• On one hand we are told of the significant growth of our economy by 6.3 percent in 2018.
• On the other hand the corporate world and the business environment is characterized by downsizing, cost cutting, and unemployment.
Living on the fast lane, the drive to live large, drive big cars, make money, show off and probably join politics and sanitise ill-gotten wealth is more pronounced in Kenya today than ever before.
In a country where the citizenry is already disenchanted because of the economic hardships, the media is ironically awash with a different story. In fact, glorification of material opulence by young tenderpreneurs, wheeler dealers or wash wash folks as they are called; and the juxtaposition of the economic surveys and the hard-economic reality on the ground seems to exacerbate an already bad situation.
You see, on the one hand we are told of the significant growth of our economy by 6.3 percent in 2018, yet on the other hand the corporate world and the business environment is characterized by downsizing, cost cutting, and unemployment.
While majority Kenyans are struggling to put even a single meal on their tables, a few fake gold racketeers are on the loose flaunting money on social media and flooding themselves in expensive liquor. This flaunting and parading of opulence in our society essentially and the attendant allure of good life, drives people to corruption and at the core of the appetite to get to the top through dubious means is the dearth of opportunities.
Granted, our economy has essentially grown on the backbone of high growth in agriculture, transport and manufacturing sectors as indicated in the economy survey.And the growth in Gross Domestic Product means the number of people producing and consuming has increased. This is great news and very encouraging for our economy.
However, even with that increase in production and consumption the opportunities are still very few and held by a hegemonic elite and their cronies and part of the game is to flaunt wealth and opulence on social media and other social spaces.
This glorification of opulence on social media and its attendant appeal to the younger generation breeds the appetite to get rich quickly; consequently, the scramble for the few opportunities becomes real.
And just like that corruption becomes the means to an end and the end here is getting these opportunities to make wealth. Where the opportunities to make wealth through orthodox means are limited, corruption becomes the path to unorthodox means of making wealth.
Look at it this way, a young man from Migori comes to Nairobi looking for opportunities in an expanded economy where he wants to curve a niche in the agricultural sector, he starts a French beans agribusiness in Kajiado County which enjoys proximity to Nairobi and the JKIA.
He invests some good some of money and the bottleneck ends up being processing the trade documentations to export his farm produce. Only two choices are available to him, either to bribe himself to a lucrative export business or to cut his loses and go back to Migori and confront the humiliation from his kin and kith. His peers are doing well and living large. The allure of the good life is likely to push this young man to oiling the hands of a few mandarins and that begins the journey of corruption.
This young man did not intend to be corrupt and as Clayton Christensen, Karen Dillion and Efosa Ojomo, speaking on TedLive say, this kind of corruption does not result from a lack of ethics or knowledge on the part of the young man from Migori; it is a workaround people resort to when they have a few better options. No one would want to go back to their village,with the word failure written all over them, in a world where their contemporaries are flaunting opulence on social media.
Today the story of flamboyant Kisii politician Zaheer Jhandamay hyperbolically pass for a monument of what all young Kenyans might be aspiring to be. I mean, how many young Kenyans wouldn’t want to hobnob with the who is who in the top political cabal and pull deals?
Whether orthodox or not?Especially if you can also take pictures and confuse the masses on who exactly is behind the power that you wield to pull deals. It is even safe to say that the mantra is, pose with them all and you won’t need anyone to protect you. Today if you ask a first-year university student the path they would wish to choose upon graduation, none will say they want to pursue a career in the academia and teach at the university. Why? You take that path and you are subjected to limited opportunities. But I can bet many of the typical students you will meet in our universities not only identify with Jhanda but would also do anything to get to that space.
Well, whether that is corruption or just taking advantage of proximity to power is debatable just like who among the many politicians he’s taken selfies with is associated with his alleged wash wash and gold racketeering. But one thing is certain, he is a brilliant chap – you don’t get the attention of the Emirati Royalty unless you got some decent intellectual infrastructure.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to encourage folks from Migori, Kirinyaga,Chwelein Bungoma or wherever to fall into the allure of the fast life and material opulence through unorthodox means. No way.
You see, this is just a stark reminder that Kenyans are not missing the fundamental moral fiber of populations in non-corrupt societies, nor are we merely ignorant that there is a better way, instead, it is clear that most Kenyans engage in corruption because there are few options an individual can make in their strife to progress. The solution is much more than sacking or arresting a few individuals, especially folks pushed into settling for the malaise that is corruption. The solution might be a lot more nuanced, but it must start with the government creating opportunities andan array of genuine and legitimate means to grow for hustling Kenyans themselves.