The other day I saw a photo on the social media of women in Nyandarua county of Kenya with women digging a grave and a message written alongside saying that they are doing so because men have been reduced to alcoholism so were not available for that work. Often times have seen on social media and even on major television stations in Kenya of women complaining that their men have been reduced to alcoholics. This is more prominent in Central Kenya. At one time President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered heavy crackdown on alcohol producers and distributers on Kenya especially those selling what was referred as the illicit variety. During the reign of former Kiambu County governor Ferdinand Waititu a lot of restrictions were placed selling alcohol in the county and a controversial programme on rehabilitating alcoholics was put in place.
As a social scientist and researcher I have been doing a lot of stuff with youth and even adults in various settings in Kenya. I have visited all manner of places including what one would regard as notorious alcohol joints selling all manner of varieties of the drinks. I have meet people imbibing in all manner of liquids and hard stuff in their many settings. Often times I have meet young people loitering in the morning or simply lazing around looking so imbibed and while engaging with them it can be a heart breaking moments. I often ask why they take a lot of substances to keep them in a state of stupor. The many times they complain they have nothing to do as they have not gotten a job or work to occupy them during the day. Many say that it is a way of keeping their mind cool as they have lives which does not offer them so much hope. It is a way of coping.
Our education system that we have carried over for many years and reduced none academicians mostly to no job and few to training at tertiary levels. With revamped tertiary training especially at technical colleges this has changed a bit. Previously university education was the key focus at training at tertiary levels. But still even if we manage to balance the trainings at tertiary levels and other key outcomes of Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) we still have problems over surplus labour against the market needs if we don’t fix the economy. This is quite a precarious situation. I must state that even though controlling population growth is a key plank in some of the more popular development models, we have still seen large population per square kilometers countries like South Korea using that as a huge dividend. One can still argue that the large population per square kilometer in USA than Canada is part of making it a powerful country economically, militarily and diplomatically. Germany and UK offers some insights in Europe that a relatively high population density per square kilometer is not a problem if the country is well managed and is pushing very hard economically. If you look at countries like Singapore the huge density has not deterred her match to prosperity. So our population growth if tapped well means something and should never be a problem but a great opportunity. At any rate if we managed our economies well in Africa the huge population would a key attraction for investors. The problem we have now is a lot of poverty and our usual weaknesses of bad politics, corruption, divisiveness along ethnic lines and a lot of political tensions and mismanaged economies
Turning to some findings or from information picked from observations, interactions and finding out from the society what could be wrong that is a lot that indicate that we have huge opportunities in Kenya much as also we have serious societal problems. Indeed if you look even at social ills like prostitution the growth in numbers just by mere observation is phenomenal. If you did deeper the stories may look like the society is falling apart. The reality is the prostitution is part of a response to earn living by all means possible for a large segment of them. The economic conditions pushes part of the society to such dangerous or ill health threatening trades. Part of them obviously could be guys who have been lured to it by other factors that include family breakdowns and bad habits. If you look at the level of alcoholic drinks especially of low calibre and even the takers of drugs and others substances it would indicate some desperate groups of people. Even with massive crackdowns on youths and even so many adults’ idlers it will still amount to the same behavior and consequences. We have witnessed when you crackdown established beer market say in form of taxes or even if there is a genuine need to raise them to earn the country much needed revenue for government programmes the underworld production and market grows phenomenally
So in a nutshell, we have a gargantuan of a problem of addressing serious flaws in the society but we have to do it in a sober way. It is easier to condemn the guys involved or caught up with the vice but the addressing of this is not by wielding the big stick but dealing with the key route cause. The cause starts with fixing the economy. Punishing without finding solution is just scratching a bit of the problem with the end game being a failure. The challenge is addressing idleness brought about by having nothing or very little to do for so many people. Yet still frustrations will always find solace in imbibing in substances or such bad habits if we don’t offer much hope to the people. Economy means so means to human livelihood and it has impacts also on the larger ecosystems. The price we pay for bad economy in human lives is enormous. Quite unfortunate state of affairs.
Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda
The Writer is a Political, Economic and Social Analyst and Commentator, the Leader of a Leading Renewable Energy Organisation in Africa, Researcher, Consultant, and also represents Several Other Organisations in various capacities including being the Chief Executive Officer of one of the leading Auto Industry Associations in Kenya.