President Uhuru’s speech on Kenya’s first anniversary of the Covid-19 pandemic revolved around political, economic and social issues with global ramifications. With the virus causing much damage on lives and livelihoods globally, the continent faces a myriad challenges that require focus.
To focus steadily on post-Covid economic recovery, the President will have to employ maximum political goodwill, centred on the theme ‘building back better’ as the government deals with the public health crisis spawned by the pandemic.
Committed to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to resolve the electoral-political conundrum hindering national unity amid the intriguing 2022 succession battles, Uhuru temporarily suspended political rallies on the resurgence of the virus. While the ban could slow down political activity, there will be behind-the-scenes manoeuvres in the charged atmosphere dominated by a motley cast of politicians and diehard acolytes.
Kenya and Africa are endowed with abundant natural resources, yet the population continues to suffer from bad governance, poverty, stagnant development and now Covid-19. How the President responds to the recovery is the subject of local and global attention.
The fate of fortune has handed him what football pundits call a ‘gilt-edged opportunity’ to score a goal and leave a lasting shine on his legacy in the sunset years of his tenure. Two weeks ago, he was named the East African Community (EAC) chairperson. A few days later, he took over as chair of the African
Union (AU) Peace and Security Council.
US President Joe Biden has urged Kenya to use its position to end conflicts in the region, taking advantage of the strong, historic USKenya ties and Kenya’s membership of the United Nations Security Council. When Kenya took its seat last year, it listed a wish-list catalogue including “building bridges to promote a culture of peace, tolerance and respect for human dignity and aspirations.”
It also promised to uphold justice, human rights, democracy, gender equality, humanitarian action, youth empowerment, sustainable development and to act on climate change. Uhuru’s new role in the EAC and the AU is significant politically and economically as his BBI co-principal ODM leader Raila Odinga is the AU High Representative for Infrastructure Development.
This union augurs well for their connection with current AU Chair, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi, whose top agenda is tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and accelerating operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA). DRC has applied to join the EAC and the Council of Ministers has been urged to expedite the process.
DRC is probably the richest country in Africa in terms of its abundant natural resources, especially minerals. Its membership could make EAC a powerful regional economic bloc on the continent. DRC is also home of the world’s largest hydropower scheme, the Grand Inga dam (estimated cost US$80 billion) to develop a grid across Africa and spur industrial economic development. For a resilient and durable economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, governments and international partners must prevent environmentally destructive investment patterns and activities.
Global environmental emergencies such as climate change and bio-diversity loss unchecked could cause social and economic damages far larger than those caused by the pandemic. Economic recovery and stimulus packages should be designed to build back better, by doing more than getting economies
and livelihoods quickly back on their feet.
Recovery policies need to trigger investment and behavioural changes to reduce the likelihood of future shocks and increase the society’s resilience to them when they do occur. The ball is in President Uhuru’s court.