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Working Together to Build a Better Kenya


Why civil society should partner with the Government to drive Vision 2030

By Mugo Kibati

In his article in The Star on Wednesday, July 13th, titled Good Leaders Are Key to Vision 2030, the Chairman of the National Council of NGOs - Mr Ken Wafula, aptly captured the potential synergy between the government and the civil society in driving forward the Vision 2030.

He readily acknowledged the need to reinforce the engagement between the government and the non-governmental organisations in achieving the Vision for the good of the country. His article also dwelt greatly on leadership issues and on the need for NGOs, as he puts it, “to reclaim their roles in this epic development process.”

The credentials of Kenya’s civil society in bringing about transformative change in the country cannot be gainsaid. Beginning 1990, non-governmental actors have been at the forefront of driving the country’s social, political and economic agenda with remarkable success.

Transformation through Collaboration

Partnering with other agents of reform, the civil society left an indelible imprint on the country’s quest for change culminating in last year’s promulgation of the New Constitution. The promulgation of the constitution gave Vision 2030, which has a political pillar charged with effecting proper governance structures, a new lease of life.

By playing its rightful role in the realization of a new constitution, civil society has contributed in a major way in making Vision 2030 real in the hearts and lives of Kenyans. As Vision 2030 works towards delivering proper governance structures for the people of Kenya, it will be fulfilling the promise of the New Constitution to Kenyans.

The Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat (VDS) which is tasked with overseeing the overall implementation of the Vision has been actively engaging civil society. In April this year, the VDS and the NGOs met and formulated an engagement plan for collaborating with civil society. We continue to engage to concretize our partnership.

The essence of our engagement with the civil society organisations is to harness the potential synergy that exists between them and government in driving the country’s development agenda. Vision 2030 cuts across every aspect of the lives of Kenyans; driving it requires the concerted effort of a broad array of players, not just government.

Maintaining an Effective Symbiotic Relationship

The confluence of the roles of government and civil society in relation to the Vision 2030 is seen markedly in the provision of basic social services such as health, sanitation and education. NGOs have consistently played a major role in building schools, hospitals and other social infrastructure.

Here again, NGOs have been active in driving the Vision 2030. The provision of essential services falls squarely within the ambit of the social pillar of the Vision.

With this in mind, I would beg to differ with Mr Wafula when he says that NGOs have ‘to reclaim their role’ in the implementation of the Vision 2030. They are already playing their rightful role by championing the rights of Kenyans and providing essential services to the poor. They are actualizing the social pillar aspirations to create an equitable Kenya for all.

I would like to single out a very critical ingredient in a successful partnership between government and the civil society, namely that, NGOs have over the years built a formidable grassroots network.

Therefore, any form of collaboration between VDS and NGOs would catalyze a huge critical mass for successful implementation of the Vision 2030 flagship projects. Obviously, the ultimate beneficiaries of such collaboration are the citizens.

That applies to any other type of collaboration whether between government and civil society or government and private sector.

To Each their Righful Role

The rules of engagement of each of the parties should be clear ab initio. For instance, you cannot subsume the government mandate as granted by the electorate within civil society agenda in the name of collaboration. Nor would you expect civil society to be subservient to the State as a pre-condition for engagement.

Civil society can play the role of sensitizing Kenyans on the benefits of Vision 2030. NGOs must go beyond mere criticism of the government and offer constructive counsel on how to fast-track the Vision 2030 projects. I believe Kenya can achieve this Vision before 2030. Malaysia did it and we too, can.

In playing its rightful role in the country’s development, civil society must also avoid the trap of short-termism. It is tempting to dismiss the Vision 2030 as a pipe-dream owing to the prevailing economic hardships. While such hardships are a reality, most of them can be resolved in the short-term. In fact, the Vision addresses many of these challenges.

For example, successful implementation of the flagship irrigation projects will go a long way in tackling the perennial food insecurity which keeps fueling increase in food prices. Diversifying our electricity generation base through flagship projects like geothermal and wind power generation will reduce the cost of power.

I could go on and on but suffice to say that civil society should view the Vision 2030 as a long-term effort to tackle prevailing social, political and economic challenges for the benefit of present and future generations.

Mr Kibati is the Director General of the Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat

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