@ X.N.Iraki

“If you ever taught maths in some girls’ schools, then you know what learnt helplessness is.” (source)

Dear X.N.Iraki,

I thought about the same thing this morning while cleaning the dishes in the kitchen. In fact, I was thinking about why I chose to come to Kenya – and not any other place. The country where clothes become dirty while walking in matope infested areas. The country where I as a white person will always be called “mzungu” in rural areas – and instantly be asked to “weka blllead”. The country where the official school system never really appreciated creativity and ppl are supposed to repeat aquired knowledge instead of looking for working solutions and trying them without fearing the consequences. The country where those who can afford, buy a car – and instantly make sure that everyone will see them inside their cars. The country where almost everyone lives in different worlds at the same time, coping with different jobs and parallel businesses that help to fill up the wallet. The country where every little piece of hygienic article is wrapped in three different old newspapers & plastic bags that eventually end up polluting the environment. The country that hosts the UNEP – this international programme which so often only produces interesting papers but doesn’t even have the powers to implement these fine ideas on national levels…

“We write in the newspapers every day (including this article) on what should be done, but never do it!”

Yes, becos in Kenya there’s always someone else who is “supposed to” do the job. It starts with taking responsibility for yourself, and doesn’t stop by thinking about how waste should be disposed of. Ppl just don’t =think= about it.
Like Matatu drivers. Do they care about their driving styles? Or the loud music being played? Do they ever think about how their driving might affect others?
Or the people who abstract too much water from the rivers or even pollute it – do they actually =think= about their wrongdoings?
Or those who move to urban areas to improve their chances – do they actually realize that they’re adding to the 39%++ of wananchi who are already living in urban areas? How big is Nairobi these days?

Kenya is full of qualified, well educated people. Young people have travelled to the West and East, adopted ideas and have seen how things could work (and how it shouldn’t be done) – but upon returning, many realize that it takes much more than just your own personal opinion on how good everything could be.

“Our thinking is the key to prosperity”, is what you wrote, and I can only fully agree to this. It’s the mindset, the willingness to make a change and to start at least somewhere. It’s our thinking.

So why did I chose Kenya? Becos I grew up here and sometimes feel like being half Kenyan despite of my skin colour and the fact that I will always be a foreigner here? Naaa….it’s BECAUSE KENYA IS A PARADISE in the waiting line. This place could be heaven, and I often think: woah, yeah, this is the uhuru na umoja spirit we always envied the Tanzanians for. This is the start of a new generation.

Just look at the introduction of mobile phones in Kenya and how fast the market has grown. Nowadays, even an old cucu in rural areas knows how to use the menu structure on her mobile phone. Something you will rarely see with old ppl in the West, for instance. Or how this prepaid thing has been implemented and substituted the fragile conventional accounting system. Or how microfinances have succeded in the past. Equity Bank? It works! We even have a (relatively) new emerging Kenyan cultural scene – something that has come from within! There’s no need to repeatedly play Daudi Kabaka’s “harambee harambee” if we can enjoy new songs like Ronald Ontiri’s “Speed Governor” or Ukoo Flani’s “Angalia saa”…

It’s not the experts from foreign countries who will make a change, and neither will it be the KenyaTourists (KTs) returning from abroad who will change this country. It’s all of us – the poor beggar on the street who will eventually realize that the mzungu he has just asked for bread actually hasn’t much more to share than any other ordinary chap; the KenyaRoots (KRs) who have endured here while their friends have left for the West and East; it’s the intellectuals at universities who will reduce their hatred and start turning many of their golden plans into reality; it’s the politicians who will actually start doing something for the money they are being paid by taking personal responsibility for their decisions; it’s the youth that will start demanding more perfomance as it has done so in the past; it’s you, me, your neighbour – everyone. This is why I came back to Kenya. I want to be part of this progress.

“Africa may have all the natural resources, but if our mindset does not change, we shall continue stagnating, waiting for outsiders to solve our problems, some which we can easily solve ourselves. Example; Africa does not need to import water, it is already here! Why then do we have a shortage of fresh water?”

Population growth? Urbanization? Mismanagement? Corruption? Deforrestation? Over abstraction from rivers / surface and ground water? Because we’ve waited for someone / the government to take care of this? For someone who is (was) “supposed to” do the job?

As for me, I never considered the Chinese or Indians underdeveloped just because most of them are living in rural areas. Didn’t they have these fine cultures that date back 2000 years ago? And I never thought people in rural areas might be underdeveloped just because e.g. most of them lack access to clean drinking water. After all, they have their income (agriculture, lifestock, etc.) and have somehow managed to survive. Isn’t it that it’s these people we can actually learn from? Did they depend on anyone to make a living?
For me, (under)development is a state of mind – and not a matter of how many Kenyan households have tv & vcr sets or a car. Something that doesn’t depend on the prevailing political system or the availabiltiy of commodities…

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