Various scholars have indulged tremendous resources to study poverty. Amartya Sen is among such scholars. He used the ideas of Adams Smith as his building blocks and looked at poverty as lacking the basics that one needs in order to co-exist in the society. The World Bank estimates that 4 out of 10 Kenyans live in poverty. Consequently, several approaches to reduce poverty have been tried and tested in Kenya. In most cases, these approaches have been a blend of various theories, which have been opined by various scholars. However, it is my belief that just like cancer – which requires a combination of chemotherapy and proper nutrition – poverty cannot be fought using a single approach.
Recently, we’ve seen the Kenyan government, with the patronage of the private stakeholders such as Equity Bank, MasterCard, and the UK government through the Wings to Fly initiative, use education as a tool to combating poverty. This initiative has seen various students from needy backgrounds get scholarships from secondary school to the university. While this approach is seen as one of the most practical, it may not work effectively in current setting as a result of corruption and tribalism within the various entities. Moreover, a majority of these children from poor backgrounds can only afford to attend or be sponsored to the public schools. Most of these schools are characterized by various inefficiencies such as the inability to complete the required syllabus within the stipulated time. Additionally, the increasing number of strikes has denied the children the right to proper education. Recently, the teachers were on strike for two weeks, and they may not adequately compensate this time.
One of the key characteristics of third world countries is poor infrastructure and political unrest. Countries which invest heavily in infrastructure and security often end up attracting investment. More investments translate to more jobs, which reduces poverty. Recently, the Kenyan government has been at the forefront of signing agreements aimed at developing the country’s infrastructure, most recently the construction of Outer Ring Road in Nairboi. The completion of the Thika superhighway connecting Nairobi to Thika saw a dramatic increase in trade and investments along the highway and in both Nairobi and Thika and its environs. However, the government must first address one key element: political stability. The government must be able to restore and assure investors of their security while trading in Kenya. This may be achieved by sealing our borders from terrorists, and addressing the various corruption cases within the government.
Ultimately, I opine that the living standards of Kenyans will only ameliorate and experience unabated growth if we invest in proper education, infrastructure development, curb corruption, ensure political stability, and security. However, the above issues require the input of all the citizens of Kenya from the government, to local ‘mwanachi’, to the opposition. All these issues are enshrined in the Kenyan Vision 2030, and it is upon us to implement it.