Kenya, East Africa’s most stable country and largest economy, and Africa’s 6th largest, will choose its next President on August 9th. According to Nairobi-based Tifa Research, the front runners are neck-and-neck. The tight race is currently led by veteran defender of multi-party democracy, Raila Odinga, and the deputy president and self-proclaimed “hustler”, William Ruto. Every vote counts in this election.
Voting blue for the Azimio La Umoja coalition helps address crucial structural economic issues in Kenya, which Odinga refers to as the “third liberation” or the “economic liberation”, as well as important political challenges.
Raila Odinga’s running mate is Martha Karua, a women’s rights campaigner, and former justice minister, known across Kenya for being a “no-nonsense woman”. Karua could become Kenya’s first female deputy president. No strangers to fighting the good fight, namely on social justice, multiparty democracy and anti-corruption, the former political opponents had worked together on matters of national importance such as the National Accord and stand united on what good governance and good government should look like.
Azimio understand the importance of gender parity not only in principle but also as an added driver of the economy. With over half of the population of Kenya being female, the potential contribution to the economy would be an engine for growth in and of itself.
Africa generally, and Kenya in particular, could become a major player in the world economy if it were not for the lack of sufficient quality jobs to absorb the rapidly growing young population. Azimiostresses the urgency of productive transformation and as such, front and central in the coalition’s programme is manufacturing.
Odinga’s plan for Kenya is coherent and organic, identifying unexploited opportunities for further development of an already ebullient entrepreneurial population. The emphasis is on specialization of communities’ local comparative advantages, by organizing production-related services as well as easier access to credit in order to scale MSMEs. When it comes to medium and large firms andKenya’s integration in regional value chains, the plan is to have efficient and coordinated special economic zones.
A seasoned pan-Africanist, Odinga is well placed to champion intra-Africa trade. Former High Commissioner for Infrastructure at the African Union, he has been addressing some of the continent’s infrastructure bottlenecks and stressing the importance of collaboration within and between regional economic communities.
Investors are scared off by international risk assessments of African economies, consistently overestimated, rarely fully reflecting the situation on the ground. Consequently, the level of investments to accelerate productive transformation and industrialization may remain insufficient. Odinga and his Azimio coalition team is has already been working with international experts to ensure financial stability andplan a legal and financial diagnostic of debt risk to identify potential overexposure to some creditors and future investors, and to draft a medium-term debt management strategy.
The Azimio La Umoja party, literally meaning “unity” speaks volumes. In light of past electoral conflict, which saw tribe-related discrimination and led some 1,100 Kenyans to their death in 2007,Odinga’s coalition party calls for unity at the forefront of his campaign and has worked tirelessly to ensure a peaceful transition of power this round.
Both candidates have chosen running mates from the Kikuyu tribe,Kenya’s largest ethnic group. The current President Kenyatta being Kikuyu and backing Mr. Odinga, a Luo, bodes better for a more peaceful election and transition than Kenya has seen in some time.