Business, Leadership, News

We Must Fix Our Politics Before We Fix Our Economy

In 2011 and 2015, the World Bank sur­veyed 644 and 848 enter­pris­es Ethiopi­an enter­pris­es respec­tive­ly. The sur­vey revealed that com­pared to 2011, the inno­v­a­tive­ness of Ethiopi­an enter­pris­es had declined. One of the fac­tors behind this decline was polit­i­cal insta­bil­i­ty which adverse­ly impact­ed busi­ness in the coun­try. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, with Ethiopi­a’s elec­tions sched­uled for June 21st, the polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion remains volatile.

Vio­lence in Ethiopi­a’s Tigray region con­tin­ues to cloud the upcom­ing elec­tions. Tigray has a pop­u­la­tion of sev­en mil­lion, almost six times the pop­u­la­tion of Mau­ri­tius. Thanks to this con­flict and oth­er fac­tors, Ethiopi­a’s econ­o­my is pre­dict­ed to reg­is­ter zero growth this year. This IMF fore­cast, togeth­er with the polit­i­cal insta­bil­i­ty, augurs ill for For­eign Direct Invest­ment in Ethiopia. This proves that a coun­try’s pol­i­tics has a direct impact on the lives and liveli­hoods of the citizenry.

Before the ill-fat­ed 2007 elec­tions, Kenya’s econ­o­my was thriv­ing. Then came the elec­tions and their vio­lent after­math. Con­se­quent­ly, fac­to­ries shut their doors even as tourists can­celled their flights or fled the coun­try. In 2007, a record one mil­lion tourists had poured into Kenya. If it was­n’t for the post-elec­tion vio­lence, pro­jec­tions point­ed to even more tourist vis­its in 2008. In addi­tion, SMEs were brought to their knees. In Kisumu alone, maraud­ing crowds loot­ed 184 stores. Eighty per cent of SMEs suf­fered huge loss­es. Fur­ther north in arid places like Turkana, infla­tion in the prices of veg­eta­bles and fruits reached highs of 200%. In the Cap­i­tal City, the Nairo­bi Stock Exchange lost about Ksh 40 bil­lion in ear­ly Jan­u­ary. Evi­dent­ly, bad pol­i­tics cost Kenya the loss of bil­lions and more trag­i­cal­ly the loss of thou­sands of lives.

In Ugan­da, a report by the Eco­nom­ic Pol­i­cy Research Cen­tre (EPRC) revealed that in the final quar­ter of 2020, appre­hen­sion about the loom­ing elec­tions result­ed in a dip in the per­cep­tions of doing busi­ness in Ugan­da. This result­ed in exchange rate volatil­i­ty, insuf­fi­cient demand and inad­e­quate cred­it access amongst oth­er unfa­vor­able busi­ness dynamics.

These exam­ples from Ugan­da, Kenya and Ethiopia prove that bad pol­i­tics will always result in a bad econ­o­my. A bad econ­o­my is the moth­er of soci­etal chal­lenges like severe unem­ploy­ment. In this regard, if we want to fix our econ­o­my; to cre­ate jobs; to improve our health­care and to trans­form this coun­try, we must fix our pol­i­tics. Our approach to tan­gi­ble trans­for­ma­tion must be guid­ed by the tenets of polit­i­cal economy.

In 2017, we fixed our pol­i­tics through the Supreme Court pres­i­den­tial elec­tion rul­ing and the hand­shake. This pre­empt­ed the vio­lence that had start­ed rear­ing its ugly head. Thanks to such mature and sta­ble pol­i­tics, Kenya’s eco­nom­ic growth aver­aged 5.7% between 2015 and 2019 mak­ing it one of Sub-Saha­ran Africa’s fastest grow­ing econ­o­my dur­ing this period.

Once again, Kenya is hurtling towards Gen­er­al Elec­tions. If his­to­ry is any guide, pol­i­tics will take cen­ter stage as politi­cians com­pete for dif­fer­ent offices. As the most cov­et­ed office, the Pres­i­den­cy will attract intense cam­paigns and polit­i­cal machi­na­tions. How­ev­er, Kenyans must not allow the quest for polit­i­cal office to under­mine eco­nom­ic growth, job cre­ation or to rip apart nation­al cohesion.

As Charles de Gaulle, a for­mer French Pres­i­dent once said, ‘Pol­i­tics is too seri­ous a mat­ter to be left to the politicians.’

At this crit­i­cal time in Kenya’s his­to­ry, the ordi­nary peo­ple regard­less of sta­tus and pro­fes­sion — must step up to dic­tate the tone, con­tent, style and out­come of pol­i­tics. There is no doubt that the politi­cians we have in pow­er today is a true reflec­tion of who we are either by com­mis­sion or omission.

Accord­ing­ly, we must all par­tic­i­pate in the polit­i­cal process as we would take on our own projects because our par­tic­i­pa­tion impacts on our qual­i­ty of life.

Indeed, we must begin to reject politi­cians who per­pet­u­ate neg­a­tive pol­i­tics. We must say a big ‘No!’ to politi­cians who offer no solu­tions to the press­ing issues of the day. The words of Eleanor Roo­sevelt the for­mer US First Lady con­tin­ue to ring true, ‘Great Minds Dis­cuss Ideas. Aver­age Minds Dis­cuss Events. Small Minds Dis­cuss People.’

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About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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