Out of the Box Thinking, or Lack of Context?

Articles & Insights

February 6, 2023

Youthful PS on JKL

 “In Pictures: The youthful Principal Secretaries; Roseline Njogu (Diaspora Affairs), Silvia Museiya (Wildlife) and Ummi Bashir (Culture & Heritage) on #JKLive with @KoinangeJeff– Source Twitter


Scofield Yoni Muliru

After an interesting interview session by three youthful and wonderful permanent secretaries (PS’s), with Jeff Koinange on Jeff Koinange Live (#JKLive), I have decided to put my thoughts on paper, reviewing some of their pointers and presentation of ideas. These three senior civil servants represent the chief administrative officers within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (PS Diaspora), and the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife & Heritage (PS Culture and PS Wildlife).

Overall, I am glad that these are brilliant civil servants selected by HE., the President, for the respective posts. They intimated that the current government is moving towards “breaking the silos,” which is a better approach to governance, and a sigh of relief from a government that is choosing to adopt a whole of systems approach. This is great!

However, if we break the silos but remain unchanged in our technique or focus on top-level thinking without contextualizing the ideas to the Hustler, we risk no impact and wastage within government. I provide avenues for review, and opportunities for further engagements, and focus on sustainable change that reflects the bottom up Mantra, presented in the Kenya Kwanza Manifesto. The issues plaguing this nation require a dipper review, a greater understanding, and a wholesome approach, with an out-of-the-box framing.

  1. While it remains clear that there are Visa issues in Saudi Arabia, a consolidate approach from the Ministry of Tourism and that of Trade, can have a lasting result than that presented by the PS Diaspora. Having home-worker’s documents attached to their employer, makes it easy for vulnerabilities to pile up when conflict arises. A lot of data is required, and maybe the PS was providing a summation on what her docket is doing, but her presentation provided a bleak future rather than a solution. Would it be better to have a renegotiation of visa attachment clauses to have them reduced to monthly engagements with regular check-in, depending on the relationship with the employer?

Having six to one year hold/ownership of travel documents by an employer remains as a hostage, especially when there is a falling out. It is also illegal. The Kenyan government can also explore the option of supporting the travel agencies to be officially registered in Saudi Arabia. Such a process can also have the employment visas attached to the agency and not the employer. Such a process would make it easy to transfer and change household staff easily while remaining accountable when they are in the country. It would also provide an opportunity for the Kenya embassies abroad to check on our citizens without a problem.

The cultural silo breaking should also mean that the state department culture and that of the diaspora work together to provide guidance on the transfers through offering cultural training and expectation guidance for household engagements. This can be done through a streamlined approach to the agencies, making it easy to respond to the cultural expectations and conflicts, that arise from the cultural differences.

2. I am a student of culture. Anthropology teaches me that besides language being a cultural transmitter, the social practices that form cultures, are dynamic and ever-changing. This dynamic nature makes it easy for our cultures to grow and adapt. However, when a representative makes the case that we are losing our culture as a result of social media and globalization, I cringe a little! Culture is our way of life; it’s how we pass what we learn from one generation to the other. The State Official clarified that the 100 years from her office departure, Kenya should be better and maybe with lesser influence from globalization and social media. The reality is that culture will not progress in this way. Social media, in the age of global melt, will continue to influence and shape a new culture.

While the GOAT Kipchoge Keino, has often been assumed locally, a museum will not necessarily appreciate him, immortalize him, or be of financial benefit to Kenyans. A recommendation would be to develop international standard Stadia across the “Land of Champions” – some that would increase the investment for athletes in the country, but also provide an opportunity to market the region for this specific sport. Social media and globalization issues that rub the State Department official in the wrong way can then be used to market these Stadia, with some little money to – maybe, create a simple museum. Expanding and making culture interesting for Generation Y and Z, and for the whole nation, should also include a marketing and advancements that realistically utilize social media. I believe that more thought is required in this area rather than top-level macro analysis, void of the local contextual realities in Kenya vis-à-vis the globe. We need to remember that Kenyans and their culture are not an island.

3. Climate change and local conflicts are a reality we will face within the country and across the globe. In the age of the scramble for natural resources, other political forms of conflict, including violent extremism and terrorism, and illegal smuggling, have entered the fold. I am glad that the State Department, Wildlife, understands the intersectionality between climate change, natural resource conflicts, and human/wildlife conflict. It’s also great that the multiple interests from different stakeholders are now known and identified by the State Department, including the donor absorption issues.

Setting up an insurance or a trust fund to pool funds for paying those affected by the human wildlife conflict is a marvelous idea. This type of out of the box thinking can shift the dynamics of governance in Kenya. I am particularly proud of such great thinking, and I am interested in offering support whenever needed, in terms of research or other professional support, to make this a reality.

Overall, this is a snippet of how thinking outside the box can create the difference that Kenyans expect from the Kenya Kwanza cabinet. One that can revolutionize this nation. I apologize if this article assumes a lot, but, it would be great to have positive critiques and brainstorming sessions rather than seemingly running with ideas with limited testing. Let’s engage Kenyans in your decision-making and build this country to greater heights. Remember, you are the Chief Accounting Officers in your respective Ministries, and any change you make, however small, has a ripple effect on over 40 million Kenyans.

He is a researcher, program manager and M&E specialist in the Horn of Africa. His research focuses on the prevention and countering of violent extremism (P/CVE), border security, rehabilitation, and reintegration (DDR), migration, and climate change.

Muliru Yoni
Director - Scofield Associates
Muliru Yoni