• I thank the organizers of this important talk (Adam Smith International) for inviting us. I also thank the panelists, the Governors present, including the governors of Wajir and Marsabit (the lead discussants), MPs, Teachers Service Commission (TSC) representative and other invited participants. On December 12th, this year, 2015, Kenya celebrates Golden Jubilee plus two years (50+2) of independence from Britain. During this period of over five decades of independence, many developments, positive things have taken place in Kenya and of specifically in Northern Kenya.

• Most importantly the national population has grown many folds to current 45 million.

• Until 2013 the country was divided into 8 provinces and was centrally managed. Since March 2013, Kenya has 47 counties each with a governor, executives and their own county legislatures, “47 Counties, 1 Nation” These are transformational changes.

• However, today (2015) there is general impression in the five Northern counties, Marsabit, Isiolo, Garissa, Wajir and Mandera with a population of over 3 million and over 200,000 square kilometers that the region is much behind the other parts of the country, particularly in the field of primary and secondary and even university education . Thus drastic improvement in the quality and quantity of education of the students is needed. 

• The situation is such that average enrollment rate in primary schools in the region is 26% when for instance; in Nyeri county is in the neighborhood of 110%. The 10% are those over-age people going back to schools. In terms of passing Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) or Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) the students are relatively not doing well. There is an urgent need to initiative “quantum leap” synchronize policies and sustained, highly focused actions to correct and address this unacceptable situation-in the five counties in the area of education.

• Northern Kenya cannot keep appearing like “a giant walking with the limb of a mosquito”. Education is the key to the vitality of the region. This discussion focuses on education in Northern Kenya because the subject matter of the forum is quality of education as organized by Adam Smith International.

Students of Sheikh Ali High School in Mandera County 


• According to the Kenya Economic survey, 2015 which was released just recently, nationally 10 million children are in primary schools. 2.3 million are in secondary and about 400,000 are in universities. The highest of the national budget goes to education, over Kshs 300 billion. The net enrolment rate (NER), countrywide of primary school going children is 70%. 
  NER is defines as enrollment of the officials age group for a given level of education expressed as a percentage of the corresponding population. For girls in Wajir and Mandera, NER is less than 10% of the eligible children. This is unacceptable. For boys the rate is a bit better. In Wajir, 260,000 children are in primary schools and this is only 26% of the eligible children, 74% don’t attend schools! In some remote divisions, the enrollment rate is in the region of only 7%. Thus two problems facing the education sector in the region are: these two: low enrolment and poor exam performance. 


• In the past 10 years, the performance of the KCSE /CPE rates was below national average. The national average indicates that 30% of KCSE candidates normally score C+ or above. However, majority of students in Northern Kenya score less than C+, the cut points for university entrance in Kenya for KCSE. In some secondary schools in Northern Kenya, over 80% of the candidates got less than C+. Interestingly, even those few who got C+ or above don’t do physics paper. Whereas transition rate from primary to secondary is 83%, to university is less than 1% of total KCSE candidates in the five counties.

• In 2014, 482,133 candidates did KCSE in Kenya and 14,841 of them got straight as (3%). For the first time in 30 years, one secondary school called Sheikh Ali High School in Mandera had one of their students getting an A. This was a big story in the County. Compare this with Moi Kabarak High School, where almost e very other candidates got A’s. This means relatively few students do go to school in Northern Kenya and those who complete the cycle, majority do not pass the final qualifying exams and thus fail to proceed to college or vocational training. Therefore the challenges facing all of us are; how to drastically improve and transform this worrying trend in Northern Kenya.

• There are many challenges facing the education sector in Northern Kenya. Northern Kenya shares similar problems and challenges as other regions and 47 counties. Specifically the region shares almost identical problems in the areas identified as other Arid lands counties, which include; Turkana, Samburu, Baringo, West Pokot and other places.

• However, the pressing challenges facing the region which directly affect quality and quantity of education are:
1. INSECURITY: As we are aware the issue of insecurity in the region has been a big challenge. 2nd April, 2015, tragedy in Garissa University College being the worst where 147 students were killed. This has resulted to many teachers from outside the region who were “subject experts” to withdraw. The KNUT has reported that 28 schools have been shut down and 800 teachers were displaced because of insecurity in Northern region. The remaining teachers and students fear. The future is somewhat still uncertain.


• As was noted, about 74% of the children eligible to go to primary schools don’t. In some locations such as Malka – Meri in Mandera County, the figure is over 85%. Besides insecurity, the other problem is that majority of the families are nomads moving with their livestock camels, cattle, goats and sheep. Pastoralists have normally multiple residences. The children look after their parent’s animals. This lifestyle therefore does not favour education system as we know it which is more of pro-sedentary population. Hence schools in the region have problems of under enrolment. There is just formed Kenya’s Council on Nomadic Education whose policies towards the education of the children of the pastoralists/nomadic communities is yet to become visible and concrete. 


• Generally, there is feeling that the community, the parents and by extension the children, do not attach “great value” to education. Thus the children do not “demand” to be taken to schools. Parents do not see “immediate results” by taking children to school. Parents appear not to associate positively education with increased social and human capital competitive advantage.  

• The girl child in the process becomes the greatest loser. Further, the girl child bears the specific burden of FGM, which is more or less culture driven and which impacts negatively on the education of girls. When there were teachers strikes in the country, most of the secondary schools in other parts of the country some how continued with the students, and few teachers remaining in the schools, and students “teaching one another”. 

• In Mombasa, there was this famous girl who “cried” for the teachers. In Northern Kenya, students were reported to be “rather happy” there was strike and decided to stay away. I am not aware of any student who cried in public for missing classes in Northern Kenya at any time when teachers were on strike. 


  To have great school administration and role models is important for students. In many schools in Western Kenya, Nairobi and Nyanza, they have yearly schedules of “visits and motivational talks” of more than 60 per year. I was in two secondary schools in Mandera; there was no one who had paid them a visit in two years, even from the county leaderships. I read somewhere that, the Eaton High School, which is a prestigious school in the UK has over 200 motivational speakers per year including, ambassadors from the USA and Japan. School governance, leadership, supervision, quality control, PTAs and so on are bedrock pillars to educational prosperity. To students particularly, drug free environment, these are essential things.


• Mass poverty among the population and households (85% households-cannot afford three meals per day and have less than 200 shillings income) results challenges of school fees, school uniforms, equipments, computer lab and school infrastructure, class rooms for schools and even lack of books, stationeries and school meals.
• The money allocated to public schools is rarely adequate. Very few schools have independent commercial source of income.


• What one writer, James J. Mapes (2003) described as System Quantum Leap approach needs to be applied to address the challenges facing education sector in Northern Kenya and other similar parts of the country. According to Webster’s English Language Dictionary, “quantum leap is any sudden change or an advance in program policy”.

• It is said “if we think the way we have always done, we will get the result we have always gotten”. In the sector of education that is the issue. In 50 years despite high population and large geographical size in the sector of education, Northern and other arid – and semi aridlands have become and remain more or less “ the left toe” of the nation. Fixed on the periphery, marginalized and least strategic. This has to change and change now. In this regards, among others, the following steps need to be taken to address educational issues in the five counties in Northern Kenya and deliver quality education to learners at all levels, starting from pre-unit or nurseries.


  Both national and county governments have to address these concerns very comprehensively and collectively. Educational performance is dependants on systems, each affecting the other in the chain. No “stand alone” solution can work for children’s education. Quality of education, as we know, is driven by “ecological and systems theories”. 


The leadership of the schools, both primary and secondary need more training in the areas of management, leadership fundraising, resources mobilization, networking, community relation and strategic entrepreneurship. Many schools do “great” because of first class leadership under difficult conditions. According to MPs ranking by voters, majority of the MPs in the Northern Kenya got below average and this may partly explain poor quality of education in the five counties (DN May 20, 2015 p.5). Lack of strong, charismatic, participatory, community leadership. Additionally, the TSC and the county governments should consult and have shared supervision of schools management and quality control roles / responsibilities. Excellence is a continuous process and not a game of chance or accident.  


There is need to create centers of “excellence” in the counties for both girls and boys model schools, fully resourced and located at strategic places. Development partners can easily support such initiatives or educational programs. Counties have to come together to start centre of excellences, even university colleges jointly. 

4. OVERCOMING CHALLENGES OF POVERTY: Many parents complain of fees, problems, uniforms and meals. To this end, schools should be encouraged and resourced to provide for (1) uniforms, meals, books and computer labs, among others. (2) in this regards schools can join together to seek help from donors, the private sector and buy “rental business ‘premises” in Nairobi and other places. Some schools that did these are now getting income of Kshs.50 million per year. Equalization fund as established by the Constitution which is meant for 14 Counties, in my view, should be mostly used for educational development in the next three years, 2018.

  Leadership and support from the county governments and the local elites are required. Schools expect high support from the local leaders and other stakeholders. In this regards the county governments/ legislators and leaders should and must lead the way. In terms of students’ enrolment issues, there is need for public participation and “educational awareness drive” to be undertaken countywide. “No child should be left behind” campaign. “No education, no future’. The prosperity of the region lies in great education, strategic entrepreneurship; livestock and agriculture. All these require joint strong county level leadership, including the Senators, MPs, MCAs and professionals.

6. Five counties to become economic block, synergize resources. In the long term, beyond 5 years, more capital outlays (The Big Bush Approach) in terms of roads and other investments by both national and county governments is expected to make big, positive difference in the quantity and quality of education in Northern Kenya. The five counties or more of them (7 of them) form an Economic block as those in the Coastal region and Western Kenya with focus on education, infrastructure, socio-economic issues and even political future orientation. Devolution, which is only two years old this year, is a blessing for Kenya. We must not waste this great opportunity of constitutional dispensation.  
7. Make teaching a desirable career (job) in the region for school leavers. Fifty two years since independence, Northern Kenya still depends on rest of the country for primary and secondary school teachers. There is a need to be self-sufficient in this regard by 20-20.


• The need for better education in Northern Kenya is a cute. The challenges are many but we can overcome them. The challenges are insecurity, pastoral nomadic lifestyle, need for better school governance, role models and poverty amongst the households. The way forward is systems quantum leap approach. This means making all systems work for the education sector,” no stand alone solution”.

1. Address sources of insecurity comprehensively 
2. Transform school governance /leadership training and early education systems. Without the strong involvement of leaders, we can’t succeed, with their strong involvement, the counties cannot fail.
3. Establish model schools/ including the boarding schools
4. Overcome challenges of poverty through schools providing uniforms, books, school meals, computer labs and other infrastructure.
5. Schools jointly engage in commercial enterprises and strategies –self reliance initiative.
6. “Develop and engage high mutual expectations, collaborative framework” with county governments, and the public and other stakeholders. That way enrolment is expected to increase to over 50% soonest possible and “fewer children will be left behind”.
As one Abdul Kalam said, “All birds find shelter during a rain. But eagles avoid rain by flying above the clouds. Problems are common, but attitudes make the difference.” It is time for people of Northern Kenya and their leaders at all levels change their attitudes towards education and governance in general.
It is my sincere hope and trusts that this modest contribution will help us all in responding to the challenges facing the sector of education in Northern Kenya and other similar counties and takes the sector to its next higher level. Long live Kenya! Thank you.
More Education empowerment for girls needed “Need for Quantum Leap to deliver quality education”


What Has David Ndii told us in his article on Jubilee and Moi presidency?

I DO NOT get it! I read Dr David Ndii's long article on Jubilee, Moi, Kibaki and Jomo Kenyatta in the Saturday Nation on Feb,28 2015

What has he told his readers in this lengthy piece? what is his aim? First, I have a lot of respect for the energy and intellectual capacity of Dr Ndii. However in this particular article and those of the past, his tone,language, his lack of balance, his open contempt for those he describes as lacking PhDs, or didn't attend what he calls the "right universities " thus his terminologies, "mediocre, sycophant, hairbrained, insecure, hyenas, idiots and rascals" betray outright his opinion as a scholar and objectives social commentator. Second, comparing 24 years of president Moi's rule with just about two years of Jubilee(8.3% of Moi's tenure) and pretend to reach a meaningful rating of comparison is simply preposterous. Jomo Kenyatta ruled for 15years, Moi for 24 years, and handed over the leadership to Kibaki who ruled for 10 years and completed his term in 2013. We,Kenyans still have a country and doing fine. In such circumstances, talking of "zero score" makes the entire concept of evaluation meaningless. No one is perfect. In 50 years, this nation faced numerous challenges. But at the end of the day the Kenyan stars are growing brighter. With respect Moi's leadership, the status of "Moi university" alone is able to grant the former president's rule a passing grade, if there's any objectivity. Thirdly, Ndii's attempt at air-brushing and anchoring his apparent personal vendetta in inappropriate theories such as "Gresham's law on good/bad money and of "toxic leadership" is not only subjective, selective, opaque, but unhelpful in the subject matter. thus the question: "what has Dr Ndii told us?"and what was his aim beyond throwing mud at every direction,branding everybody else "hairbrained"? Leadership success has partly to do with luck, among other things. The luck of Jubilee is just bearing fruits. 

Napoleon Bonaparte, a one time French statesman, said, "It's not genius which reveals to me suddenly and secretly what I and others should do in circumstances unexpected by others. Its thought, emotional control and meditation". I recommend Dr. Ndii engages more in thoughts, emotional control and meditation if and when writing his opinion pieces for public consumption.


If leadership deficit has been Africa’s long running number one socio-economic problem, why has the continent not found fit to ”grow” plenty of young leaders?

The majority of the one billion people of Africa, (86%), out of the world’s seven billion population (14% of the world’s) live in extreme, squalid, low quality life full of hopelessness is not debatable, so much so that the Mediterranean Sea has now become “the new sea belt of death” for those daily trying to escape collectively Africa to what they describe as the European “lands of human rights and prosperity”. Many writers and documentary makers such as the BBC and the late Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe diagnosed the African problem as “leadership”. Of course, the history of colonialism and slavery partly contribute to our present not so exemplary economic and governance situations.

   However, it is no longer plausible to blame history for our current and future challenges, bad governance and failed states. The youngest member of the AU, the South Sudan for instance cannot blame wholly their history for the current on going tragedies and massive disappointments. The problem there is leadership.

   Is leadership deficit necessary and sufficient explanation for Africa’s global marginalization-trade, education and socio-economic output since Ghana’s independence in 1957? Most of leadership theorists argue that the causes of human socio-economic ailments are reducible to only two: act of nature and failure of leadership. Where leadership is of good quality, history shows that even the effects of “act of nature” can be greatly minimized. There is a lot of historical evidence to support this conclusion. The question is why have African societies, governments not aggressively developed leaders at all levels of their communities during the past sixty or so years?

   Greece and China are great historical models in this respect from the times of Socrates to Confucius who lived in 500 BC China. Surplus educated leaders at all levels in Africa appears to be becoming very critical if the people of the continent have to catch up with the rest of the world sooner rather than later. Leadership in Kenya for example, from the sub-county and primary schools to the grand national level determine the overall direction of the country and how this can be achieved through the main levers of national actions: politics, laws, executive leadership, diplomacy, economic, the military, overseas aid, social services, education and many others. Leadership also determines the climate of ethics, morality and all factors of humanism, patriotism and citizenship prevailing in the society at any given moment. This is seen as national grand strategy and as Sun Tzu puts it in his famous book, The Art of War, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest, most expensive route to victory. But tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”.

   What makes leadership even more critical for Africa’s development, unity, peace and social prosperity is that leadership provides something we call “synchronized thinking”. Besides synchronized thinking leadership helps getting resources, the mix of institutional structure, technology, people and training right and finally building the spirit, values and character that enable people, societies to thrive. Synchronized thinking is the process of creating a great nation or even counties by having every single employee and the general public think in a common way about the meaning of national success and how it is delivered.

   Synchronized thinking provides for all members of society and employees objective, common frameworks for institutional performance and basis for public expectations and evaluations.

   At the back page of the Daily Nation of February 12, it had a great picture of the Deputy President William Ruto with the chairman of the Council of Governors Isaac Ruto and other governors. This picture captured very well the spirit of synchronized thinking in intergovernmental relations management in Kenya today. In the picture the Deputy President and the governors had attended an Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council meeting where it was agreed that salaries do not take more than 35 per cent of counties’ funds, among other issues. With devolution moving in the desired direction, I think it is time we address comprehensively “growing” national leadership across all sectors and institutions. Only then shall our dream of catching up with Asian Tigers and others be realised in our lifetime and making the majority of Kenyans happy and optimistic with themselves and country. 


Without Strong Institutional Framework, Mega Projects, Human Capital Cannot Bring Lasting Development

 For some time now an interesting debate has been raging on between two scholars; Dr. David Ndii of Africa Economics, and Dr. Bitange Ndemo, a former PS and presently of the University of Nairobi, School of Business. The energy, the passion and high voltage phraseologies used in the exchanges are impressive. The heart of the debate concerns on what Dr. Ndii sneeringly dismissed as the “delusions behind Kenya’s bullet trains, techno-cities and other mega projects” (DN Sept, 13). The exchanges were first ignited by the ‘arrows’ from Dr. Ndii’s intellectual quiver. His lead arrow argues that the “super cost” mega projects such as those 72 East Africa projects expected to cost $100 billion in the next 10 years were journey to a black hole, outright waste of public resources whose benefits to Kenyans and others now and in the future “is tomfoolery and is as fantastic as John Frum’s Second Coming” (DN, Sept 13). John Frum is a 60 years old religious mythology character in what Ndii called “Cargo cult”.
 Some of the mega projects that the economist is so contemptuously dismissive of include the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), the Konza Techno City Projects and the planned injection of 5,000 mw-into the national electricity grid. These transformative, flagship projects were launched under the administration of the former President Mwai Kibaki or consolidated for implementation under the current Jubilee administration of President Uhuru Kenyatta   by “Dr. Ndemo and the mega-projects brigade” (DN, Nov. 8). Dr. Ndemo and his so called “brigade” have argued in favour of these disruptive, Vision 2030 projects and others in the pipeline. Their reasoning is anchored on a traditional, old beaten path of the history of development economics 101. The economics of development deals with the problems of the economic development of resource deficit countries such as ours. Developing nations are known to face multi-storied challenges of weak institutions and values of public services; low national savings; low per capita income; low ratio of capital to per head of population; low ratio of industrial output to total output; low level of education, high incidences of poverty and regional dualism.

  Regional dualism is the extent to which a country is characterized by large and increasing gaps of wealth and development among its major regions that is the degree of socio economic disparity among different counties as in our case; where a section of society still beholds pre-Newtonian attitudes towards wealth and the physical world. The sight of the pastoralists in the Rift Valley and Northern Kenya “grazing their animals while watching trains, cars zooming past and planes taking off” will be with us for a long time to come. And it is a good thing. Talk of dualism. Heavy domestic and external borrowings and under taking multi-billion shillings development mega projects in a country are some of the crucial steps towards addressing the problems of regional disparity, economic development and creating a solid threshold of physical capital for national prosperity.

 The ultimate concern of economics of development is the alleviation of mass poverty among the population, for as one economist, Reverend Philip Wicksteed put it, “a man can neither be a saint, nor a lover, nor a poet, unless he has comparatively recently had something to eat.” Alleviation of wide spread poverty in Kenya today where more than 85 percent of all rural households like these in Wajir, Mandera, Turkana, Marsabit and even in Baringo, for instance suffer acute deprivations according to the recently released figures by the Ministry of Devolution and Planning demand new formulations of what has been commonly referred to as the “big push” or “the minimum effort” economic theory.

County Focus for National Development
 In view of our evolving constitutional governance structure based on the theme “County Focus for National Development”, (CFND) there is revolution of the people’s rising expectations as they ask, “What is wrong with us?”  (Nyairo, DN, Nov 25) and this surge of expectations requires to be met head on and managed optimally well. In this context poverty maybe defined in western countries as a level of living that provides no margin above food, clothing and shelter. In our case, poverty is a state of living that cannot provide even access for food, clothing, shelter, health, education, security and sometimes even human dignity and hope.

 Investments in mega, economically sense making projects, not politically correct, “white elephant projects,” as were common features in many African countries in the three decades of 1960-90s, have been part of any developing country’s strategies of accomplishing the double requirements for socio economic prosperity: growth and development. Conceptually, whereas it is possible for an economy like that of Kenya to grow even to “double digit” in accordance with the aspiration of vision 2030, it is much harder to imagine development without growth. As we know, basically economic growth consists of rising national and per capita real incomes. However development demands a good deal more –structural change, technical advance, closing sectoral and regional, socio economic gaps and new resource discovery like the oil, gas exploration going on presently in Wajir and Turkana counties.

 To this end, in matters of growth, the proponents of Rosenstein-Rodan’s ‘big push’ mega project theory; instead of insisting on having explanations that are both sufficient and necessary, they prefer adopting explanations for economic ‘growth, “great lifter waves,” that are simply sufficient until proven otherwise by actual observations. For the sake of simplicity, what economists call parsimony, this article opted for minimum references to pile of data and mathematical models, even though some people might insist on “evidence, not beliefs”.

 The theory of “big push” or large, mega comprehensive programme states that proceeding step by step cannot pole-vault nations from the “slums” to the top of the league of nations in terms of economic development. One of my star lecturers at the University of Punjab, Pakistan, told us of a Filipino national named Jose Rizal who said in 1890 that it would be “silly to expect a structure of steel-meaning modern nations to stand on bamboo supports.” Rizal argued that “bamboonomics”, or the traditional social structures” fit for subsistence, rural farming (or pastoralism) under the colonial powers would no longer be appropriate for the post-independent states.

 This simply means that most of Kenya’s historical structural and governance systems such as the pre-Standard Gauge Railways (SGR) easily fit with the descriptions of “bamboonomics” which is no longer in congruent with the present and future needs of the country and its 21st Century population. The economic history of India, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore (although Singapore is too small a nation for meaningful comparison with Kenya; we are 828 times larger), and even more advanced countries such as the USA, Russia, and China attest to the conclusion that “only structure of steel” can support the needs of the people of the modern state as the demand for freedom mutates into the demand for quality of life – economic and social advancement to security and dignity. Kenya is not exception to the implications of these sentiments of Rizal, the Filipino.

 Dr. David Ndii, however, holds different views. He argued that although he was not against mega project per se, “the specific mega infrastructure projects we are investing in are mostly bad investments” (DN, Nov, 22). He stressed that “human being, not mega-projects will turbo – charge economy” (DN Nov. 8). He further argued that the sh 300 billion plus SGR project price would have paid for 250,000 degrees instead and given the country better “returns.” What I have found intriguing though, with his anecdotal disapprovals of “urban legends”, yet forceful articulation of his strongly held anti-mega projects position, was his anger and singular zeroing  personally on Dr Bitange Ndemo. Dr. Ndii mentioned by name Dr. Ndemo at least 12 times in his article of November 8th, incorrectly stressing that “Dr. Ndemo’s economic accounting is not the only deficiency in his argument; his understanding of economic growth is even more wanting-suspect,” closing with” he (Dr. Ndemo) and his ilk are in the business of summoning cargo,” thus reducing disturbingly to apparent personal vendetta what was otherwise objective and a great, issues based academic conversation.

 In his rejoinder to what he described as “a healthy intellectual debate,” Prof Mwangi Kimenyi argued that both sound mega infrastructure and “investment in human capital-education and training were necessary prerequisites to help fight poverty and engender growth (DN, Nov 15). He stressed it was “neither one nor the either”. Whereas this is true, we must accept that economic development is complex multi-dimensional problem and that more often than not we lack the necessary factual knowledge about some of the basic relationships involved in the process of growth of wealth and development, “particularly those relating to population growth, institutional imperatives, entrepreneurial motivations, political, social, capital project outlays and cultural prerequisites.

 The arguments in favour of education and training as bedrock of economic and institutional growth are unassailable. We agree the attainment of higher levels of education is such a universal goal for any responsible country and its people that it would be correct and logical to ascribe a high weight to human capital as such in the measurement of the level of development. One can rightly reason that in the ultimate philosophical sense, participation in the modern world and awareness of the range of satisfaction of which may be attained through education, might be regarded as major aspects of development.

 However, is Kenyan’s number one problem of economic development today under-investment in education and training of its youths relative to the population, the annual budgets, GDP and even countries in the same bracket in population and budgetary sizes? I do not think so. Presently, we have some 12 million children attending schools/colleges; over 260,000 teachers, the largest in East and Central Africa, over 30 universities for a population of about 42 million and an annual budget for universities, colleges, secondary and primary schools in excess of Ksh 300 billion (S3.3billion) which is more than combined budgets of the 47 county governments in the country.

  These figures are impressive by any measure, and comparison. The last time I was there, the numbers of children attending schools in Pakistan were almost the same as those of Kenya, yet Pakistan had population of 130 million. As an economist, Dr. Ndii knows very well the economics of education or even security and other social needs. Developing high human capital without the appropriate favourable institutional frameworks would simply result brain drain. That is how we lost the two Professors; Ali Mazrui and Ngugi wa Thiong’o to the US for almost their entire lives. The logic of economics of education does not allow cost effective investment to go beyond certain point on the marginal social cost curve and marginal social benefit curve. Have we already reached there as a nation where marginal social cost is overtaking the marginal social benefits instead of being equal? 

 Prof. Ali Mazrui   
Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong’o
“Brain drain: how we lost them to the US”

  According to the Economist magazine of June 8th - July 4th 2014, “college wage premiums”, which is the average gap between salaries for universities graduates and those with secondary school certificates is about 40% and in some cases the wage premium is disappearing but “there is no guaranteed windfall for all who don cap and gown”. “47% of university students in America and 28% in UK” do not complete their studies and never make to donning caps and gowns. What are the ratios in Kenya?    Looking at the current perceived state of insecurity in the country today, just in education, the citizens are asking “why so much security meltdown despite huge budgets?  What are the problems in both sectors?    

Sessional paper no 10, 1965
 High population growth in the country and huge investment in education would demand sustained efforts investing all kind of mega projects. That is why Prof Kimenyi is of the opinion that the country needs both human capital development as well as investment in mega projects. “Bamboo structures” can never support the demands of the modern state of Kenya.  The immediate problem, the gap facing us that the two scholars did not focus on, in my view, is the role of social institutions and personal values in the nation’s economic development. The so called “education miracle” would amount to nothing without strong personal values and institutional framework, high level intersection of formal and informal rules, laws, and personal values.

Before examining the nature, importance and relevance of institutional frameworks to economic growth, let us revisit a popular, generally accepted explanation for the socio economic marginalization of an arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL), all northern Kenya counties included, resulting the widely held view that there were two Kenyans:  “Kenya A and Kenya B which began formally in 1965. Dr. Ndii traces the genesis of Kenya ‘A’ and Kenya ‘B’ to Sessional paper Number 10 of 1965 (DN, Nov. 19) as he quotes that historical document “one of the problems is to decide how much priority we should give to investing in less development provinces. To make the economy as a whole grow as fast as possible money should be invested where it will yield the largest increase in net output”.

The period 1963 - 1966 as we know, were historical watershed years full of whirlwind activities for the nation as a whole. The emphasis was on “consolidation”. Besides political and empirical challenges of the day, prioritization of the development agenda was “the elephant in the room” for the first administration of President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his cabinet. When faced with such kind of economic challenges as a new nation, political contentions aside, as any young economist and trained public administration official would acknowledge, there are two approaches to choose from: balanced growth approach and unbalanced growth.  Balanced growth approach advocates for “incrementalism” and simultaneous engagements of all sectors and regions, what the military calls “the overwhelming force strategy” - the locust approach. The basic assumption in this approach is that there are sufficient resources to go round. Our current devolved approach of Count Focus for National Development (CFND) is based on the balanced growth model. This strategy was not feasible in the first two decades of our independence, particularly for reasons of insufficient resources, human capital limitations and the multiple “national consolidation whirlwind issues of the day”. In 2013, this dream of balanced development has become a reality, a number of emerging governance issues and intergovernmental relations notwithstanding.

Unbalanced approach, however, as a strategy of development contends that deliberate, unbalanced of the economy, in accordance with a redesigned strategy is the best way to achieve economic growth for a new country.  The Pareto principle of selecting the 20 percent projects that have would have greatest positive impact on the lives of the largest number of the population would apply here. This is the approach Egypt for example selected in 1952 and even before. Egypt concentrated its economic efforts on the Nile Delta which was the lifeline and the bread basket of the country. This is common sense and for your information common sense is “belief.” It does not require advanced university degrees in “economic accounting” or in any other discipline. For instance if in 1965, one were asked there was enough money to build only one hospital to serve a population of 400,000 people in a given region, common sense would inform us to locate the hospital in a place with highest population density. In the areas where the population was scattered, the people will use the hospitals in the high density areas as referral. That is how the concept of “provincial hospitals were developed in the 70s in the first place.

In making the policy paper of 1965, the leaders of those days apparently had good intentions and grounded their ideas on sound economic theory; the unbalanced growth /development approach. Down the years, with hind sight a number of things went wrong. But the policy intention was valid. What is misplaced, misrepresentation and preposterous is attributing our 2014 economic problems and those  economic issues which would emerge in 50 years hence in 2065 to the sessional paper of No 10 of 1965. We need to be more clever for that and be more truthful to ourselves.

“President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s 
policy paper of 1965 was found on unbalanced growth approach”

Clever man
In a conversation over a cup of tea, I asked a friend of mine named Mr. Mike Simiyu, what he thought of Dr. Ndii’s Saturday Nation’s articles? I knew Simiyu was a fan of the economist’s articles. My friend, Simiyu said, “Dr. Ndii is a clever man, a patriot. But if you want to know why he felt uncharacteristically disappointed, angry, read his article of July 19, 2014 titled.  “We’ve been here before: How Jubilee is busy winding back clock”.

Simiyu removed the article from his briefcase and read it for me. He rhapsodized over with effective panache of Lake Victorian, Western Kenyan raconteur the content of that article of July 19. Simiyu passionately argued that “great nations” everywhere built on character and brainpower, human capital. “The scholar economist is simply an example of a person with real talent who bitterly feels “excluded”- lacking inclusivity” in the development of his country despite being immensely qualified. How can we do “catch up” when were allow rare brains such as Dr. Ndii to go to waste, reduced to writing complaining newspaper articles for a living?”  Simiyu continued “That is why the good doctor is angry and whether we agree with him or not as he asks in Kikuyu in his article the rhetorical question, “Are we going to slaughter for the hyena second time?”

Economists have always said that one of the key prerequisites for economic development is quick emergence of political, social and institutional framework, which exploits the impulses to expansion in the nation’s modern sectors and give growth an outgoing character. Although very young, Kenyans have this framework in place, yet the nation is facing crises in every turn. This is so because as humans, there is no such thing as perfect society. As one humanist puts it, “Show me a country without prisons, courts and poor component in their society and I will show you a perfect nation”. Even when international delegates and official interacts in formal and informal businesses what becomes obvious behind the “hardware” are nexus between dominant values, institutional ethics and the state that drive the industrial and economic success of many nations.

Lacking efficiency
 There is a joke to the effect that there was an international conference on “lack of efficiency and fairness” by world’s governments in their procurements systems and public expenditure in general. The conference took place in Moscow, Russia. Those who attended included delegates from Egypt, Kenya and Somalia. During the afternoon 4 O’clock tea-break, while the delegates from Egypt, Kenya and Somalia were together in a corner having their exchanges, they were joined by a Russian delegate who was also their host.

 Then, as the four delegates conversed, an international journalist approached them and asked the Russian delegate first.  “Please what is your opinion of lack of efficiency and fairness by governments?” the Russian replied, “Opinion! What is opinion?”

 The journalist then moved to the Egyptian official and asked, “Please, what is your opinion of lack of efficiency and fairness by governments?” The Egyptian without blinking an eye responded, “What is fairness?”
The reporter then moved, to the Kenyan delegate and asked him, “Please, what is your opinion of lack of efficiency and fairness by governments?” The Kenyan delegate answered, “Efficiency? What is efficiency?”

 The journalist went to the delegate from Somalia and asked, “Please, what is your opinion of lack of efficiency and fairness by governments?” The delegate from Somalia responded, calmly, gesturing with his index finger,” I have small idea of what is ‘govenrment’, but what is please?”

 Whereas today on one hand, on average globally people are living lives of abundance beyond the wildest dreams of our ancestors, and humankind, through accumulated knowledge, is able to land a robot on a comet orbiting the sun 300 million kilometers away at speed of 300 thousand kilometers per hour, on the other hand from race riots in the USA over killings of black youths, to mass deaths and destructions in Syria, Iraq, Tunisia, Libya, Ukraine to the tragedies in Somalia and Nigeria, attacks in Kenya’s Mombasa, Mandera and Turkana, one would be forgiven for thinking that we are living in the midst of piece meal, silent yet cruel,  Third, World War and the planet is hurtling fast towards an apocalypse.

Institutions, Institutions, Institutions
 Our present crisis is crisis of institutions.  We are told by the Controller and Auditor general, that over 35 per cent of the national budget of about Sh 1.6 trillion ($17billion) is lost every year through “chicken eating businesses”. Is this a validation in 2014-2015 in Kenya of what Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz described the “Roaring nineties” as “the greediest decade” in human history?   A recent audit of government staffing revealed 12,000 ghost employees costing over Sh 7 billion yearly. For sure, we cannot build mega projects and highly educated society on the “quick sand” of value free nation, “it is our time to eat” syndrome. This is a crisis of integrity, not intellect, not human capital. A Somali singer asked the question “when we fall ill, we use medicine. If the medicine itself become ill, with what shall we treat it?”  Has the whole ethos of “duty, honour, and country” replaced by “me, myself, I and my village?” 

 Many people are asking, “Where have all the good people gone? Where have all leaders gone?” Institutions mean both effective organizations that enforce the rules of the “game” of society and the “rules” such as the laws, the constitution and informal norms of society that guide social interactions and safety. North and South Korea, a one nation until at the end of World War II, are divided by the 38th parallel, yet economically the South is ahead of the North some 100 years all because of institutional factors: people, integrity, competence and country.  Singapore is  a great example of a city built on, yes human capital with a GDP of $55,000 against ours of only $1,200.  Two scholars, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson researched on “Why Nations Fail” and made one major conclusion as the “cause,”  “Institutions, institutions, institutions”.  

 That renown American economist, Joseph Schumpeter, pointed out that a nations economic development greatly depended on the supply of entrepreneurs  which also depended  on the “social climate, habitat”, reflecting the whole social values-honour, trust, success, political and socio-psychological atmosphere within which entrepreneurs should and must operate. In Mandera County today, professionals are ‘moving out’ in droves because of insecurity yet security is an institutional issue. All these worrying concerns and tragedies notwithstanding, Kenyans are very hopeful and see the glass as half full. Thank God we have great country and great people. Devolution is a work in progress and will take some fifteen years before it runs on “auto-pilot”.

 Scholars such as Dr. David Ndii and other thought leaders who feel excluded in making a difference, need to be invited “on the mega project platform” and given opportunities to become ‘insiders’, benefit the whole nation with their talents, leadership and values for the sake of posterity. Citizens of a great nation can only reach a whole new prosperous, competitive levels of quality of life on the backdrop of combined mega projects, world class education and the best of institutions formal and informal.

 In the meantime, I hereby send my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of all the 64 heroic, dear Kenyans who were killed at the savage attacks on the Mandera – Nairobi bound bus and Mandera quarry on November, 22 and December 2nd respectively, . The deaths of those brave, patriotic, professional young Kenyans should never, must never be in vain.  The best way to honour them is for us, the living, to ensure Kenya endures forever and remains united, peaceful, one nation, one people under one God.


President’s appointments of senior military officers to public service positions deserve applause

  Few days ago President Uhuru Kenyatta made a number of important appointments to positions in the public service. Among those appointed were three senior military officers, namely Major- General Philip Kameru who was appointed as the new Director General of the National Security Service (NIS), Major- General Gordon Kihalangwa, who was appointed to the position of Director of Immigrations and Major- General Joff Otieno who was appointed as Kenya’s new envoy to Cairo, Egypt.

It was startling for many though, that the nominations of these, only three, and yet overwhelmingly qualified and distinguished Kenyan individuals received mixed responses, some unflattering. For example, regarding these nominations, Mr. Ndung’u Wainaina of the International Centre and conflict was quoted as warning that    “militarized   democracy is in the making; it is systematic” (Aug 24, DN. P10).it is unclear what he meant by the term ‘militarized democracy.’ While predicting  that the appointments of the two senior military officers to key security  dockets were highly likely to negatively affect the morale of the non-military officers, Col (Rtd) Benjamin Mwema argued that these appointments  “may look rosy from outside but it may not be the same internally,” adding the interesting yet both absurd and incorrect rider that in the military we were taught that there is only one way of doing things, we are not as flexible “(Aug 23,STD,P3).

It is advisable that those making such uninformed comments about the three appointments to learn to see the forest and the trees and keep one eye on the big national picture and the other on specific events and individuals without mixing the two. While on the big picture, soon as a country we will be celebrating our fifty one (51) years of independence on December, 12, 2014. Because of fifty years of relative peace, unity, social stability and national focus, our institutions both in the public and private sectors have grown in strength and capacities. It is these new found capacities that are enabling the nation and its people to be in a strategic position to pole - vault the numerous socio- economic hurdles emerging on the country’s path to national prosperity and competitiveness.

We may not be in the same league as South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia in terms of GDP and infrastructure.  But Kenya, like a few other African nations, is in the race and the gap between them and us is not widening, rather it is reducing. In order for Kenya to do a successful, strategically developmental ‘catch-up’ and in a relatively short time, it is imperative that the best brains be head-hunted in all sectors and righty deployed in the manner of “square pegs in square holes.” The President’s appointments of the three military officers have to be seen in this light.

As Prof Peter Kagwana never tires to remind us, whereas “ Kenya is in dire need of world class  intelligence   juggernaut,”  we should avoid the trap of profitless  “populist security discourses”  and instead aim to have fruitful public debate, if  we must, on security grounded on solid  knowledge (Aug 24,DN.P19). When a country recognizes that it is in a dire need of world class talents for its vital institutions, to where does it go to engage such talent and competencies? The answer is simply anywhere- as there is no Chinese wall between Kenyans in different departments of   state or even those in the Diaspora. Hon Joseph ole  Nkaissery, MP, himself a highly respected retired senior military officer, alluded  to this  logic when he  supported the President’s appointment, saying,  “not only does the President has the prerogative of appointing people he can trust, but his recent appointments were the best anybody would have done.” 

It is quite in order to digress a little and mention a few special merits why majority of professional military officers  are  suitable for jobs so nominated in public service anywhere. First, any military worth its reputation as instrument of national survival is “professional intensive institution.” Here competitively selected young officers are developed and trained and rated on more than fifty (50) dimensions or attributes for acceptance into the institution and career progression. Some of these attributes range from integrity, physical fitness, loyalty , passion and skills. Others include ambition, military bearing, professionalism, pedagogy, scholarship, adaptation, initiative and teamwork. 

Secondly, the military is one of the best places in the world to develop all round national leaders. Leaders with acute sense of competency, mission, team and only then self. In the military academies the young officers get at their earliest opportunity time to develop culture of honor, duty, patriotism and loyalty for their country and people.  The three senior officers who the President appointed are therefore products of that background.

In the Harvard Business Review of March, 2008, a two-time Pulitzer prize winner, David McCullough, wrote on ‘’ timeless leadership’’, emphasizing that the modern world needs not only brain power but leaders, ‘’ not just political leaders but leaders in every field, at every level, in every institution in all kinds of situations.’’ There is no two way about it. History has taught us that quality of leadership is what differentiates the great organization or country from the good, the not-so -good, the stragglers, the mediocre, the marking-timers, the messy, the institutional drags and the outright failures.

The three senior military officers in this case belong to the top one percent leadership category  of the members of the military profession and thus have the combined experience and knowledge in their fields exceeding two hundred years! That makes them abundantly qualified for those positions they were appointed to.
Therefore the President’s appointments of the three senior military officers deserve our applause, not populist unhelpful verbal grenades. 

Meanwhile, I believe it is in order for me to send my personal congratulations to the three Generals and say “well done. Never drop the baton and keep believing that at all times your efforts make great difference for Kenyans.’’