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A decade of revolution: though hardly spoken of, the last decade has seen Kenya undergo revolutionary changes that many countries in the world have not been able to accommodate in such a short time. Indeed, the country's rapid advancement between 2002-2012 will provide excellent fodder for historians in the years to come. Articles in this Special Report are by our Nairobi correspondent Wanjohi Kaburu.

It all began in 2002 when Kenyans elected President Mwai Kibaki to replace President Daniel arap Moi after 24 years in power. This was the first change that ushered in an era of greater freedoms. The second phase of Kenya's rapid socioeconomic and political transformation came in 2005 when Kenya effectively adopted the "Look East Policy", through which Kenya opened its doors to welcome the Asian Tigers as critical allies for the country's development trajectory.


In 2007-2008 the third wave took place. This was when a botched-up election exposed the entire Kenyan political elite to the dangers of neglecting the masses. By agreeing to a political settlement after the skirmishes of 2007-2008 the Kenyan political class in effect signaled the beginning of groundbreaking reforms aimed at leveraging equity, and dismantling rogue politics and economic marginalisation. As the political resolution that established the Grand Coalition Government was being fine-tuned, critics heavily lambasted this governance system but few alternatives were proposed. The significance of this third alteration in Kenya's politics brought in the politics of inclusivity and accommodation in favour of the hitherto "winner-takes-all" brand of governance, which was perceived to breed exclusive politics at the expense of the general populace.


Indeed it is the Grand Coalition administration which laid the foundation for the final change, which came in in 2010 when a new constitutional dispensation was overwhelmingly voted for and promulgated into law.

There is no denying that Kenya's engaging, robust and free press, aided by a critical and loquacious civil society, has in the last decade provided checks and balances for the government.

Before 2002, the executive arm of government wielded enormous powers. This is no longer the case. The legislature and the judiciary are now hankering in earnest to claim their rightful places in Kenya's governance structures.

Henry Kosgey, William Ruto, Moses Wetangula and Geoffrey Majiwa, who were the industrialisation, higher education and foreign affairs ministers and Nairobi mayor respectively, were all forced to step down, thanks to the new supreme law's tenets on the moral probity of public officials.

In addition, under the new establishment, Kenya's institutions seem to have woken up to the spirit and letter of their respective mandates and repudiated the age-old political patronage system. The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC), the judiciary and legislature seem to be flexing their muscles and wrenching themselves from the clutches of the executive which had for years made them moribund, to effectively undertake their constitutional jurisdictions that make the government tick with effectiveness.

A zeal to weed out corruption and official impropriety is spreading fast among the key governmental institutions. This relentless pursuit to tackle corruption and fix the country's political intransigence has helped the country's economic fortunes and earned rare praise from hitherto harsh critics of the government.

Amidst these far-reaching political changes, during this period the country has experienced economic buoyancy, which has given rise to the rapid growth of the middle class in Kenya and seen the country undertaking large-scale infrastructure construction projects and social reforms.

The cornerstone of this transformation is Vision 2030, an ambitious economic development programme launched in 2008, which seeks to transform Kenya into a Middle Income Country (MIC) by 2030. The sectors chosen as Vision 2030 "economic pillars" include tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, trade, information technology and financial services, all of which will require a strong infrastructure springboard.

In this period there has been broader capital ownership, with the state pursuing a policy of wealth creation by privatising its stakes in profitable corporations and undertaking land reforms in favour of the general population. Examples include KenGen and Safaricom.

As 2010 came to a close the World Bank gave Nairobi a clean bill of health and the plaudits for this Eastern African powerhouse have been rolling in ever since. Indeed, the sentiments of the World Bank for the period 2000-2010 contrast sharply with their assessments a decade earlier.

According to the World Bank, the promulgation of the new constitution, mobile money and the ICT revolution are some of the key developments that have helped hoist the Kenyan economy to a growth rate of 4.5% in 2010, which is shortly expected to hit the 6% mark. The World Bank's projections were echoed by the Standard Chartered Bank, in its report: "Global Focus - 2011 - The year ahead", which noted:

"The success of Kenya's approach to financial market development has benefited the real economy and will remain a key growth driver in 2011. Thanks to a regulatory environment that favours innovation, seen, for instance, in the widespread growth of mobile-phone banking, Kenya has had greater success with financial inclusion than many peer economies."

The construction sector, buoyed by a host of massive infrastructure projects, has been a strong catalyst for growth in Kenya's economy, raising the standards of the country's resilient real estate market, which has seen a proliferation of new classy neighbourhoods and gated communities sprouting up all over the republic.

After the UN recognised Nairobi's changed status, the world's credit rating body. Standard & Poors, raised Kenya's credit rating from B to B+.

"The raising of the sovereign credit rating on Kenya reflects our view of the country's falling political risks in the wake of the adoption of a new constitution, as well as the country's improved economic outlook," Ravi Bhatia of Standard & Poor's London office says. "The absence of violence surrounding the referendum supports our view of improving political stability in Kenya. In addition, against the troubled background of post-election violence in 2008, we believe it is noteworthy that politicians at opposite ends of the political spectrum cooperated and agreed on the compromise draft constitution text."

Kenya's political evolution, with its revolutionary changes, is transforming the East African economic powerhouse like never before. It is this race to open a new chapter for the country that has seen corruption, impunity and public malfeasance reducing significantly, thereby boosting the fortunes of East Africa's economic gateway.
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Title Annotation:Special Report
Author:Kaburu, Wanjohi
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:6KENY
Date:Apr 1, 2011
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