The world is under pressure to end hunger and youth unemployment. To achieve this aspiration in 21st century rests on proper policy formulation, implementation aided by proper utilization of ICT, biotechnology, global markets and trade.
In the wake of reports of deaths caused by hunger coupled with disturbing statistics of unemployment among youths in Kenya; there is need to re-look into our national policies on digital and technological platforms for answers.
Agriculture has been said to have immense potential that can feed and create employment. However, disconnect between policy formulation and implementation has become critical hindrance. Failure of Galana Kulalu irrigation project is a case in point. Despite Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) having expertise, their concerns on Galana Kulalu project were ignored.
Kenya transformation will depend on the ability to harmonize operations of different institutions and eliminating bottlenecks. For instance, KALRO has developed several varieties of seeds that are drought and disease resistance. But these seeds would not be used because they have not been cleared by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). Such incidents become obstacles.
The Youth in Agribusiness Strategy 2017-2021 is a good policy document. But more than one year since the launch, we see little of its impact. Who did this policy? What were the goals? How was it to be implemented? Who was to implement it? What was the follow up strategy?
To exploit potential in agriculture to feed population and create employment, technological element must be included in policy. Utilizing digital platform to tackle challenges within agriculture ecosystem is imperative. Technological innovation will enable production of food in our arid and semi-arid region in Kenya. It could also help in curbing post-harvest menace.
Convergence between ICT and biotechnology innovations especially in agriculture is expected to drive world production as Yuval Harari observes in the book Homo Deus. It is now possible to develop seeds that will allow massive production to make commercial sense. From digital platforms people can buy and sell globally. Rwanda selling coffee through Alibaba e-commerce platform confirms this view. Mpesa allowing money transfer makes global business viable.
As Dr.Mukhisa Kituyi observed during his public lecture at the University of Nairobi last week, “we are globally integrating and competing not by choice but forced by circumstances.” Global integration is a mandatory phase. But he took issue with slow rate of changing mindset. The old concept of nationalism established on tribal affiliation has persisted even when it is impractical. According to him, the ability to abandon what we knew to be true yesterday and adopting new ways of acting today is of stupendous importance
The rate of information, knowledge and data production is exponentially high in 21st century than it was previously. This means valuable information today becomes obsolete tomorrow. Hence need to keep learning.
The phenomenal change in the world calls for change of political model in Kenya. According to Dr. Mukhisa, there is need to change whatever narrative we have about our past. We need to understand the concept of new patriotism. This new patriotism calls for individual creativity and innovation to enable Kenya compete globally. This new patriotism calls for creation of new efficient technology that will help Kenya produce enough for local consumption and export.
New patriotism calls for formulation of policies that appreciate those with expertise and knowledge. The concept of us versus them should be discarded instead adopt the spirit of collaboration and partnership.
Within our education system, children should be encouraged to think of global competition. But government must strive to build enabling environment. Create policies that encourage development of national enterprises that can compete globally. Google, Twitter and Facebook are American business, according to Dal Yong’s book Digital Platforms Imperialism and Political Culture they serves to expand the business and influence of United States in the world. If Kenya has to enhance her influence in the fast integrating world, new policies and politics must be adopted.
For instance, Safaricom’s Mpesa has given Kenya a reputation of early adopter of digital technologies. Kenyans are believed to have high entrepreneurial spirit. This demands the government rectifies policies that seem to favor ineffective political policies as opposed to practical and expert oriented policies. A situation where politicians override expert opinion on some technical issues must be addressed.
To break barriers derailing implementation of correct projects, new form of accountability is needed. The solution lies in developing digital platform. Publication of all tenders in government websites is a good move. But we must do more to curb collusion among the elites and civil servants.
Perceived or real marginalization has caused despondency, eroding trust in government among youths. Consequently,opportunistic politicians have perfected the art of exploiting angry and hungry young people. This are shortcomings that Kenya needs to overcome to progress towards new form patriotism.