Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) face various barriers in their day to day life. The barriers could be defined as any factor which includes communications, attitudes, infrastructural and administrative factors that subjects PWDs to lives of unjustifiable dependency, segregation, isolation and exclusion in a society. Longtree (2010) notes two schools of thought that drive the responses in addressing the barriers that confront PWDs. The first one, the Old paradigm, also called the Medical Model, is characterized by fixing the individual as defective and focuses on life rehabilitation programmes. The second one, referred to as the New paradigm, or the Social model, considers disability as a part of human experience that requires removing the barriers that hinder PWDs from participating in society. A survey on PWDs conducted in 2008 by the Kenya National Survey for Persons with Disabilities suggested that 12 per cent of PWDs in Kenya face difficulties in accomplishing their daily activities due to mobility restriction. The figure is higher in rural areas at 14 per cent compared to urban areas at 8 per cent.

In the Kenya 2019 Population Census, various forms of disability are identified. Out of the 918,270 PWDs, persons with mobility disability comprise the highest category, accounting for 28.6 per cent of the total, followed by visual (24.8%) and hearing (11.4%) impairment. Of these, the number of women with disabilities is slightly higher, accounting for 57.5 per cent while men with disabilities account for 42.5 per cent of the total. Further, 80 per cent of PWDs reside in rural areas.

Table 1: Distribution of persons with disabilities by gender in Kenya 

Disability

Male

Female

Total

% of PWDs

Mobility

146,966

238,432

385,398

28.63

Visual

135,965

197,542

333,507

24.78

Hearing

67,626

85,728

153,354

11.39

Speech

60,701

50,641

111,342

8.27

Albinism

4,467

5,261

9,728

0.72

Mental

89,814

122,959

212,773

15.81

Others

65,950

73,966

139,916

10.39

Total Number

571,489

774,529

1,346,018

100.00

% of PWDs

42.46

57.54

100.00

100.00

Data Source: KNBS (2019), Economic Survey

Section 21, 22 and 23 of the Persons with Disabilities Act 2003 states that PWDs are entitled to a barrier-free and disability-friendly environment for them to have access to social amenities, and assistive devices and other equipment to promote their mobility. The Kenya National Survey for Persons with Disabilities (2008) estimates that only 32 per cent of PWDs have access to assistive devices and services in Kenya, 41 per cent in urban areas compared to 26 per cent in rural areas. About 12 per cent use a personal mobility device, communication aids at 0.3 per cent, and personal care and protection at 0.4 per cent. Further, the WHO (2011) report estimates that over one billion people with disabilities and older people need assistive devices to enable them to easily participate in the society. Further, Borg (2015) finds that a large proportion of PWDs in developing countries  have not yet gotten a chance to own and personally utilize assistive devices, including hearing aids for the deaf, wheelchairs, crutches, supporting walking frames for persons with reduced mobility, which is attributed to high costs, lack of awareness and inadequate financing of assistive technologies. The National Development Fund for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD) helps the disabled people by providing assistive devices and services, which enables the individual to function in a society. The Fund gives priority to individuals requiring assistive devices to function in life. That said, with the low registration of PWDs, several deserving PWDs are yet to have access to assistive devices. Further, the National Building Regulation Act 2017 provides regulations on national requirements for an accessible built environment. Section BB 70-81 of the Act focuses on building requirements, including for building entrance and exit ways, facilities to and within buildings, and signs to facilitate access by PWDs.

Stereotyping of PWDs with disability portrayed as a problem has seen PWDs excluded from socio-economic activities, including education and employment opportunities. The traditional African belief and customs are the key drivers of stigma, discrimination and exclusion which increases the risk of violence and physical abuse in the communities (Okombo, 1993). For example, the 2006 BBC Public Health Report finds that people with albinism face prejudice and death every day, with belief linked to possession of their body parts and amassing of wealth and success. In addition, Franzen Bjorn (1990) argue that in some communities in Kenya, a child with a disability is viewed as a symbol of a curse to the whole family and the community, including beliefs that disabilities are punishments for bad deeds by witchcraft exercised by other people. Further, Valentine and Skelton (2007) find that deaf people are termed as primitive, savage, feebleminded, incapable of abstract through gesture communication and animal like, while Omiegbe (1998) observe that persons with mental illness are killed as part of ritual practices.  In addition, Wiman and Sandhu (2004) note that cities and urban planning in developing countries often neglect the needs and interests of PWDs because it is viewed as costly to build designs with additional requirements.

PWDs often face infrastructural barriers. For example, in the public transport system, there are limited reserved seats for PWDs. People with physical impairments, especially wheelchair users, are often limited to more expensive forms of transport because of inadequacies in the transport systems. In addition, people with visual impairments are unable to find the correct stages/bus-stops due to absences of tactile. Betty Akinyi (2014) argues that PWDs are still a marginalized group in Kenya despite the polices, regulations and constitutional provisions protecting them, as they do not enjoy the right to access the public spaces due to non-compliance of legislation in the major cities in Kenya. In addition, Musyoki (2016) finds disability mainstreaming on public infrastructure project design in Kisumu Municipally as still a big problem.

PWDs also have limited access to use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). For example, the Kenya Population and Housing Census 2009 found PWDs as most disadvantaged in accessibility of ICT services in Kenya at 2.5 per cent compared to persons without disability at 74 per cent. About 1 per cent of PWDs had access to a TV compared to 34.3 per cent of persons without disability, while 1.5 per cent of PWDs owned a mobile phone, compared to 50.0 per cent of persons without disability. This finding is corroborated by Dung (2009), who finds PWDs with unequal access to computer and internet technologies given economic and linguistic restrictions. Other barriers include lack of proper signage, sign language interpretation, emergency alarm without visual alert, inaccessible format of websites, information material like books, and height of customer service desks. Given that ICT is one of the enablers of growth in the modern economy, there is need to enable access to ICT and assistive devices by PWDs to enhance their full and effective participation in economic activities.

Environmental barriers include the design of parking lots for PWDs, lifts and ramps; handrails; floor designs (slippery materials); width of doors/corridors; appropriate office furniture; accessible washrooms; use of sign language; inclusive public transport; control devices (power switches and sockets, meter indicators); fire safety (fire alarms, call points, fire extinguisher, emergency alarms, and fire exits) friendly to PWDs.  Many multi-story residential apartments and other built environments lack lifts or ramps to facilitate access by PWDs. While there is sign language interpretation in television programmes, the newscast allocates only a small portion of the screen such that deaf people have to come closer to see what is on the screen. In addition is limited subtitles in television programmes. The proceedings in Parliament are also broadcasted in sign language. In social events, some churches have introduced sign language. It is important that persons with disabilities have access to full information in a format accessible, such as sign language service, braille system and accessible information.

Finally, is the weak integration of disability in Government policies and programmes. Mute (2007) observes that the Government has a weak enforcement mechanism of the existing policy and legal framework, which makes it difficult to adequately provide for PWDs in Kenya.  Further, Cheshire (2018) finds that PWDs are at risk of being left out due to lack of usable data to support a robust monitoring on budget allocation and accountability mechanism.

To break the barriers, it is important to provide an enabling environment that creates public awareness through campaigns to sensitize PWDs and strict enforcement of regulations in adhering to universal designs in built environments. In addition, there is need for continued advocacy for the rights of PWDs with a focus on enhanced inclusivity on developmental agenda.

References

Borg, J. and Ӧstergren, P. O. (2015), Users’ perspectives on the provision of assistive technologies in Bangladesh: Awareness, providers, costs and barriers. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 10:4, 301-308. http://dx.doi.org/10.3109/17483107.2014.974221

Division for Social Policy and Development – DSPD (2016), Toolkit on Disability for Africa – Culture, Beliefs and Disability. UN. http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/documents/disability/Toolkit/Cultures-Beliefs-Disability.pdf

Fletcher, A. and Hurst, R. (1995), Overcoming obstacles to the integration of disabled people. London: Disability Awareness in Action.

Franzen, B. (1990), Attitudes towards people with disabilities in Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Longtree (2010), Different models in understanding disability. Accessed on 3 March 2014. Available at http://www.disabled-world.com/definitions/disability-models.php</a

Marriotti, A. (2007), Social assistance and disability in developing countries. Supported by DfID and Sight Savers International.

Ochieng A., Onyango G. and Oracha P. (2010), Architectural barriers experienced by people with physical disabilities in the central business district of Kisumu, Kenya.

WHO (2011, https://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/accessible_en.pdf

Wilman, R. and Sandhu, J. (2004), Integrating appropriate measures for people with disabilities in the infrastructure sector. GTZ. www.gtz.de/de/dokumente/en-disability-infrastructure-2004.pdf

 

Author: Dennis Mugambi, Yough Professional, Social Sector Department 

Image: Courtest of the United Nations 

The quest for good governance is, and as it were, from ancient times, the fulcrum of constitutional reforms. Countries south of the Sahara have witnessed various constitutional dispensations after the fall of colonialism. Three phases define the reforms hitherto; reforms at independence under the stewardship of the colonial power as a decolonization process and immediately after to abrogate the Westminster model that made the Queen of England a titular head of state of former British colonies, and the Gaullist constitutional 1958 French model adopted majorly by the French, Spain and Portuguese colonies in  Africa; the post-independence amendments concentrating power in the presidency and  ushering autocratic era characterized by human rights abuses; and lastly, the current phase which emanated from the wave of change calling for a system of governance anchored on democracy and the rule of law. The rallying call in all these epochs has been the genuine desire to have a framework of dealing with constitutional errors of the colonial past and the post-independence dictatorial and undemocratic regimes.   

In Africa, the inherent argument has been that the existing constitutions neither enhance constitutionalism nor addresses the fundamental objective of keeping at bay the twin evils of anarchy and tyrannical elements associated with most constitutions. In South Africa, for example, the promulgation of the 1996 constitution brought an end to the repressive white minority rule, described as the masterpiece of post-conflict constitutional engineering, and rightly so, the constitution ushered in democracy with equal rights to all. Since a constitution is a living entity that addresses the ever-changing needs of the people, the South African constitution has witnessed 17 amendments. Currently, the call for amendment on expropriation of land without compensation is in high octave as it has inherently become a sign of inequality, largely in the hands of the minority white.

Imperatively, the logic of not leaving anyone behind is of essence in the constitutional change processes. The Charter of the African Union on the aspirations of the people in the quest for good governance and the rule of law emphasizes the same, and as Jean-Jacques Rousseau would posit, the people must have a right to choose the laws under which they are governed, the current call for constitutional amendments in Kenya is thus not unique but rather expected, since the independence constitution too underwent 23 amendments, just like the large democracies such as India that has witnessed 103 amendments hitherto.

Constitutional reform journey in Kenya

Like other African countries, Kenya’s constitutional journey dates as far back as1962 at Lancaster House. However, the major wave of constitutional reforms took place during the independence era, predominantly to transfer power from the colonial authority to elites who then transformed the constitutions and centralized powers through several phases. Constitutional amendments date back to 1952 driven by the demand for equal representation. This led to the Lyttleton and Lennox-Boyd constitution increasing African representation in the legislative council to fourteen from eight. This development necessitated the call for majority rule culminating in the independence constitution in 12 December 1963. In the new dispensation, new challenges emerged on the need to enhance equity and protection of the minority communities of the independent Kenya. A form of government espousing parliamentary system and devolution or “Majimbo” was devised in the Lancaster conference. This gave the federal governments exclusive powers to operate, and a complementarity role between the central government and federal governments with consultation on any decision made by the central government. 

The independence constitution experienced several amendments which eroded the key governance provisions. Most of these amendments were never intended to enhance good governance; rather, they were political expediencies of the governments in place undertaken by one party dominated parliament, for instance in making general elections and its planning thereof a preserve of the ruling party. The first ever constitutional amendment was in 1964 when Kenya assumed a Republican status, creating the office of the president to replace that of the prime minister. In 1966, a second amendment birthed a unicameral legislature with the upper house and lower house. Devolution and/or majimbo was later abolished in 1968. Introduction of Section 2A  making Kenya a de jure one-party state in 1982  would later be repealed in 1992 to introduce multiparty system and the introduction of Section 1A in 1997 allowing the president to incorporate members of other political parties in forming the government. Parliamentary nomination was transferred from the president to parliamentary parties.

The continued call for change of governance structure to address the underlying governance challenges, and the dilution of this popular will of the people as espoused in the Bomas draft of the proposed new constitution manifested itself in the 2008 post-election violence, which necessitated a further amendment,  introducing the office of the Prime Minister .The culmination or what seemed to be an end to this long and elusive quest for good governance was 27th October 2010 when a new constitution was promulgated after a long-protracted reform process.  

The Constitution 2010 brought a new system of governance. From the preamble, it upholds the aspiration of the people, their sovereignty and supremacy of the constitution as the foundation of nation building. As a departure from the past, the new constitution introduced a two-tier system of government, inclusiveness and equality, the national values and principle of governance, a whole chapter on leadership and integrity, democracy, rule of law and involvement of citizens in the governance process through public participation - all geared towards addressing past injustices, arbitrary executive powers, state capture of the electoral system, and monopolization of national resources.

Significantly, and unlike the independence constitution, an implementation framework was put in place by establishing the Constitutional Implementation Commission (CIC) - an independent body - and the Parliamentary Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee to ensure full implementation. However, the CIC has since expired, but questions still linger as to whether Kenyans and those in charge have been faithful to ensure the attainment of the spirit of the constitution.

One of the gains in the new dispensation is devolution, which has faced operationalization challenges with delays in disbursement of funds from the exchequer to the County Governments, while some are not able to collect enough revenue to supplement. Supremacy battles between the Senate and the National Assembly have adversely affected quality of legislation at the county level. To address inclusivity and non-discrimination, the constitution provides for the two-third gender, which has not been realized so far. Whereas it is clear on how to actualize this rule in the County Assemblies under article 177(b), there is no mechanism of achieving the same in Parliament where out of 349 elected members, only 18% are female members, representing 65 members. Despite the court advisory on the same, lack of political will has hindered the attainment of the gender rule. Out of political expediency, the Leadership and Integrity chapter and national values are yet to be implemented fully.

It is more than nine years since the promulgation of the constitution, and therefore it may seem too early to think of amendment. However, the question should not be pegged on the timing but the philosophy behind calls for amendments because this is not alien to Kenya as it was witnessed with the independent constitution and other constitutions from various countries. It beseeches the question, is it politically motivated or a legitimate cause derived from citizen perspective? The factors being fronted by the different political leaders to support the current call for referendum is the issue of rising wage bill, land issues, electoral injustices, strengthening devolution and on top of the agenda is the issue of inclusivity and opening doors to a parliamentary system of governance, which has not been achieved so far.

Though the path is always expensive, convoluted and involving a process, countries have done so to address weaknesses in the governing system and at times unfortunately, out of political expediency by the powers that be. Uganda, for instance, has gone through four main constitutional epochs in 1962, 1967, 1995 and the latest in 2005 which removed the presidential term limit, and legalized multiparty political system. Ghana, which has been viewed as the Mecca of Africa’s democracy, has too experienced reforms since the 1957 independence constitution. The last promulgation was the 1993 Constitution for the Fourth Republic which embarked on amendments to democratize the election of mayors and to open the local government election to participation by all political parties. Constitution amendments, therefore, are not strange but rather need to be open, frank, all-inclusive and a consultative process.

Time and Way Forward for Kenya

Constitution amendments go through several processes and there are many drivers that act as impetus to these changes. Among the key drivers behind  constitution amendments are competition among political parties, intermediate internal conflict, call for democratization, sectarian political participation and resource distribution, and knowledge or adoption of new model of world governance. In various phases of drafting and redrafting, political parties are imperative in the reform processes, and the success of generating reforms that reflects peoples’ ideals largely relies on the functioning of the political parties. Based on the above backdrop, the call for reform should address the adherence to rule of law and adoption of national values. Additionally, there is also need for changing institutional practices and arrangement in line with new governance systems.

In this analysis, what then is the way forward for Kenya? The rallying call to amend the constitution in Kenya is a healthy discourse that must be encouraged. The politics involved should not cast doubt on the process, because constitution making itself is a political process. However, the focus must remain on improving and enhancing an inclusive governance system. Devolution has seen inclusive development in all parts of the country. A review to strengthen it by adding more resources should be welcome. Further, any structural adjustment that would reduce the unhealthy supremacy battles between the Senate and tthe National Assembly will enhance operations in the counties and county assemblies, thereby making devolution more effective.

The one third gender rule is at the heart of the clarion call of leaving no one behind in the governance process. A review that will give impetus to the realization of this will see women who are marginally higher than men in terms of population take their pride of place in the governance process, and their voice equitably represented in the leadership positions and decision making. Lack of full implementation of the Leadership and Integrity chapter has continued to haunt the country after every electoral cycle since the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution. Therefore, any reform towards this is of essence, since the nexus between political instability and economic performance cannot be gainsaid.

Skeptics have argued that the constitution 2010 has not been fully implemented, which is true, but again it is worth noting that only 68.55 percent of Kenyans approved the 2010 constitution while 31.45 percent of the population voted against it; the more the reason for a review now that there is an opportunity to do so. However, since constitutional amendments should always be for the good course, these calls need to improve the governance structure with a focus on cementing the place of devolution, leadership and integrity and inclusivity in the governance system.

 

Authors: Yogo Kenneth and Wario Malicha, Young Professionals, Governance Department 

Photo: Courtesy The Judiciary of Kenya

The Corona Pandemic (COVID 19) has continued to ground the social and economic activities of billions of people all over the world. The effects of the pandemic has shocked the interconnected global economy and is much worse compared to the past global crisis, including the financial crisis. According to the World Economic Forum, the global manufacturing capability has significantly decreased as countries battle down the pandemic. As scientists rush to develop a vaccine for the pandemic, countries are locking down their population as they try to flatten their curves for the deaths and new infections. As of today (14th April 2020), more than 120,000 lives have been lost, and more than 1.9 million confirmed cases are being handled in more than 200 countries. The first case was reported in December 2019 in Wuhan Province of China.

The statistics of the affected countries indicate that the disease significantly spread to hundreds or thousands of persons within a month after confirmation of the first case. In cognizance of this, the Kenyan government has restricted movement of people and vehicles in the hot spot counties and a national wide curfew to contain the spread of the virus as the number of confirmed cases rose to 208 by yesterday (13th April 2020).

As Kenya and the rest of the world grapples with the socio-economic effects of the pandemic, technology offers a glimpse of hope to tackle the pandemic. Use of smartphone apps, data analytics and artificial intelligence would make finding and treating people with this highly contagious disease far more efficient as evidently applied in China, Singapore, South Korea and United States of America.

Kenya has never been exposed to a major plague and hence the country has never had opportunity to use technology in curbing the spread of diseases of this magnitude. There are rare opportunities amidst this health crisis. Local universities, research institutions, innovation hubs and manufacturers have opportunity to innovatively provide with essential health and medical products. Recently in the local media, some local talents from Kenyatta University demonstrated that they have potential to create air ventilators that are highly needed to manage the critical cases of COVID 19. Kenya has potential to create more innovations to minimize the peak of the pandemic, thus increasing resilience to avoid overwhelming the health system.

Kenya has developed policy and legal framework that has created robust environment to support technology. For instance, the Ministry of health has developed ehealth frameworks and in particular the Kenya Health Policy emphasizing the role of technology in addressing the health challenges. The Digital Economy Blueprint (https://ca.go.ke/the-digital-economy-blueprint/)  provides a clear roadmap for sectors such as health to harness opportunities arising from the digital economy. The Broadband Strategy (https://ca.go.ke/downloads/publications/national-broadband-strategy/) is critical in providing guidelines for affordable, reliable and available internet connectivity for the rural and urban areas.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the Corona Pandemic is overwhelming the national health care systems as seen in Italy, Spain and the United States of America and would do so in Kenya if the number of patients continue rising. According to the Ministry of Health, Kenya has about 500 Intensive Care beds and 50% of them are in Nairobi. Further, the ratio of doctor to citizens is 1:5,000, far below the world recommendation of 1:300, hence constraining the healthcare. There is dire need to go beyond what physical facilities can offer. Technology will help in optimizing the few medical resources available in the country.

One of the strategies employed in Kenya to contain the spread of the pandemic is to identify and trace all contacts that have interacted with a patient. As reported by the Ministry of Health, this approach has registered some degree of success since over 4,000 contacts have been established and over 3,000 of them tested for the virus. The surveillance team interrogate the patients in order to physically track persons of interest. Without technology, it can be resource intensive, slow and overwhelming tracking contacts and especially if the patient travelled far and wide infecting hundreds of persons. Technology assisted in tracking contacts on interest in South Korea where one patient was responsible for over 60% of all confirmed cases in that country.

Kenya could gain more if technology could be used to coordinate and monitor some of the measures from the Ministry of Health. It has become extremely difficult to enforce self quarantine. Similarly, practising social distance in Kenya is proving to be a challenge especially in social places such as shopping malls, markets, restaurants as well as in public transport. Without technology, it is difficult to manage the population along the porous borders.

Technology is being used to enforce self-quarantine in Hong Kong through use of location-based gadgets that everyone under quarantine is expected to wear. In Massachusetts (USA) and Singapore, tracking of contacts has been simplified through mobile applications where anyone can proactively check whether they have been in the geo locations visited by the patients. In Kenya, the mobile phone ownership rate is over 100%. Each mobile phone is identified through a unique number (IMEI- International Mobile Equipment Identity) and each user is required to register with their National Identity Card details. All registered users are issued with International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) by a service provider. With mobile applications management platform, the law enforcers can track all persons of interest including those under self-quarantine. Further, Internet of Things (IoT) products such as smart and wearable devices that monitor temperature, blood pressure and heart beat can be integrated with mobile phones and remotely track and send vital health information of the patients to the health facilities.

Kenya could benefit from big data and facial recognition technologies already available. There are numerous CCTV cameras capturing millions of images in most public places such as shopping malls, bus terminals and major buildings in major urban areas. Kenya has an approved National CCTV Policy which would be critical in further identifying possible contacts of a particular patient. Where possible, the CCTV cameras could be integrated with face recognition and infrared temperature detection techniques to quickly screen and identify persons of interest. Innovations gearing towards making use of this valuable data should be promoted to accurately recognize those failing to quarantine themselves. China is heavily relying on data mining techniques to extract location and other critical data of the patients. Similarly, here in Kenya, mining useful data from mobile transactions be it in a supermarket or refuelling at gas station would shorten the time taken to identify locations where the patient visited and this would in turn guide the process of tracking down the possible contacts.

Data mining techniques have potential to accurately isolate contacts of interest that would take months to gather manually. Locally, the Ministry of Health should partner with service providers to quickly develop some quick solutions. For instance, software engineers can quickly design and implement a color coded health rating system to track Kenyans by assigning any of three colors - green, yellow or red depending on their recent travel, their counties, age and medical history. The color code is scanned by a simple Quick Response Code system to allow those with green code to access public places. China is using a similar system in more than 200 Chinese cities. The color coded health rating system could help to generate Health maps with data visualization to track where the virus has been most densely found, giving a visual to statistics that can help detect and allow for organizations and governments to react to the health threat.

As countries race to curb the spread of COVID 19, there is increase demand for technological solutions that allow for contactless functioning in the time of lockdowns and social isolation. There are global lessons that Kenya could learn to curb plagues of this magnitude in future. With many local universities offering computer related programmes, Kenya stands to gain from local skills to design and develop simple technological solutions such as robots and drones in future. Universities could be challenged to develop robots that can prepare and deliver meals at hospitals, doubling up as waiters in restaurants, spraying disinfectants and cleaning, and dispensing hand sanitizers. For instance, China is using robots in hospitals to perform diagnosis and conducting thermal imaging and transporting the medical samples. While drones can safely transport both medical equipment and patient samples in risky environment. Drones could save time, enhance the speed of delivery and prevent the risk of samples being contaminated. In China, drones fly with QR code placards that can be scanned to register health information. Similarly, drones powered with facial recognition and loudspeakers are warning residents to wear masks as well as enforcing curfews.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a leading role in healthcare. With the help of data analytics and predictive models, medical professionals are able to understand more about a lot of diseases. China has developed faster computer algorithms that help predict the structure of a virus, and accurate tools to screen large populations. Kenya could install AI-powered infrared system in critical facilities such as shopping malls and bus terminals to detect a change in a person’s body temperature. For instance, Beijing’s Qinghe Railway Station is able to identify passengers who are potentially infected by examining up to 200 people in one minute without disrupting passenger flow. Similarly, autonomous computing could offer great utility in delivering essential goods like medicines and foodstuffs. Local universities could use local talents to quickly develop autonomous vehicles to clean and spray the streets.

Earlier on, the Kenyan government closed all schools and universities, and all public meetings including conferences and churches to contain the virus. Further the government has encouraged employers to consider their employees working at home. Technology can offer a perfect solution to facilitate learning through online learning platforms. Only a few local universities such as Strathmore, Nazarene and Catholic universities are offering elearning services. With free Internet offered by Google Baloons project in Kenya, school pupils have an opportunity to learn safely. Similarly, many employers have embraced telecommuting platforms such as Office 365 and Skype to support their operations including online meetings and sharing tasks.

It has been established that paper-based transactions including handling cash for bill payment are risky since they involve physical contact. To address this concern, it is evident that most government agencies are encouraging paperless transactions to avoid physical contact. For instance, filing of taxes and clearance of imported cargo is done via online systems. Further, the government is encouraging the use of mobile money transactions and this has seen free charges for low valued transactions. For instance, Kenya Power and Lighting Company is encouraging all consumers to avoid hard cash. In addition, churches are conducting their religious activities including sharing sermons on digital platforms.

Technology has disrupted business models that forms the Gig economy which avails convenient services to consumers. For instance, Kenya has seen high frequent use of hail applications such as Uber, Bolt and LittleCabs which not only offer convenient transport services but also advise whether the driver and the car have been exposed to the virus. Similarly, ecommerce has been embraced by many Kenyans as evidently seen with the increase of digital platforms such as OLX and Jumia. As a consumer, one can shop any time and purchase essentials such as hand sanitisers or order a meal which is then delivered at the customer’s premise without compromising their health safety. Such business models are critical in fighting the Pandemic given the high penetration of e-wallets and penetration of Internet of about that stand at 90% in Kenya.

Technology is crucial in providing a safe platform for sharing information in a risky environment. It is possible that medics could be exposed and contract the virus hence shrinking the workforce in health facilities. Technology would give an opportunity to such personnel to continue offering their medical services. Technology can facilitate telemedicine services as noted with the new e-health platform that was recently rolled by the Kenyatta National Hospital to safely screen and treat patients from remote places in the country. In deed, digital channels would be used by patients to share their recovery and treatment journey with other patients, their loved ones which is a remedy for quick recovery as well as get online counselling services. Similarly, technology has facilitated the Ministry of Health to continuously update the public with correct information regarding the Pandemic in this era of fake news. Fake news is a national threat and could deter the fight against the virus. Millions of Kenyans are able to follow the updates issued by the Ministry on digital channels and Short Message Services (SMSs) more conveniently.

While families continue to stay at home and thousands of individuals on self quarantine during this period, instances of boredom, loneliness and desperation are likely to threaten the fight against the virus. Technology has a special role in filling in the gap by offering a wide choice of entertainment and online games. It will be easy to contain young people in a restricted place when they can watch movies as well as play online games. Gaming is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country and would lead to revenue and employment growth during this tough economic time. In addition, technology offers personal health programmes and could help creating virtual gyms that will ultimately promote personal health.

While there has been a lot of investment in the tracking and prevention, some effort should go towards finding a cure. Technology offers an open collaborative platform for researchers to finding cure. Within the first few weeks of the virus, China had sequenced the genome of Corona virus. By posting that sequencing online, it triggered a ripple effect in research labs across the world, with a surge in orders for synthetic samples of the virus to build copies of it from scratch. This allowed new treatments to be tried – even experiments that failed offered vital clues in guiding researchers on where they should focus. Ali Baba, an ecommerce site, has offered free cloud based tools and space to encourage researchers and scientists for collaboration in finding cure. KEMRI and other medical research organizations can reap from technology in research geared towards finding cure for COVID 19.

Finally, war against the Pandemic cannot be won if data is not well managed. In fact, data is the new oil and very critical resource for managing disasters. Technology will help to collect, store and manage critical data of patients and medical resources. A stable electronic record management is essential to track patients, tests, and other information that is shared between researchers. Any kind of hiccup in that process, or loss of data could be disastrous, and cause life threatening setbacks. For instance, simple data collected by security guards as they screen people at the entrance of buildings could be remoted shared and could provide clues to emerging clusters of case. Similarly, data on medical facilities is critical and could be mapped to advise the patients on the nearest facilities. Technology will offer innovative solutions to perform predictive analysis regarding the patterns of the disease and this will ultimately inform on prioritizing on the emergency response measures as well as treatment options. Further, these solutions will inform the effectiveness of measures such as curfew and lockdown adopted to contain the Pandemic. The solutions could assist to assess the economic losses and inform the recovery options and paths that Kenya would take to reopen the economy.

 

Author: Dr Humphrey Njogu, Technology Policy Analyst and Head of IESD Department 

Image: Courtesy of USAID

Repositioning Kenya Airways on its Feet Fast

 Turbulent times for Africa’s sixth-largest airline, Kenya Airways (KQ) seem far from over. The financial difficulty being experienced by KQ has become even more apparent with the latest profit warning of earnings for the year 2019 when compared to 2018. The airline declared its anticipation of a net loss in excess of Ksh 7.5 billion posted in 2018. Consequently, KQ stock plummeted to a new low of Ksh 2.10 ($0.02) and recorded a -76.97% decline over 2019. KQ financial performance continues to be volatile, with the impact of increasing competition from regional carriers such as Ethiopian and Rwandan airlines, and Middle East carriers such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar airlines compounding its financial woes.

KQ is operating in a highly competitive environment and has reported a declining dominance in the African skies while the competitors in the region, particularly Ethiopian Airlines and Gulf Airlines are realizing increasing footprint. Ethiopian Airline has over the years reported a gradual growth, currently flying to 153 destinations and operating a fleet of 100 aircrafts while KQ flies to 53 destinations and operating a fleet of 59 aircrafts. This means that the KQ total freight is an eighth of Ethiopian Airline, reflecting the high dominance of Ethiopian Airline relative to KQ. Given the significance of KQ to the Kenyan economy, it requires restructuring towards a growth trajectory, and thus the proposed integrated model that entails delisting, nationalization of KQ and formation of a national aviation holding company is urgent.

Revenue Sharing Stalemate between National Government and County Governments

Background

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 introduced a two-tier level of government: i.e. The National government and the County governments. The devolved system of government is the cornerstone of the Constitution and its implementation brought a major policy shift on how resources are shared in the country. The Constitution has outlined policies and guidelines on how resources are shared between these levels of government. Despite well formulated guidelines on revenue sharing between the two tiers of government, there has been delays agreeing on the amount to be allocated to the two levels of government, as witnessed in August 2019. There is also concern on delays in disbursement of funds to the devolved units by the National Treasury. Given that the total county revenue basket disbursements by the National Treasury make up a big chunk (over 70%) of the  county financing requirements, delays in disbursement by the National Treasury adversely affects the day to day running of county activities to the extent that there is delayed payment of county staff, suppliers, and implementation of county work plans, programmes and development projects. This therefore affects county services such as health care and other services offered to the counties.

 

Ending Poverty for Youth Persons with Disabilities in Kenya

There is no accurate data on the number of young people with disabilities under extreme poverty in Kenya. However, evidence shows that youth with disabilities are the most marginalized and poor in the world. The United Nations estimates that there are about 180 and 220 million youth with disabilities world-wide, with approximately 80 per cent living in developing countries. Further, global data from the World Health Survey, according to World Bank 2011, indicates that employment rates are lower for men with disabilities (53%) and women with disabilities (20%) compared to men without disabilities (65%) and women (30%). Disability increases vulnerability of the youth to poverty while poverty increases vulnerability to disability. However, there is a strong intersection between disability and poverty, which leads to dynamic and multifaceted phenomenon that is difficult to measure. According to Sophie Mitra (2011), the onset of disability may lead to lower living standards and poverty through adverse impact on education, employment, earnings, and increased expenditures related to disability. This leads to persons with disabilities and households with a person with disability experiencing higher rates of insufficiencies, which include food insecurity, poor housing, lack of access to safe water and sanitation, and inadequate access to health care and fewer assets compared to persons without disability. In the wake of global economic integration and development, to achieve the long-lasting prospects envisioned in the Sustainable Development Goals and beyond, there is need to have inclusion of persons with disability in economic activities that sustainably contribute to economic development.

 

 

Today, 6th February 2020, we celebrate the international day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Female Genital Mutilation/ Circumcision or Cutting (FGM/C) comprises of all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or injury to the female genital organs such as the clitoris, prepuce or labia minora. Those who refer to the practice as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) tend to lay emphasis on its severity with a focus on the adverse effect it has on girls and women, while those who use Female Genital Cut or Circumcision (FGC) stress on the need to use a non-judgmental terminology, especially when interacting with communities that attach value and nobility to the practice. It is classified into four major types namely: clitoridectomy[1]; excision[2]; infibulation[3] and other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes.

Kenya Exports Oil for the First Time: What Can We Learn from Other Countries?

Oil Exploration and Production Journey

Kenya exported 200,000 barrels of crude oil to ChemChina, a Chinese company, at a cost of Ksh 12 billion in August 2019. This marked yet another milestone regarding Kenya’s oil exploration and production journey which begun in the 1950s. The first milestone in this journey was made in 2012 with the discovery of commercially viable oil deposits in the Tertiary Rift basin in Turkana. The discovery was made by Tullow, a British Oil Company. Since this discovery, the oil company has dug about 86 wells within four oil basins namely: Lamu, Tertiary Rift, Mandera, and Anza. Tullow oil considers the Tertiary Rift as the most promising among the four basins. The company estimates that Lokichar sub-basin within the Tertiary Rift has about 4 billion barrels of crude oil.

Cancer as a Non-Communicable Disease and the Status of Cancer Control in Kenya

Introduction

The concept of epidemiological transition of mortality and cause of death dates back to the neolithic age. Omran in 1971 divided the manifestation of the phenomena into three phases. The first phase of The Age of Pestilence and Famine is characterized by an increase in infectious diseases, malnutrition and high mortality. This is followed by The Age of Receding Pandemics distinguished by progressive decrease in frequency epidemic peaks, declines in mortality rates, and increased life expectancy. The third and most relevant phase is The Age of Degenerative and Man-Made Diseases marked by continued increase in life expectancy and decline in mortality rates. Most developing countries, including Kenya, are in this third phase. This phase is associated with mortality increased mortality, and a shift from infectious diseases/communicable diseases to non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

According to the World Health Organization Global Status Report on NCDs, the number of deaths is projected to increase from 38 million in 2012 to 52 million by 2030.  48 per cent of these deaths are expected to occur in low- and middle-income countries. In addition, 42 per cent of NCD-related deaths occur before the average age of death of certain populations, otherwise known as premature mortality. In Kenya, NCDs accounted for 27.1 per cent of deaths in 2016, which was an increase from 15.8 per cent in 2000. The nature and severity of NCDs have added onto the burden of the unfinished agenda on infectious diseases in developing countries, resulting in a duo-disease burden.

 

In November 2019, Kenya hosted the 25th International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) which was first held in Cairo in 1994. The aim of the conference was to assess the achievements made by the 179 governments represented in advancing people’s rights and choices with particular focus on: empowerment of women; reduction of infant and child mortality to a rate below 35 per 1000 live births and under-five mortality rate below 45 per 1,000; eradication of gender-based violence and any abuses of women rights including female genital mutilation (FGM); reduction of maternal mortality disparities within countries and between geographical regions, socio-economic and ethnic groups; and improvement of gender equality and access to reproductive and sexual health services including family planning.

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