Yes, World Bank, and No, World Bank

I am just from an event by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency of the world bank on “Driving Foreign Direct Investment to Africa”, so it’s only right I publish this today.

Screenshot from the ‘Driving FDI to Africa” Event earlier today

Recently, there have been some serious financial constraints in Kenya; Public institutions have been making major losses, many public universities are almost insolvent. Of course, Covid is partly to blame, but for a long time Kenyan public institutions have been heavily mismanaged, so with or without Covid we were headed here eventually. To help ease the economic problems, the Kenya government has recently taken huge loans from the IMF and the World Bank.

In addition to giving the loans, about two weeks ago, the World Bank recommended that the Kenyan government consolidates some of its state run corporations, as well as merge public universities that have been making loss in the past three years. Many have said these recommendations are a re-run of the 1982 SAP during the Moi Era, which left the country in some serious economic crisis- joblessness, a disempowered public, the country having an economic model that probably didn’t work for us. Each of these thoughts are valid, but I have thoughts of my own on these particular recent recommendations.

However, before I proceed, I just started publishing my thoughts on medium. One may wonder why I am writing on national issues yet my first article was very personal and introspective. Let me partly introduce myself for you to get where I am coming from.

I am very interested in the leadership of Kenya, and the African Continent at large. If hearts could literally bleed, then mine would literally bleed each time I have seen poor decisions further lead the African people to poverty and indignity. My heart beats for the African people and continent. One of the greatest burden and desires of my heart is the true liberation of the African people, the restoration of dignity lost as a result of years of colonialism and lose of our identities and culture. I hope this partly paints a picture of where I am coming from with this article.

Back to the World Bank and its recommendations to the Kenyan government: When I saw these recommendations on a friend’s WhatsApp status, I immediately wrote the title of this article. To begin with, I actually wanted to write my Law School undergraduate dissertation on a case for consolidating parastatals in Kenya to avoid duplicity of state organisations doing the same thing, using up already scare resources. This was back in 2019. It is all I wanted to write. At the time my primary motivation was anger. I was so angry at the world, and our government. I still am angry, still get angry, I just think about it differently now. And want to do something about it.

Anyways, back to my undergraduate dissertation paper. My International Organizations Law lecturer back then, Dr. Kabata, told me that my topic of choice on was good, but that there weren’t enough materials on state parastatals; at undergraduate level I risked being caught up with insufficient research. I ended up doing some weird topic I didn’t care much for, on the gaps in immigration law Act in Kenya. Needless to say, I didn’t perform well in my dissertation, I felt like I had betrayed my intuition not writing on what I had really wanted to since August 2018.

So, the World Bank recommending consolidation of some state corporations in Kenya? I couldn’t be more in support. I literally had this idea in mind way back in August 2018, when I interned at the National Youth Council for my undergraduate clinical externship. I truly honor the National Youth Council for the opportunity it afforded me; but I also paid attention. I saw how we struggled to answer the question “what does NYC do?” You also probably don’t know what the National Youth Council does, do you? Did you even know we have a national youth Council? I’ll bet many of you didn’t know or don’t know what it does. And this is the sad state of many of our state corporations. Their mandate is not clear; or there’s another parastatal probably doing the same thing, especially those of youth, women and ICT.

To me, it would be more efficient and responsible to consolidate state corporations with similar roles; or those not making profits yet they can but for the mismanagement. For example, I strongly believe all matters youth and women can be under one state corporation, with different departments. You would have less CEOs to pay hefty salaries and insane perks; not to mention all the members of staff in many state corporations who do not know what their Job Description is.

Closure or merging of public universities though? No, World Bank no. Absolutely not. 70% of the Kenya population is made up of young people. Where do you see them going for higher learning? Or doesn’t that mater? As it is, we are even in shortage of institutions of higher learning, and more than half the average wananchi cannot afford the public education let alone private universities! So no, I cannot agree with this recommendation, not at all.

What does closure of public universities mean for the future of literacy in this country? What example shall we be setting for the present generations of young people on problem solving, creativity, innovation, taking responsibility over poor decisions such as mismanagement? What happens to concepts like FDI in the future, when you have a minority who understand what it is, or how to go about it because they don’t know nothing about it, as the institutions where they could have learnt about it were reduced to a countable number where only a few could get in? What will happen when you have none or few people who could negotiate Public Private Partnerships in the country, because the opportunity to learn how to was prematurely taken over some recommendation?

I may have the full grasp of the problem in public universities, but I know mismanagement and petty Tribalism is one of them. Pick Moi University for instance. There was a qualified vice chancellor candidate but the “mtu wetu” syndrome has resulted in near insolvency of the institution. We could rethink how to run public universities in Kenya, but not shut them down or merge them. As I said earlier, we already have a shortage as is. Some tasks assigned to permanent members of staff in our universities could be done by students. Such students could be paid small stipends, while being encouraged to view their work as gaining work experience and personal independence. We could give insolvency practitioners and business persons in Kenya a chance to rethink running of public universities, but no one can convince me that mergers or closure is the solution. I disagree.

I’ll be honest and admit I have thought to myself “Risper, could this writing affect any chances you may have of working with the World Bank should you want to?” Ha-ha, as my therapist once told me, I cannot pre-empt how people think or feel or how they will make decisions. If I am to work with the World Bank, I shall. In any case, chances are this not the last time I disagree with something the World Bank or a similar institution does or recommends. I shall therefore not withhold expressing my thoughts over some fear that I may offend someone and lose some chance in a future that hasn’t even happened. All I know is I couldn’t let this recommendation of the World Bank go without me weighing in.

So, yes world bank. Let’s consolidate state parastatals duplicating roles and making losses. I would have recommended this even in the absence of financial constraints in the country.

But merge public universities? That is a no, World Bank. No. The future of this country and its people relies a lot of their being present, surviving and overcoming the present challenges of poor management. If anything, haha, we should get more loans to build more public universities, with strict rules on management and accountability.

One place to definitely get great a brain storming team and problem solvers is Lapid Leaders Africa. Haha, I am living proof. Just do not touch Kenyan public universities

So yes, World bank, and absolutely no, World bank.



I writing about re-finding ourselves, and everything in between; trauma, rejection, acceptance, healing, mental health

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Risper Wanja Njagi

I writing about re-finding ourselves, and everything in between; trauma, rejection, acceptance, healing, mental health