Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Giving up is not an option

Mid Morning today I read a tweeter update from Bankelele about “Diaspora’s giving up on Kenya”.

I read it, and I felt terrible about about what it means for us as a country.

I posted to him a smaller & edited version a response to his blog..

It begins:

In the Media, Bad News is great news.

I hope you realize this aspect of reporting as you and other Kenyan’s in the Diaspora make decisions about home.

It is always a crowd puller to report about 1000 people dying from post poll violence than it when 37 charter flights resume their flights to Kenya.

Don't allow yourself to be a victim of Mis-directed reporting, one that doesn’t care about a continent that is still represented by a thin black child holding out his hands to relief food.

The grim images on TV are true, so much so that they became a label of what Kenya is about, but that can and will change if someone stops talking and starts acting. That someone is us. Someone who has a platform to inspire Kenyans towards change, in tiny little ways that may not seem tangible, but someone’s got to do something, and running away is not an option if we can learn to be passionate about our country.The media has a role to play..but that's a story for another day.

Guys; if you don’t have hope about your mother-land. Who will?

I may seem like a dreamer with massive blinders on, so as not to see what's going wrong. I know There’s plenty going wrong. I live in Nairobi.. from Corruption, to multiple institutional challenges, poverty, political upheaval… and so much more.

But we can do something about it. That’s my take and I am sticking with it.

There must be a reason why our telecoms sector is among fastest growing in SSA.There must be a reason why our stock exchange is still attractive, There must be a reason why tourist are trickling back in, there must be a reason why the name Kenya still has a ring to it....

What our country needs is reverse brain drain, Diaspora Kenyans with international exposure who are BRAVE enough to want a better country. Not those who have warmed up to Western Bliss and forgotten where they came from. We need Kenyan's who will find motivation even as weapons from Somalia trickle in through our porous boundaries, We need Angry Kenyans who are tired of a dirty city....We need an overhaul in our thinking; and we need to stop talking and start acting..even in the littlest ways possible.

One of the biggest challenges is the gap between the Rich and the poor. If Kenya had more people meeting their basic human rights, then there would be less people to fight for greedy politicians, less hungry Kenyans to receive bread in exchange for a voter’s card, less infant deaths because they can receive healthcare, and less crime, because they have their basic human rights.

In my own small way I am ready to make a difference. We, Kenyans allow so much to happen, when we as individuals and families can educate & support even our employees to have a better life. We owe to ourselves to make a difference.

I was at Church this weekend, and we asked this: What are the dreams of your house girl?

Does she have a medical cover?
Does she have a savings account?
And one of the little ways Kenyans can encourage a saving culture with our home staff, and encourage them to get medical cover (NHIF) 160 Ksh per month. We will have gone along way in bridging the gap between poverty & wealth.

Every Sunday my Nanny goes to Kibera to spend with her extended family, and at Christmas, she travels to Kakamega to be with her Child and her Mum.
What do you think her child wants to be when she grows up? Perhaps a maid; so she can wear pretty clothes and live in the city, get a meal from a fridge and microwave it, use a real toilet that flushes, and Even watch TV (make that DSTV) while comfortably sitting on a sofa set.)

I began to ask myself, how many of us can afford to pay our house girls better, get them a medical cover, or even assist in taking their child to a better school, especially if they are up country? This is not the Government’s responsibility. Your employee is your responsibility.

By giving your girl a chance to healthcare, however simple, and teaching them to save, we are in fact giving them a lifeline.

We, Ordinary Kenyan's have a role to play as well.

But you have to make that decision first. You need to realize your place in the Kenya you want, and work backwards from there.

Giving up is not an option.

I hope you, your missus, and your readers can begin to look at Kenya as a country you owe hope to.

That’s all I am asking, don’t give up on us…. just yet.


  1. My opinion is that people will do only what's best for them, love for country aside.

    Interesting point on maids. Do you know I work with development professionals who pay their maids UGX 30,000 (~15) a month? What hypocrisy!

  2. First let me begin by saying that although there is bias in media against Africa as a whole, most of the news is a reflection of what is happening on the ground.

    I can't say how much Ghana has benefitted from positive media coverage ever since they last held elections. You'd be suprised that even the NY Times carried out a detailed feature of tourism in Ghana. I mean, who would want to tour Ghana over Kenya?

    We have been visiting Kenya almost every year until recently when my missus changed her mind. With good reason.

    I've been 'arrested' twice in Kenya for minor traffic offences after refusing to bribe cops, thrown in jail on one of the occassions and harassed countless of times, even at JKIA when arriving home.

    A lot of Diasporans are prisoners outside their own country. Almost everyone wants to return but when you have children the decision becomes more complicated.

    I can't ignore the opportunities that my kids have in the U.S. and it would be a travesty to take this away from them.

    One thing you can be sure of is that most of us will return back. If not now, later. Dead or alive.

  3. It’s a foreign press thing that world events are generally negative - so Mali, Kenya, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso etc will not be on CNN unless something bad, remarkable or very unusual is happening there. The bad political press about Kenya is local and foreign, online and offline, from the slums to gigiri /cabinet (its universal)

    But don’t beat on those who have chosen not to come back. For someone to relocate from the US to Kenya is a big step and one which is still happening, despite the news. But people need to see a future of them, that’s better than the US, or gives some comfort that’s comparable. Beyond that they should have mentally adjusted to potholes and cold showers, and the benefits of moving back .e.g. cheap food, social life, sense of fulfilment, chance to make a difference.

  4. I think Terry you paint the bigger picture with the illustration of a househelp. And that is what is ailing our country. We all want to spend more but are not willing to help others spend more.
    Spending aside, as a journalist, I think as much as it sell to show what is really going wrong in government and the country at large, we have a responsibility to balance our act.
    For example, compare the roads today and 10 year back.
    Whatever we call ourselves - diasporan, local or a hybrid of both, we are first and foremost Kenyans.

  5. Good stuff Terry! We CAN make a difference, one person at a time. We need more Kenyans who think like you

  6. Thanks for the response. I do however live by the fact that we can't whine forever. I voted, therefore I own this country. Why should we give up, without trying to make a difference? I may have sounded a little snappy up there about Diaspora kenyans..but I wonder if there are any Kenyan's out there who went believing they would come back to BUILD a better kenya? Look at the Like of Mugo Kibati, who were bold enough to return to Potholes and cold showers..(Banks I might add that's abit exaggerated)Mugo is now running Vision 2030...after years of Bliss in the US. so tell me, If we claim Kenya as our Country..then what have we done to make it a better place? I am just challenging Kenyan's in the Diaspora to rethink..would they rather build America than take part in a Kenyan renaissance. If we had saner, business minded, Internationally trained Kenyans running our country like they were taught at Havard Business School, tell me where we would be. Are Diasporans not passionate about the families they left behind? I also know that we live in a "every man for himself" society, but that where I separate the boys from the men.

    It's difficult to carry this debate without stepping on toes. I am sorry about that, But I am sure you get my point.

  7. I agree with Terry on this one, we all have a contribution to make. Some can best make the contribution by sending money to their families in Kenya, while others can come back to Kenya and help shake things up.

    Our brothers and sisters in Kenya are doing it. One of the little celebrated facts is that the guys who got the initial communication between the PNU and ODM camps following the PEV was the civil society - CEOs and senior managers, the "emerging middle class". Then came the Koffi Annans of the World.

    If you can, move back to Kenya, roll up your sleeves and pitch in. If for whatever reason, this isn't ideal for you, then find a way to support those in Kenya.

    And no, nobody is asking anyone to give up anything. There is plenty of money to be made in Kenya, there are careers to be grown in Kenya and there is a quality of life to be enjoyed in Kenya. You just have to figure out if it is the right one for you.

  8. I'm totally with Nganga on this one. If you are at the top of your game then why baulk at the challenge that Kenya presents. The rewards (monetary) are potentially huge, and the non-monetary too - you can't beat the satisfaction of making meaningful change.

  9. I am of the idea that we should have a new T.V station known as Positive T.V that will focus on airing positive stuff to Kenyans. Anyone who thinks the same, we can hook up & make this dream a reality or what do you think Terryanne? We should be proud of being Kenyans

  10. The point on house helps just hits the nail on the head. I live alone so i don't require a live in house help, she comes in only once in a week. I always find that i complain alot when the house helps dont do things the way i want. Then i decided to take on a different approach, i treat it like an employer- employee relationship. So the next one i got like 1.5months ago i increased her wages abit and trained her like i would train a new employee on the job. And while she may not be perfect i am pleased to note she has continually improved. Now that you raised the point on NHIF i will address it with her and see how we can work it out.