Showing posts from 2017

Kenneth Frazier the CEO of Merck is the epitome of a humanitarian

Mr Kenneth Frazier-CEO Merck
Today is 19 August and it is World Humanitarian Day.
At a time when the pursuit of profit seems to override any other corporate mission, Kenya’s fragile, unstable and hard to reach North-Eastern counties is about the last place any company would consider spending any amount of resources.  
Consider this. In 2014, one of the North Eastern counties called, Mandera, had a maternal mortality ratio of 3,795 deaths per 100,000 live births, surpassing that of wartime Sierra Leone.  It is inhabited by a nomadic community, riven by internecine conflicts, pockets of extremism and cross border terrorism.  Widespread illiteracy and cultural practices like female genital mutilation and child marriage ensured women and girls would remain trapped in poverty and desperation.
Only the bravest and optimistic of humanitarian agencies maintained a presence, amid shrinking budgets for international development.
In 2014, UN agencies in Kenya, like UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO were looking…

Paradise Lost- Violence, terror and failed governance in India's Kashmir

"Image of a 'stone pelter' tied in front of a jeep as a 'human shield',will 4 ever haunt the Indian Army & the nation!" Indian Army's Lieutenent General HS Panag, PVSM, AVSM, (Retd) via twitter
The recent image of a young Kashmiri man tied to an Army jeep as a human shield was heartbreaking to see. This is not the Army I know.
I am an Indian Army veteran having served in the Special Forces. I have been in combat and have been decorated for gallantry. 
That image is contrary to what the Indian Army personifies. The Indian Army is a fine institution to which I owe my foundation to.
Countless cheer leaders and trolls have taken to twitter to insult and abuse military veterans who have objected to the way the Kashmiri man was treated. 
One of India's highly regarded retired military generals, Lt Gen HS Panag was humiliated on twitter for having responded to this human rights violation in Kashmir.
Apr 16
More abhijeet…

Reuters: The Global Epidemic of Violence Against Children

The images from the recent gas attack in Syria, where over 80 people, including babies in diapers, can be seen painfully gasping for air before dying, are heartbreaking. These are a graphic illustration of our collective failure to protect children from cruel and inhuman treatment. President Donald Trump correctly called it an “affront to humanity”. The United Nations Secretary General, Mr Antonio Guterres has described Syria as one of the worst conflicts of our time. But what happened in Syria was not a one-off. Everyday millions of children around the world are caught up in crises and disasters, many of man’s own making.

My take:

Reuters: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights is key to achieving the SDGs

As per a study by the World Bank, had the world addressed 90 percent of global unmet need for family planning by 2015, it would have reduced annual births by almost 28 million, consequently preventing 67,000 maternal deaths, 440,000 neonatal deaths, 473,000 child deaths and 564,000 stillbirths. Global data indicates that the greatest benefits from reducing unintended pregnancies would be seen in the poorest countries, with GDP increases ranging from one to eight percent by 2035. There are few interventions that would result in such wide-ranging impacts while offering such incredible return on investment. Governments working alone, or with development partners only, cannot do everything required to raise standards of health. They need the support of civil society and private sector with its talent, drive, expertise, and resources to leapfrog their health systems. Turning to Kenya, it is important to note that the country has over recent years made important strides in improving health…

Reuters: From Barriers to Bridges: Transformation of the Ethiopia-Kenya Border Region

Consider this. The communities around the Kenya-Ethiopia border in Moyale-Borona area, have long been associated with internecine violence, extreme poverty, and environmental stress. These have led to disastrous societal consequences, including displacement, criminality and violent extremism. The 2012-2013 intercommunal clashes in Moyale town, claimed the lives of over 200 people, destroyed thousands of properties, including schools and other social amenities. The region has been viewed as largely peripheral, both economically and politically, and therefore attracted limited public and private resources. However, an innovative, comprehensive and integrated cross-border programme initiated by the Kenyan and Ethiopian governments, in partnership with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the United Nations (UN) is changing this narrative. During the recent visit to Kenya by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, President Uhuru Kenyatta specifically mentioned, …

Huffington Post: Gender equality is the missing link for India’s progress

Consider this. Nimrata Nikki Randhawa, is the daughter of Sikh immigrants from India. Her parents, father Ajit Singh Randhawa and mother Raj Kaur Randhawa, hail from Amritsar District, Punjab, India. While Nimrata Nikki Randhawa may not ring a bell, Nikki Haley certainly will. She is married to Michael Haley a U.S. Army Officer and an Afghanistan veteran. Yes, Nikki Haley is Nimrata Nikki Randhawa who went on to become the first female Indian-American governor of South Carolina. Today, Haley is the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, a cabinet level position and is the first Indian-American selected to join the new US administration. My take:

Inter Press Service For Societies to Thrive, We Must Ensure Gender Equality

Consider this: gender inequality is costing sub Saharan Africa US$ 95 billion annually in lost revenue. In a corporate setting, that extent of losses would call for a serious reset of the business’s operational approach.  Despite stupendous advancements in science and technology, it has taken mankind two millennia to fully realize the critical role of women in the global social and economic transformation. For any country to realize its full economic and democratic potential, the quest for women’s participation in leadership and decision making must be embraced, understood, appreciated and prioritized.
Honored to co-author this piece with Kenya's Foreign Minister Ambassador Amina Mohamed:

Reuters: In Kenya, Turkana county inspires hope

At this time of the year, people living in rural parts of Turkana County are among the hardest hit by the on-going drought in Kenya. The United Nations and the Government of Kenya approximates that 2.7 million Kenyans are facing acute food shortage and the Government has declared the drought a national disaster. Things are looking up for Turkana County nevertheless. Not least in the reasons for new optimism is the fact that in 2012, the Government of Kenya announced that substantial oil deposits had been discovered in parts of Turkana County. Though it will be a while before the petrodollars begin to reflect in the economy, indicators such as an increase in services and jobs, expansion in activities in the hospitality industry, and increase in the frequency of flights to the county’s main town of Lodwar suggest a bright future. My take:

Reuters: Devolution will deepen and solidify democracy in Kenya

On 07 March 2017, Kenya will hosted its 4th devolution conference. No doubt, remarkable progress has been made in the few years devolution has begun in Kenya.  While economic forecasts for Kenya indicate a positive development trajectory, the forthcoming general elections must be seen as an opportunity to deepen and solidify the democratic process; the path that yields sustainable peace and equitable economic governance.  As the polls on 8th August 2017 approach, the main issue in the minds of all Kenyans, is how to consolidate devolution, the best gift that Kenya has had since independence.  But there are also concerns that election-related violence could easily derail that progressive course.  Many have made Kenya a case study, sadly, for the way society can disintegrate itself along ethnic identities in determining power and wealth sharing, including the art of exploiting long-running intercommunity tensions. Factors that fuel cycles of elections related violence in Kenya include …

A Cashless Economy Is Critical for Driving Kenya’s Socio-economic Transformation agenda

About two decades ago, big banks in Kenya could gladly cherry-pick and retain only the high-end customers, leaving the majority unbanked and dependent on exploitative money-lenders or informal savings clubs. How times have changed! Today, Kenyans now can not only choose from a wide range of financial institutions catering to the lowest of income customers, but the big banks have also been forced to go down-market. This came about as a result of the rise in micro-finance institutions and savings and cooperative societies, but in most part due to innovations in technology and digitization of financial services. In 2007, mobile money, M-PESA for short, was introduced in Kenya by the country’s biggest mobile network, Safaricom Limited, as a simple way of repaying micro-loans via cell phone. Since then, this innovation has spread widely throughout the country, with the financial sector now delivering sundry business models, including the use of mobile agents in lieu of bank branches to in…

Huffington Post: Female genital mutilation ranks as one of the worst manifestations of gender inequality.

On Feb. 6, 2017, the world observed the 14th International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).    Consider this: Approximately 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM, globally.  One cannot but despair at the indolent pace towards elimination of one of the most brutal cultural norms, a practice that continues to hold women and a nation’s development back.    While Kenya must be applauded for having brought down the national FGM prevalence from 32 percent to 21 percent in the last 12 years, there are still some communities where about nine in 10 girls are needlessly mutilated, often forced to leave school and into early marriage.  An often-unnoticed reality is that the effects of FGM go far beyond the negative physical and psychosocial consequences. The social and economic damage done to entire countries has only started to be realized.  In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognized the close connection between FGM,…

Huffington Post: Kenya must create a million new jobs annually

It is estimated that 3000 Kenyans are born every day, a million a year. With a median age of 18 years, Kenya is witnessing a massive youth bulge, which could either be a demographic dividend, or a disaster.  Consider this. In 1956, Kenya’s population stood at about 7 million, twice that of Norway. Today, Norway has a population of 5.2 million while that of Kenya stands at about 45 million. It is projected that by 2030, the population of Norway will be 6 million while Kenya’s population will reach 65 million, and 85 million by 2050.  Africa’s youth bulge, and Kenya’s in particular, should largely be the basis for optimism offering great opportunity for socio-economic take-off. Six of the countries with the highest economic growth rates are in Africa.  Yet, for most countries, Kenya included, economic growth lacks the desired social transformation. Despite Kenya’s impressive economic growth, four out of ten people live in extreme poverty; and the poorest 10 per cent of the population r…

Huffington Post: Kenya can lead the way to universal health care in Africa

Consider this: every year, nearly 1 million Kenyans are pushed below the poverty line as a result of unaffordable health care expenses. For many Kenyan families, the cost of health care is as distressing as the onset of illness and access to treatment. A majority of the population at risk can hardly afford the costs associated with basic health care and when faced with life threatening conditions, it is a double tragedy-inability to access health care and lack of resources to pay for the services. According to the World Health Organisation, a large percentage of poor households in Kenya cannot afford health care without serious financial constraints as most are dependent on out of pocket payments to pay for services. Nearly four out of every five Kenyans have no access to medical insurance, thus a large part of the population is excluded from quality health care services. In 2015, UN Member States endorsed the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), expected to guide the development…

Reuters: Elections: The Private Sector and the UN commit to support Kenya's democratic process.

Election related conflicts along ethnic lines is the greatest threat to Africa's stability and consolidation of democratic institutions and culture.  It is with this in mind that on Wednesday, 14th December 2016, an important gathering organized by the UN and Africa Policy Institute, known as Maendeleo Policy Forum took place in Nairobi.(YouTube: Prof Peter Kagwanja CEO, Africa Policy Institute). And here is a snap shot of the conversations at the forum. Few factors impact business growth more than the security and stability of the country in which it operates.  The 2007 post-election violence brought this painfully reality to the bank accounts of many corporates in Kenya, with the country’s GDP growth rate which stood at 7% in 2007 tanking to 1.7% the following year.  President Uhuru Kenyatta and Honorable Mr Raila Odniga at the 38th anniversary of the late founding President Mr Jomo Kenyatta told all Kenyans that they must unite and not let political differences divide them.  T…

Reuters: Democracy in Africa, an important dialogue for all citizens

Post-election violent conflict along ethnic lines is the greatest threat to Africa's stability and consolidation of democratic institutions and culture.  It is with this in mind that on Wednesday, 14th December 2016, an important gathering – known as Maendeleo Policy Forum will take place in Nairobi. A brainchild of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Maendeleo Policy Forum was launched in 2015 to provide space for African leaders, international mediators and negotiators, researchers, policy makers, development practitioners and writers on African issues, to debate on critical issues of development in Africa. This particular edition being launched by UNDP in partnership with the Africa Policy Institute is designed to collate lessons and good practices in election management from past polls in Africa to inform democratic consolidation in countries like Kenya.   My take:

Reuters: Why achieving SDG Goal 8 on Decent Work and Economic Growth is critical for Kenya

In Kenya the Gini coefficient of inequality is at around 0.45%. Therefore, the economic growth statistics present an unequivocal picture of a highly unequal society, whose development strategy is largely leading to accumulation of wealth by a few and worsening the poverty of the majority. Consider just two statistics behind the picture: according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, individuals in capital city Nairobi have about 15 times more access to secondary education than those living in Turkana, one of the poorest counties. Also, a household in Nairobi is 36 times more likely to have electricity for lighting compared with those in Tana River. Without doubt, Kenya’s race towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an agenda whose most notable tang of inclusivity is underscored by the now well-known phrase of ‘leaving no one behind’, is going to need the resilience of its world-beating athletes. The global SDGs agenda is a platform that aims to meet the greatest chal…

Reuters: The United Nations Volunteer: From Global To Local.

Today 05 December is International Volunteer Day, and every year we recognize the invaluable contributions of volunteers to peace and development. Consider this. George Gachie has been serving as a national United Nations Volunteer (UNV) with UN-Habitat for over three years. He grew up in the Kibera Slums - a challenging environment, where young people have very few opportunities and early pregnancy, school dropout, organized gangs, crime, diseases and drug abuse are common. In order to make it out of this situation one had to be smart. But as George himself put it during a recent UNV Blue-Room Talks event in Nairobi, ‘I am happy because it is volunteerism that got me out of the situation’. In an acknowledgement of the expected role of the youth in delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals, volunteerism has now been recognized as a key driver in the development space. For Kenya, this is particularly apt given the large number of youth graduating every year but who find only lim…

Huffington Post: Let’s Unite to End Violence Against Women in Kenya

Consider this. According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of Kenya, 4 out of every 10 Kenyan women undergo some form of violence, whether physical or sexual. This figure is staggering and should compel us to pause and reflect. November 25, was the International day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, let us join together to say: enough is enough! Gender Based Violence, including domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking and harmful practices, such as forced child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still endemic in Kenya, despite the existence of legislation, administrative directives, judicial sanctions, and awareness-raising efforts by a variety of agencies and the government. It is time for every man to start doing something to end the scourge of violence against women and girls in their homes and communities. A call to action was made by the President of Kenya, HE Mr Uhuru Kenyatta when he urged every citizen to join the government’s ef…

Huffington Post: Kenya’s Youth Unemployment Challenge Presents Opportunities

Consider this paradox. Every year 1 million young people join the job market in Kenya, yet Kenya has the largest number of jobless youth in East Africa. As the government puts in place measures for addressing the issue of high youth unemployment and poverty, The private sector needs to join forces to sustainably grow its business and markets. Businesses and the societies that they operate in are symbiotic and it is now an established maxim that business cannot succeed in societies that fail. Tackling poverty is the main mission of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda signed last year by 193 global leaders. The agenda obliges nations to tackle the causes of poverty by meeting the people’s health, education and social needs, to reduce inequality and exclusion and at the same time avoid wrecking the ecosystems on which life depends. The target population for the SDGs – includes those who live below the poverty line and who make up nearly half of the population. Innovative …