Kenyan general election is fast approaching, and if the brain of a Kenyan voter were to be opened, two questions would feature prominently: “will I get better leaders on Tuesday, August 9, 2022, and what is in it for me?” Kenya is a country with vast opportunities but also immense challenges, including the high cost of living. Kenyans must vet leaders based on performance, track record, and ability to address the issues.
Issues of gender parity and joblessness should top the list of voters’ considerations. Kenya’s development challenges include poverty, accountability, climate change, weak private sector investment, and the economy’s vulnerability to internal and external shocks. The work is cut out for all incoming leaders.
Kenyan citizens must question aspiring leaders on how they will address the high cost of living. The high cost of living is an urgent issue aspirants need to address. They must incorporate strategies such as passing bills to control ballooning debt, subsidizing farm inputs, and controlling inflation.
The Ukraine-Russia war has disrupted the food supply chains and energy supplies whereby in 2019, Russia and Ukraine accounted for 25% and 14% of the world’s wheat and corn exports, respectively. Russia is the largest exporter of oil to global markets, and the war impedes its supply to other countries. The incoming leaders who will be elected on 9th August 2022 should not just watch and monitor the war situation but rise to the occasion and provide solutions to Kenyans.
African nations and Kenya, in particular, should put in place strategies and action plans to be food secure. Reviving the Galana-Kulalu project in Kenya to increase maize production should be a priority. In addition, putting more acreage under wheat production in Narok is a low-hanging fruit toward food security.
Voters should look out for candidates with a job creation agenda and the ability to push for policies and implementation of the manufacturing agenda. Enhancing the local production capacity of manufacturing firms and boosting demand for locally manufactured goods by encouraging “buy Kenya, build Kenya” is a sure way to promote manufacturing.
Conversations around empowering women are also taking center stage. Kenya has never had a female president or deputy president. Three of the four presidential candidates have nominated female running mates: Raila Odinga has Martha Karua on his ticket, Professor Wajackoya has Justina Wamae, and Mwaure Waihiga nominated Ruth Mutua. Only Dr. Ruto has a male running mate.
Should any of the tickets with a female deputy running mate win, it will be historic for Kenya and a good starting point to bridge the gender gap. A win for tickets with a female candidate would be the first step to addressing the gender parity challenge.
An estimated 85% of female-owned businesses in Kenya are in the informal (jua kali) sector. With women owning 48% of MSMEs, addressing the barriers facing women will be essential for increasing formal sector employment.
The performance of the private sector in Kenya is volatile because it operates in a political environment. Every election year, investment and business activities slow down in Kenya as individuals and companies adopt a wait-and-see attitude toward the election outcome. The incoming government must continue supporting the private sector with good transport infrastructure and technology.
Voters and the incoming government must give climate change priority. Poor performance of 2021 short rains and early cessation of 2022 long rains will worsen the drought situation. The issue of climate change in Kenya and Africa at large must be fixed with urgency. Candidates who have a clear plan on how to fix adverse effects of climate change, improve food security and boost trade should be given a chance. These are the basic issues personal to the voter and should be addressed with urgency.
Jamlick Kogi is a writing fellow at the African Liberty