals initiative of the European Union that has been supporting countries in the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions to accelerate progress on the Goals that are the most off-track
2.      The Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme that mobilizes resources to scale up agricultural assistance to low-income countries.
3.      The Zero Hunger Challenge, launched at the UNCSD
4.      MDG Momentum:1,000 Days of Action
5.      The Millennium Development Goals Acceleration Framework
6.      the Global Fund
7.      The Global Education First Initiative

Transition to SDGs
Although this is just taking shape, the UNSG did not miss the opportunity to emphasize on the need to have poverty eradication given the highest priority. He noted that since the adoption of the MDGs existing challenges have been exacerbated, inequality has deepened and young people in many countries continue facing poor prospects for decent jobs or livelihoods. It is therefore promising to see that, among others, ending poverty and reducing inequality is being given highest priority on the emerging outlines of a new sustainable development agenda

Sustainable development is, in short, the pathway to the future, and with it the world can make many historic achievements key among them eradication of extreme poverty by 2030.