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Daily Nation : January 29th 2014
DAILY NATION Wednesday January 29, 2014 Opinion 13 WINNING FORMULA | Erick Komolo It would be prudent to employ different strategies to grow the tourism industry K enya turned 50 with remarkable improvements on many fronts. The population is burgeoning and provides a critical local market, levels of education are comparatively higher than those in many African countries, and organised groups such as the Kenya National Union of Teachers are the strongest in the continent. Other sectors such as banking, retail and infrastructure have generally improved despite recent increased (and ill-advised) transaction costs. The two sectors that have not really joined the party are agriculture and tourism. For the time being, I’ll concentrate on the latter. We have consistently under-achieved our tourist arrivals projections in the past 50 years. Kenya’s natural location would be ideal for many would-be travellers. Of the few cities I have visited, Nairobi is one where you don’t need an air conditioner. The unusual mix of wildlife and admirable hospitality industry would attract any average tourist. The logical question then is why we have hardly attracted over a million tourists annually. There are equally complex questions surrounding the actual trickledown benefits of tourism in addressing perennial social and racial inequities, but I dearth of policy and strategy when it comes to personalising the industry and linking it with other sectors like academia. Perhaps my experience may modestly explain this. Over the past three years, I have witnessed a pattern of increased spending in research and development by governments and industry across most advanced nations. But most of these activities Tourists from South Africa start their tour of Kenya’s attractions pass that for now. My feeling is that we must take a second look at our tourism policy and implementation strategies. One discomforting thing about being a member of the Kenyan diaspora is the number of people who associate you and the country primarily with wildlife safaris and long-distance athletes. Safaris and athletics are certainly good brands but by their very nature, they may never increase our tourist arrivals. They also obscure important dimensions to tourism that have worked well elsewhere. This is where policy needs to change the most. Our emphasis has been on casual and repetitive mentioning of the need for wildlife conservation and corresponding foreign exchange earnings. There’s a are still concentrated in the North and closely associated with the advanced and emerging economies like Brazil, Indonesia, India and South Africa. A plausible explanation for this is that research and development projects, as with many aspects of life, often thrive on personalised interactions and networks. These are sometimes lifelong and trans-generational. You really only want to collaborate with someone you can work with. Despite this obvious fact, nearly all researchers and participants in academia I have met easily confess their lack of partners and contacts within Africa’s academic scene. Simply put, inevitable dimensions to tourism such as academic and sports conferences haven’t found sufficient policy attention. The growth in the number of universities hasn’t necessarily led to rigorous intellectual competition when it comes to knowledge generation. To the contrary, most universities are still inward looking. Most organised conferences are rather localised with exhausted domestic themes. This is precisely why proactive and outwardlooking government policy on tourism is necessary. Both Malaysia and Thailand have phenomenal tourism industries compared to Kenya although we’re culturally not so distant. Comparatively, they also have highly educated populations. But China’s is a slightly different story. While we’re readily fed with negative aspects of its statist policies, in practice, the Deng Xiaoping era created a breed of highcalibre intellectual community that drives its increasingly competitive universities. China also implements aggressive funding schemes for its citizens in academia at home and abroad. The result is that these countries are increasingly popular destinations for reputable conferences and research collaborations. Blended with its natural beauty, favourable all-round climate and advanced supporting sectors, Kenya can thrive too. Mr Komolo is a Swire Scholar at the University of Hong Kong (email@example.com) THE CUTTING EDGE BY THE WATCHMAN THESE GUYS MEAN NO GOOD. A gang of five smartly dressed men has been operating along the Thika Superhighway, especially in the section between Ruiru and Survey of Kenya, targeting mostly matatu commuters, warns Joe Mungai. “You might be forgiven for thinking that they are students as they carry school bags. But their ages betray them. They seem to be in their 30s and being such a big group, raise suspicion. Next time you are in a matatu, watch whoever is seated next to you.” HOSTELS HAVE BEEN BUILT. Contrary to Joe Nyangeri’s claim that Moi University has done nothing in the last three years to complete its stalled student hostels, some of them have actually been fully built, says acting public relations officer Chris Okech. Over 90 per cent of the hostels project has been completed, enabling the accommodation of 2,000 students. The last wing, to take in another 250 students, should be completed soon. The government, he adds, has also advertised a tender for the construction of more hostels to accommodate 10,000 students. WHERE IS MY LICENCE? There is increasing talk about the government’s plan to introduce a digital smart driving licence soon, but that is the least of Olaka Ocham’s concerns just now. Olaka, who applied for a replacement of his lost driving permit at the Kenya Revenue Authority offices in Mombasa in April last year, simply cannot understand why the document has not been processed to date. “How long does it take to obtain a driver’s licence in this digital age?” His contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. Shoppers in a Tusky’s outlet A THOUSAND APOLOGIES. Tuskys Supermarket SERVICE DELIVERY | Titus J. Gateere proposed by county governments. Some of the complaints are based on the arguments that the stakeholders were never consulted, the suddenness of the proposals, and the absence of a grace period to allow the citizens to prepare psychologically for this demand. Counties are expected to contribute, through appropriate taxation, to the delivery of services even as they supplement resources from the National Government pegged at a minimum of 15 per cent of the national revenue. The county governments have been agitating for a bigger slice of this allocation and the National Government has, in fact, allocated nearly 40 per cent of the resources to the counties. But this will never be sufficient, given the many and urgent development challenges facing the counties. There is, in fact, a very serious crisis of expectations. In the ordinary citizen’s mind, devolution meant the availability of services never undertaken because “we were forgotten by Nairobi!” Now that decisions are being made at the local level, the people expect speedy delivery of services. Tax: Why county residents are agonising T here are palpable cries from wananchi level complaining of the high levels of taxation Delays are likely to cause frustration and impatience. The difference this time is that these will be directed at the county governments and not necessarily Nairobi. It may no longer be the norm to pass the buck to Nairobi because the citizen now fully understands what devolution means under the 2010 Constitution. He or she actually perceives that the resources have been released to the county level: what with the seminars and workshops in hotels, the overseas trips, the new high-end vehicles for the county executive staff, the executive offices, etc. Simple deliverables The citizens may be impatiently anxious to see how the resources are being utilised to make a difference in their lives. They perceive a motorable road to a hitherto inaccessible place, an operational dispensary, a cattle dip that now has ‘dawa ya mnanda’, a water tap that is now producing actual water and not hissing air – as development. These simple deliverables are some of the tangibles around which the lives of the rural people rotate and their availability eases the drudgery. Once these basic level needs are fulfilled, higher level aspirations can be accommodated and welcomed. My arguments are therefore premised on the belief that when the citizens can see what we have accomplished with the resources that we have got from the National Government and are convinced that there are benefits for them, they are likely to be interested in participating in further developmental activities. People are likely to be more willing to be enthusiastic to pay taxes if they perceive positive outcomes from their effort. To have prepared them in advance will be of great help. The lessons of devolution and the reaction of the citizens to the finance Bills prepared by the counties are that because the government is now at the grassroots level, reactions will be expressed sooner than later. Because we are no longer going to pass the buck to Nairobi, we must carry along the people with us in all the policies meant to be to their benefit. We must appreciate that the rope around which the mistakes will be marked by knots are fairly short and therefore the allowance for such is also short. The example of taxation is only one. Many others abound. We must carry the people along with us. Mr Gateere is a former chairman of the Public Service Commission. sincerely apologises for the treatment meted out to Mungai Kihanya when he sought an explanation from a manager of a disparity in prices on the shelves and at the till. Winnie Komora, the customer care and PR manager, says: “We continually sensitise our staff on the importance of good customer service.” The difference in prices, she adds, was due to “a system error, which has since been rectified.” For any assistance, Mungai can contact T-Mall branch manager Willy Mwaniki through email@example.com. FEASTED ON BY BEDBUGS. When he boarded a Mombasa Raha bus at Mwembe Tayari, Mombasa, on January 25, Patrick Zuwiya expected it to live up to its name, but it did not, and this left him quite disappointed. The bus was supposed to leave at 10am for Nairobi, but did not until a good two hours later. And there was more agony to come – the seats were infested with bedbugs. Following numerous complaints by passengers, the conductor gave them a can to spray their seats. DEVOLUTION A BURDEN. When Kenyans turned out in large numbers in August 2010 to endorse the new Constitution, most of them did not realise what a burden the devolved system would turn out to be, says Mark Muraguri. He sees the mounting complaints over increased taxation in the counties as a case of the chickens coming home to roost. The devil, he states, is always in the details, as instead of enjoying the benefits of the new system, Kenyans are now lamenting. His contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. Have an enjoyable day, won’t you! E-mail: email@example.com or write to Watchman, POB 49010, Nairobi 00100. Fax 2213946.
January 28th 2014
January 30th 2014