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Friday, August 24th, 2018

 

Hats off to Bobi Wine’s wife; she’s made of steel

By NJOKI CHEGE
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My reservations on the political wife are well documented.

However, in spite these misgivings, I have incredible respect for the strong women who hold down their husbands and support them on family front as their political husbands do whatever it is they do best. Frankly, it takes an admirable amount of strength to sleep soundly not knowing where your husband is in the dead of the night and trust of Biblical magnitudes to believe that he is in “political meetings” that end shortly after 1am. It also takes a strong woman to look the other way when national rags publish your husband’s proclamations of his undying love to a woman who is not you — complete with selfies and screenshots of the same — and assume that it is his political enemies, both real and imagined out to “finish him politically”.

SIMPLICITY

It also takes a moralist of childish simplicity to believe the lie that her politician husband is an upright leader who is all about “the people” and good leadership because politicians have time and again disappointed us and broken our hearts.

But that’s just me.

Let’s just say some of us are too “soft-hearted” to put up with such strain as those women are cut from a different cloth — and for the sake of politicians reading this — should you be so lucky as to find such a woman, keep her close, for they are not made like that anymore.

EMOTIONAL TURMOIL

Such women are built of a different emotional steel that allows them to remain unfazed and unbothered in the midst of the whispers, rumours and the emotional turmoil that comes with having a fiery political husband. It particularly takes a special grade of a political wife to handle the ramifications of marrying a young political firebrand such as Robert Kyagulanyi, the MP of Kyaddondo East MP in Uganda.

So today, as the world unites in putting pressure on the dictator next door to #FreeBobiWine, I chose to dedicate this column to the woman behind Bobi Wine, Mrs Barbara Itungo Kyagulanyi popularly known as “Barbie”.

A typical Ugandan beauty with flawless caramel skin, short natural hair and a tiny, fit frame, Mrs Kyagulanyi is the ultimate political wife. At her young age, mid-thirties, she is up there with the likes of Mama Ida Odinga and the late Winnie Mandela who supported their political husbands in detention — although many might disagree on the Winnie Mandela aspect — but let us just use her example in the spirit of respecting the dead. (Rest in peace Mama).

UNCERTAIN FUTURE

If it were me in Mrs Kyagulanyi’s position, to have your husband detained by a cruel dictator and be left alone with three young children, I am almost certain that I would have fallen apart immediately. But, Barbra is a different woman. When I watched her interview with NTV Uganda, she had a certain air of strength and put-togetherness that I could only admire. She was strangely calm, collected and answered the journalists’ questions with confidence — a far cry from the show of wretchedness, tears and begging I could perhaps have put up.

Barbra has been with Bobi Wine for close to 18 years now, and has walked with the musician-turned-politician from his days as a struggling actor from the ghetto to national, nay, international fame. She has survived, among many things, a scandal involving a love child, and now the uncertain future of her revolutionary husband. I can confidently say she has stood by her husband through all the vicissitudes of life, from a ghetto life of lack, to a tumultuous David-and-Goliath type political life.

DETAILED UPDATES

Truly, loyal wives don’t come built like Barbra anymore!

Even as Bobi Wine remained remanded, Barbra stood in the gap for her husband not only for their three adorable children, but also to his followers. She has been in the front-line of pressuring the Ugandan government to release Bobi Wine, eloquently spoken to journalists, took it upon herself to write detailed updates of her husband’s condition and addressed crowds in the typical Winnie Mandela-ish fashion. Her patience has been tested, her life and that of her children have been put in danger and she has been compelled to look fear in the eye. Yet, Barbra has managed to remain stoic in the face of adversity and maybe who knows, could this be Barbra’s major audition as Uganda’s future First Lady?

I wish her all the strength she needs to go through these tough times. Most of all, I hope all her tears, lonely nights and uncertain moments pay off someday.

Keep up the fight, girl.

Aluta Continua, Barbra!


Nursery school teachers demand equal pay

By FAITH NYAMAI
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The discrepancy in the pay of Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) teachers with same qualifications in counties can be revealed.

The highest paid teacher earns Sh43,000 while the lowest Sh7,500, with some counties paying diploma teachers a measly Sh8,500 while in others certificate holders earn over Sh35,000.

The teachers are demanding for harmonisation of their salaries across the counties.

A diploma ECDE teacher in Turkana County earns Sh43,000 while a certificate holder Sh37,000.

UNIVERSITY GRADUATES

On the contrary, the teachers with the same qualifications in Baringo County earn Sh7,500 for certificate holders and Sh8,500 for diploma.

Other counties that pay their teachers better salaries are Mandera and Kajiado. In Mandera, certificate holders get Sh28,000, diploma Sh30,000 and untrained teachers Sh20,000 while in Kajiado, certificate holders get Sh24,000, diploma Sh27,000 and university graduates Sh35,000. Counties that pay their ECDE teachers low salaries include Narok, Bomet, Kakamega, Vihiga, Uasin Gishu, Kilifi, Kisumu, Migori, Laikipia, Busia, Kiambu, Siaya, Busia and Kericho where teachers earn less than Sh10,000.

PENSIONABLE TERMS

Makueni, Machakos, Isiolo, Marsabit, Murang’a, Nyeri, Makueni, Meru, Isiolo, Trans Nzoia, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kisumu, Kwale, Kirinyaga, Mombasa, Transnzoia, Nandi, Kisii and Nyamira pay their teachers between Sh10,000 and Sh20,000.

Taita Taveta, Wajir, Bungoma and Embu pay their teachers slightly above Sh20,000. Nairobi County employed their teachers early this month.Some counties such as Embu have employed their teachers on permanent and pensionable terms while Tharaka Nithi is offering their teachers house and commuter allowances.

National ECDE official Lawrence Otunga said counties have no payment structures and most pay their teachers through M-Pesa.

DEDUCTIONS

“Teachers are not provided with payslips in most counties while statutory deductions are not channelled to the right accounts in different counties,” said Mr Otunga.

He added the teachers have no job groups and demanded that they be grouped according to their education qualification.

“Some counties are paying teachers a flat rate regardless of whether they have a degree, diploma or certificate,” said Mr Otunga. He added the teachers are demanding for the ECDE County Bill to be presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta for assent.

INTEGRATED

The teachers recently held a meeting at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, where Knut secretary-general Wilson Sossion told them they must have a schemes of service. He promised to push for the County Bill to be enacted into law. Mr Sossion further said ECDE learning should be mainstreamed and integrated with the other education system. “We should focus at strengthening ECDE teachers and champion for better pay and improvement of infrastructure in all ECDE schools,” he said. The chairman of the Council of Governor’s education committee Paul Chepkwony said the devolved units have already developed a schemes of service, but have no cash to implement it. He said in the scheme, teachers with certificates will start at grade F and exit at L.

Similarly, diploma holders will enter service at grade H and exit at N, while university graduates will start at grade K and exit at R.


Why Kenya should start planning for ageing population

By PAULINE KAIRU
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An ageing population is a looming economic and social burden for Kenya in the coming years, recent data have predicted.

Kenya’s population is shifting toward an older age structure as the share of older adults aged 65+ increases and as the total fertility rate declines.

According to the recently released 2018 World Population Data Sheet from the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), by mid-century, the share of the population aged 65 or older will reach seven per cent up from three per cent currently. This, while children’s (ages 0 to 14) share will have fallen, from 41 per cent today, to 29 per cent in 2050.

FISCAL RESOURCES

The themes explored in the 2018 Data Sheet’s analytical features, released on Wednesday, show Kenya is gradually moving towards a high old-age dependency quotient.

“The changing age structures — the share of the total population in each age group — will influence the country’s economic trajectories and how it allocates resources to ensure that all generations can thrive,” says the report.

“What the new data means is the allocation of scarce fiscal resources to pay for the pensions and healthcare of the elderly — could increasingly prove a defining issue in Kenya’s economy in the near future,” the report says.

95.5 MILLION

In total, the population of Kenya will reach 95.5 million in 2050, up 44.5 million from an estimated 51 million at present, according to the projections by the PRB. The world population will reach 9.9 billion by 2050, up 2.3 billion or 29 per cent from an estimated 7.6 billion people now.

As smaller birth cohorts replace larger ones and larger birth cohorts age into adulthood, the share of children in the population begins to decline while the share of working-age adults grows. Those above age 65 are a dependent age group, as are those under the age of 15.

The population has more than doubled over the last 25 years, and rapid population growth is set to continue.

EDUCATED WOMEN

Kenya’s high population growth is explained over two different periods, by the increasing numbers of children up until about 2000. But that has changed with the number of children per family having fallen sharply, from 8.1 children in 1978 to 4.6 children in 2008, to 3.9 births per woman in 2016, and is projected to possibly reach 2.4 children by 2050.

The combination of a shortened period for child bearing along with the ability to limit family size, whether by delay or contraception, as women pursue advanced education, have together lowered the birth rate — all of which lead to smaller family sizes. Additionally, educated women are more likely to plan for smaller families or decide to never give birth.

Why does Kenya’s population continue to rise rapidly, while family size declines?

SMALLER FAMILIES

Based on these trends, the total number of children aged 0 to 14 is expected to increase by only 40 per cent by 2050, from 17.5 million to 24.5 million. But the total population will nonetheless more than double, due to several-fold increases of adult population groups.

PRB pins the rapid population growth to high fertility in previous decades, which has resulted in many more families in Kenya today. Meaning even though families are smaller, the total number of children continues to grow.

Additionally, Kenyans are living longer. The shift is due to more recent improvements in healthcare that are bringing down death rates at older ages. Life expectancy is projected to increase from 54 years today to 68 years by 2050. As a result, the fastest growing population group in Kenya is 15 to 64 years.

DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND

Thus, Kenya is at the start of a demographic transformation.

As fertility declines and Kenyans live longer, a dramatic improvement in the “dependency ratio” or the proportion of the working-age population is expected to grow much faster than the young and elderly population groups that depend on them.

This implies Kenya is in a position to benefit from a “demographic dividend”, especially by 2020, when this gap starts to widen. And the good news is that this is the population group that works. From only 22 million working-age people today, Kenya by 2050 will have about 56 million of these.

Separate UN forecasts predict that Kenya’s population will grow by around a million people per year. That is 3,000 people every day, over the next 32 years.

WORKING AGE

By 2050, Kenya will begin to experience moderate child dependency ratio (29-45) and high old-age dependency ratio.

Meanwhile, the population balance between the continents is shifting: In 1970, there were two Europeans for every African, but by 2030, there will be two Africans for every European.

The PRB report says Sub-Saharan Africa remains in a period of rapidly growing youth cohorts, meaning that the region’s working-age population will continue to grow rapidly. Even so, youth unemployment remains a critical challenge. According to economist David Lam, “Sub-Saharan Africa needs to generate about a million new jobs per month to keep employment rates stable and will need to generate almost two million jobs per month by 2030.”

ECONOMIC ADVANTAGES

While rapid population growth remains a challenge in many poor countries, the debate has changed in recent years. The World Bank’s World Development Report for 2009, Reshaping Economic Geography, found a strong correlation between population density and economic development. It says rich countries are urban countries. “No country has ever reached high income levels with low urbanisation,” the report says.

Population growth increases density and, together with rural-urban migration, creates higher urban agglomeration. And this is critical for achieving sustained growth because large urban centres have two distinct economic advantages.

First, as more people interact, there is more scope for innovation.

“Young people need jobs, but they also create jobs. Kenya has an educated workforce and a dynamic service industry, which typically has lower barriers of entry than agriculture or manufacturing, and provides opportunities for young entrepreneurs.”

PRIVATE SECTOR

In light of these facts, Kenya’s future pattern of population growth can be a force of good. The World Population Prospects — The 2017 revision by UNDP, says a large urbanising and well-educated population is likely to generate a strong middle class and as well as a vibrant private sector.

But UNDP warns that because over the last few decades Kenya did not make sufficient progress in upgrading its infrastructure and improving its governance, the constraints made it difficult for new industries to take root, especially in manufacturing, and opportunities to create jobs on a large scale were lost.

“To ensure Kenya does not miss future opportunities, and takes full advantage of the demographic dividend that may come to it, better infrastructure and better governance are key,” says the UN agency.


Land governance curriculum must address current needs

By IBRAHIM MWATHANE
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Asked what extra skills they require to perform their tasks better, land policy makers, implementers and practitioners around Africa returned interesting results. The long list included communication, conflict resolution, change management and implications of climate change to land management skills. Others listed land policy, land information management, women land rights and strategic management. Customary land rights, sustainable urban and peri-urban management also appeared to be of great concern. The prompting study, commissioned by the African Land Policy Centre(ALPC), previously the Continental Land Policy Initiative, covered all the five regions of Africa, south to north, east to west and central Africa.

RESPONDENTS

It should be curious the respondents never mentioned the need for extra skills in numerics, surveying, valuation, law and science. Here was a case where the consumer industry was implying the graduates from universities and other training institutions weren’t fully impacting today’s needs despite their rigorous training. Jolted by the results, the African Land Policy Centre, which is charged with coordinating the implementation of the 2009 African Union Declaration on Land Issues, sought to seek suitable solutions.

BOUNDARIES

Before looking at the ALPC interventions, let’s get to terms with basic realities. When colonial regimes set up in Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, their priority focus was territorial conquest and protection. A priority concern was therefore the definition of political and administrative boundaries. Soon after, this moved to appropriation of land for food production and exploitation of natural resources. One can therefore appreciate the regimes were most interested in technical studies that helped to respond to these needs. This called for competencies in measuring land, defining its location and size, and giving its approximate value in order to guide distribution. Basic law to guide appropriation for state and individual holdings was needed too. Urban planning wasn’t much of an issue then since Africa was sparsely populated and not urbanised. Early regimes therefore placed emphasis in promoting training in surveying, land economics and law, with different names going for near similar courses in Anglo and Francophone Africa.

INDEPENDENCE

These were the courses most African pioneer scholars who went to Europe just before and soon after independence embraced. These were also the courses prioritised in most African universities faculties established to offer studies on land in the last century. That was in keeping with the character of civilisations. Knowledge is meant to serve society, and is always useful and relevant when it does so. But over half a century later, Africa’s needs have shifted. Unlike before, more emphasis has now been placed on the need to understand and manage community land. The historical and political contexts underlying country-level land administration systems are helpful. Citizens are more rights conscious hence issues on equity have become vogue.

MANAGEMENT

There is concern global phenomena such as climate change call for greater attention to land use. Major and minor land and boundary disputes are a constant concern at local level. And, with time, cities are bedeviled by rapid population growth, calling for better management of space and resources in urban and peri-urban areas. Technology has made it possible to capture, store and disseminate large volumes of land information. These developments call for a very good understanding of holistic land policies and better management skills of land professionals. These contemporary challenges call for a very fundamental re-examination, review and where necessary, the establishment of totally new curriculum in training institutions.

So what has the African Land Policy Centre done to help African Union member states to mitigate the above knowledge gap? Within the last two years, the Centre has coordinated the development of a framework that maps out current consumer needs against the courses currently offered by various universities and other institutions of higher learning that offer land governance courses. The results from this mapping have been used to develop some framework that will help them examine what they currently offer against what the industry requires. This resultant framework entitled Guidelines for the Development of Curricula on Land Governance in Africa is an extremely helpful tool to curricula developers and lecturers in Africa. It is anticipated that the curricula to be developed around the continent will help to turn out graduates better equipped to confront today’s concerns.

To empower those already serving industry, the Land Policy Centre commissioned a study to identify suitable short courses to be offered through regional and national platforms. A generic curricula informed by the study is under development. This will be used to equip top managers in government, land commissions and the judiciary.

It behooves governments and managers of universities in Africa to acquaint themselves with the above developments, harness and customise the products accordingly.


Graft fight key in achieving housing dream

By SILVANIA KAPARO
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Among the plethora of challenges Kenya faces, the lack of affordable housing is one of the most pressing. A 2017 World Bank report showed there is currently a housing deficit of more than two million units, with nearly 61 per cent of urban households living in slums. This challenge is becoming ever more acute, with around 500,000 new city dwellers each year requiring somewhere to live. However, as things stand, less than 50,000 units are built each year.

That is why, of all the excitement surrounding President Uhuru Kenyatta’s announcement of his Big Four Agenda, it was his pledge on housing that was the most eye catching. In promising to construct 500,000 affordable homes by 2022, Uhuru committed to more than double the current pace of building houses, which would amount to the biggest step towards remedying this long-standing challenge in recent memory.

SH750 BILLION

Significant steps have already been taken towards this end, with seven key housing projects due to be launched in Nairobi. Additionally, the government has also signed into law a Bill creating a 15 per cent tax relief for Kenyans buying houses under the Affordable Housing Scheme, while exempting first time buyers from stamp duty.

Of course, as with any major policy, the biggest challenge is funding. Government has assigned an initial Sh6.5 billion towards affordable housing, but developers have estimated that it will cost around Sh750 billion to meet the government’s goal.

The plan is to have the remainder of the funding come from the private sector through public-private partnerships. The hosting of the second Kenyan National Construction Week in Nairobi in November is also expected to attract the attention of global low-cost housing developers.

FOREIGN INVESTORS

The impacts of these policies are already being felt. Financial Times, one of the most important investor publications in the world, reported positively on the new conducive atmosphere for foreign investors in the housing market.

They cited the example of a $57 million project to construct a block to house 10,000 students at Kenyatta University, planned by an American investment house, which had been stalled for the past three years by bureaucracy. “But after Mr Kenyatta said the focus of his second term would be universal healthcare, food security, manufacturing and affordable housing, everything changed … [and] barriers were swept away,” the paper wrote. The project is now expected to be finished by 2020.

The ongoing war on graft will also benefit housing. Over the past six months, Kenya has seen unprecedented action against graft at a previously unseen intensity and pace. Senior figures have been arrested, including big names.

DEVELOPMENT

This has been supplemented by an effort to repatriate stolen funds, with a deal with Switzerland, the UK and Jersey already signed, and another with Mauritius reportedly under consideration.

The importance of these measures can only be truly understood when one considers that an estimated one third of our state budget is lost to corruption every year. That is around 600 billion shillings each year, almost the total sum needed to fund 500,000 affordable houses!

Of course, this is far from straightforward as the money returned won’t all go towards new housing. Still, the graft war’s contribution to development cannot be gainsaid.

Ms Kaparo comments on governance issues.


It is unreasonable to expect all artists to sing reforms

By MAGESHA NGWIRI
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The popular boy band, Sauti Sol, last week took to social media to demand justice for Ugandan MP Bobi Wine. They did it in a tweet. Apparently, that was a big mistake. An army of angry Netizens immediately descended on the group in a vicious lynching orgy, not because the band was wrong, but because the singers have never criticised their own government for its human rights abuse record which is less than admirable. I thought the criticism rather petty and mendacious.

Saying Sauti Sol was more interested in dildos than in political activism was a high level of intolerance which the activists were criticising in the first place. It also raised a few issues about the relationship between art and politics in society and whether artists have a duty to correct all the ills afflicting society and whether they can only proclaim their relevance through protest, the stuff which in Literature classes they call “commitment”.

INCARCERATION

There is no denying that art has proved to be a potent weapon against every form of human rights abuse by despots and the twisted state agents they train and employ. Dictators must use all the weapons of mass coercion at their disposal if they are to retain power, and it is up to everyone, in his own way, to show them the error of their ways.

Musicians, writers, poets, orators and even preacher have a vital role to play – telling the rulers that they are naked. Someone has to do it. That is why Bobi Wine’s torture and incarceration by Uganda’s army for telling the truth was so painful to many. Regardless of what his government says, the man could not have been so naïve as to think he can overthrow the dictator by stoning his car.

MISCALCULATED

On the other hand, if Mr Museveni thought the tender ministrations of state thugs and treason charges would tame Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, he miscalculated badly. Such moves against him have only made Bobi Wine a hero, even to those of his critics who think he should keep a tight leash on his tongue. Should the fiery MP be found guilty as is very possible in a dictatorship, it will be the beginning of the end for the man from Ankole. The former liberation hero who has ruled Uganda with an iron fist since 1986, is acting scared and making mistakes. By now, he must realise the agitation for change fronted by firebrands like Bobi Wine is gaining traction throughout the country, and there is little he can do about it.

Anyway, to go back to the thread of this conversation, the grouse against Sauti Sol seems to be that the band kept studiously silent when some of their countrymen were being executed, and now they are poking their noses into the affairs of a neighbouring country. The tweeting critics seem to say that everyone, especially artists, should always carry the banner of revolution if they are to be taken seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth. Where was it ever written that to become a success every musician must emulate the likes of Bob Marley, Fela Kuti and our own Eric Wainaina during the days he was angry?

As far as many people are concerned, music is first and foremost a peerless form of entertainment. All the rest is secondary. While there is no doubt that music is a weapon so powerful it has felled tyrants, the contrary is also true. People enjoy music for its healing qualities and to escape reality. Very few like to be bombarded with revolutionary cant or pedagogical blather when they are trying to relax.

If a musician is able to combine aesthetic excellence and a lasting message, it is a blessing for humankind. There are quite a few in that category. But an equal number does not possess this gift and so they must stick to all sorts of sublime nonsense especially while expressing their undying love for members of the other sex. The other attribute of music is that, for believers, it is the most popular form of worship. Apparently, Yahweh likes a rollicking chorus now and then after His many labours, and it is also said that Old Nick too favours a lively beat, which is why he has so many followers singing his praises chini ya maji.

Personally, I care very little for the lyrics of the songs I hear, but I do care for the melody and rhythm. In ordinary circumstances, I would never appreciate the songs of fellows like Sean Paul and a horde of American rappers, for I never know what they are talking about in most cases. However, I do love the way they go about it. There are many musicians of that ilk and the lack of political comment in their songs does not in any way detract from their appeal.

Incidentally, Sauti Sol has come out with a new song, Tujiangalie, which is as political as any poor Bobi Wine ever sang. That is a clear indication that even the self-appointed champions of political morality do not always know what they are talking about.


Dearth of music activism doing injustice to the fight for rights

By GLADYS BURINI
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Hello My Baby by Ladymith Black Mambazo is one of the most enchanting songs, a loving call for the beloved. Contrast it with the heartbreaking, thought- and action-provoking Homeless, by the same group.

Even more stimulating is Hapo Zamani by the legendary Miriam Makeba

Hapo zamani mama, sikuwa hivi,

Hapo zamani mama, shauri wa pombe

Nindibona ndingenakhaya nje kungenxa yabelungu

(I am homeless because of the whites).

TEARJERKER

Not too far from home is Philly Latunya’s tearjerker, The Voices Crying Out.

The voices crying out, from the wilderness, we are crying out to the leaders of Africa.

Even more poignant and sombre is Geoffrey Oryema’s Makambo from his album Exile. “I’ve been asking for peace,” he says in the song, “but all I got was war… what is wrong with the world.”

Oryema fled from Uganda to Kenya in the boot of a car during Idi Amin’s era. His debut album was rightly named Exile. Arguably Uganda’s most renowned artist, he passed away two month ago, but his message lives on.

All these songs have a message and a call to action. Juxtaposed with our present day music, there is a rise of nostalgia, not for the moments that these songs represented, but for their momentous messages.

Much of today’s music has vastly done away with the activism. In its place, the brave actively protest in the streets. These protests reach so many with the invaluable help of both mainstream and social media.

Social media is the platform to lyrically make your case known. Like a song played over and over again, the message tweeted and retweet, with comment coming after comment. Call for your protest and with social media’s clenched fist, you are all set to take to the streets.

But what then comes of the protest? The risk with marching is that the message competes with the captivating visuals and risks being forgotten. A protest message that comes to mind is Haki Yetu. Can you remember what rights this slogan sought? What about the more recent and dare I say effective, Lipa Kama Tender? It is not by accident that the doctors composed a ditty to accompany their slogan, Sasa nimeamua ya kwamba, nilipwe kama tender.

The doctors knew that a song is memorable. We may not always remember the lyrics, but the melody sticks with us and when we hear it, the message and sometimes the feeling of when you first heard it comes rushing back. So why are we losing this encapsulating feeling and message that comes with music in activism?

Would a song against bad governance put an artist at risk of exile? The answer lies in where the artiste comes from.

As we like to sing and remind everyone standing in our way, we have a constitutional right to freedom of expression. This particularly includes freedom of artistic creativity albeit with prohibitions against spreading propaganda for war; incitement to violence; hate speech; or advocacy of hatred. Why then are the airwaves littered with the same rhetoric that does not inspire? We can only console ourselves with these songs for so long.

There is a time and a song for every season. And times have come where we could have done with a reverberating song playing across the country; a song that truly captures our feelings, telling our story but equally delivering our message; a song comforting us when we feel estranged from those who lead us; a song that gives us hope for a better tomorrow. In short, we could do with an awakening song.

But who shall shepherd us? An unlikely source of awakening is not from our everyday artistes but from our children. The drama and music festivals which ended last week are the most consistent outlet of music activism. Every year, children ingeniously write poems, compose songs and choreograph dances, fearlessly taking on State and public issues. Listen to the children; they have a message we ought to share more widely.

This entire week we have bitterly written about Bobi Wine thousands of times, changed our graphic representation to match his own and marched in his name. His song Freedom represents the frustration of his fellow countrymen. It would have meant something for every radio station, to play this song at the top of every hour in protest at his detention even if just for a day.

But I am reminded we have music activism inertia!


Phones hold key to modern agriculture

By ADAM LANE
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In an era of rapidly evolving technology, it remains critical for both governmental and non-governmental institutions to go hi-tech across all sectors, agriculture included. In the face of climate change, a phenomenon that has led to drastic weather patterns, the food security of billions of people is at risk, hence the need to shift to smart agriculture.

Climate smart agriculture, according to UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, refers to an approach that helps to guide actions needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food security in a changing climate.

PRODUCTION

The Internet of Things (IoT) technology is expected to play a significant role in enhancing agricultural productivity in order to meet food demand.

According to a 2017 Huawei report, The Connected Farm: A Smart Agriculture Market Assessment, IoT can address agriculture-based challenges and increase the quality of production. In turn, this will make farms more connected and more intelligent with apps such as precision agriculture, smart irrigation and variable rate technology.

Farmers are now increasingly reliant on smartphones and other smart devices to keep up to date with the latest developments in the sector. They also use these devices to receive weather information, early warnings on extreme weather events, efficient production methods and even access to mobile loans.

OPPORTUNITY

Kenya’s rate of smartphones penetration surpassed 40 million mobile subscriptions in 2017 and stands at 41 million, according to data from the Communication Authority of Kenya. This presents a unique opportunity for companies in the telecommunication/technology industry. It is also a boon for firms involved in the manufacturing of devices, development of applications, network connectivity and the collection, management and dissemination of data. Telcos are indeed in a unique position to provide the scale, expertise and market clout needed for the successful application of IoT based solutions in agriculture.

According to research by Huawei X Labs, the total addressable market for smart agriculture is expected to grow from $13.7 billion in 2015 to $26.8 billion by 2020, a compound annual growth rate of 14.3 per cent.

INFORMATION

Kenya, a country whose agriculture sector relies heavily on rain, has had food production affected by changing weather patterns. Delayed rainfall, drought and floods have largely contributed to declining food security. Therefore, IoT products that can connect to remote weather stations would provide timely weather information to farmers, enabling them to adapt their crop production accordingly.

In Kenya, where 80 per cent of the country is arid or semi-arid land, livestock keeping, dairy and meat production are major socio-economic activities, supporting the livelihoods of more than 10 million people, according to data from the International Livestock Research Institute. Mobile phone technologies can be used to increase cattle productivity, improve their health, and reduce rustling.

Other technologies for analysing data can improve the operating efficiency of farm machinery and allow for both corrective and preventive maintenance thus reducing fault time and maintenance cost. This can be readily adopted in Kenya, as the government is keen on encouraging large scale commercial farming through technologies.

Mr Lane is Senior Director, Public Affairs, Southern Africa Huawei Technologies Kenya.


Kenya's football standards appalling

By EDITORIAL
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Kenya’s number one sport, football, is facing a serious crisis. It needs concerted efforts by Football Kenya Federation (FKF), the government and stakeholders to save it.

It’s sad Harambee Starlets suffered first round shock elimination from the Cecafa Women Championship in Rwanda, following a 1-0 defeat to Ethiopia in last month.

The elimination came just after Starlets were also eliminated from the 2018 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations when they lost to Equatorial Guinea 3-1 a month earlier.

DREAMS SHATTERED

Moreover, Kenya’s dream of gracing the 2019 African Nations Under-17 (boys) finals were shattered after the team fell 4-2 to Ethiopia in their final qualifying match in Dar es Salaam last weekend. Ethiopia sailed through alongside Uganda.

Harambee Stars have already lost one match to Sierra Leone in Group F of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier where they will meet Ghana and Ethiopia in home and away basis. Losing to Sierra Leone in a match where they were favourites put Stars at the back foot.

TAP TALENT

This sad story simply explains how standards of football have sunk to oblivion in the country despite the enormous talent around.

Kenya’s soccer development has for long suffered either due to lack of interest from the government and poor leadership at the FKF.

We need full-fledged centres for sports excellence across the country to tap talent not only in soccer but other sporting disciplines.

Sports ministry ought to be serious in implementing the 2013 Sports Act where funds need to be raised to support national teams and sports development.


It's immoral for IEBC pair to resume duty

By EDITORIAL
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The goings-on at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission border on the comedy of the absurd. Unfortunately, IEBC is not the institution where one can allow that tomfoolery to play out. It is an institution charged with the sacred duty of presiding over elections – determining the leadership of the nation, from the grassroots to the top. It must be beyond reproach. Its dignity must be jealously guarded.

On Friday, two commissioners – Ms Connie Maina and Ms Margaret Mwachanya – who had quit the commission in March returned to office presumably to assume their previous duties. This is not acceptable.

PERSONAL DIGNITY

Chairman Wafula Chebukati was dodgy about their status. Instead, he issued an audit report about the conduct of last year’s election, which in itself is subject of another discussion. But the intent here was to divert attention from the more crucial issue.

First, it is immoral for the two commissioners to purport to resume duty after a five-month hiatus and having left the commission acrimoniously with blistering attacks on the chairman and the institution. It smacks of contempt of the public and the institution itself. Does it mean they have been earning from the public coffers without working? Doesn’t that amount to fraud, in which case, punishable? What happened to integrity and personal dignity?

PUBLIC TRUST

We note the High Court recently ruled that the resignation of the commissioners, including Paul Kurgat, was unprocedural, hence cannot stand in law. Fair enough but legalese aside, in practice the mere fact that one puts in a letter of resignation and in this case, makes a public pronouncement about it, is a statement of discontent with an institution, hence cannot continue working there. Here is a matter of public service which requires public trust. Once an individual declares he or she has no faith in an institution, how can the public trust him or her to work there and deliver on the mission?

CREDIBILITY CRISIS

Second, we need to build and restore faith in institutions. We have argued time and again that IEBC must be reorganised because, as currently constituted, it cannot be trusted with managing elections. It suffers serious credibility crisis. The law that establishes it as well as the administrative structures that it is founded upon are faulty. It is susceptible to manipulations by the political establishment, undermining its work and triggering chaos as we saw last year and in the other previous elections.

Mr Chebukati has to clear the air over the status of the two commissioners. Institutions must be respected. Individuals who do not exhibit personal integrity should not be allowed to serve in public office. Importantly, it is time to commence the process of remaking IEBC, it cannot be allowed to continue as it is.