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Kenya: Tourism good but not enough


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Situated in the laps of Great Rift Valley, Kenya serves as the major tourist attraction in Africa, still it faces unemployment and hunger that make it tough for the poor to survive. After agriculture, tourism is the second major source of foreign exchange for the country as nearly a million tourists visit the African country every year.

However for Kenya, often described as the cradle of humanity, such a large tourist influx is not enough to generate enough jobs as the country remains in the grip of extreme poverty, hunger and illiteracy. The Republic of Kenya, with population of around 40.8 million, has around 40 per cent people unemployed and 70 per cent of working class is engaged in small scale farming. Half of the farm output remains non-marketed subsistence production. Not without reason, for large section of population it is becoming difficult to meet the basic needs of life.

Though Kenya is the largest economy in east Africa and is a regional financial and transportation hub, still the nation is in the clasp of poverty. One major reason behind its poor growth is widespread corruption. Other problems like unemployment, crime and social conflicts too remain high.

Most Kenyans live below the poverty level of $1 a day. Natural calamities like droughts often cause turbulence in their lives that and put millions of people at risk.

In the absence of industries, Kenyans find it difficult to get a job to earn enough to lead healthy life, which eventually lowers the GDP of country. Rise in taxes by the government makes basic commodities like food and clothing unaffordable for most of the citizens. Poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water leads to social and health issues, adversely affecting the nation.

While the country is expected to grow by more than 5 percent in the year 2011-12 but extreme reliance on agriculture and poor infrastructure make its economy susceptible to vagaries of nature.

By making agriculture profitable for the small farmers and helping them find suitable markets, the Kenyan government can pull millions of people out of poverty but continued political instability and violence have deeply affected the governance of the country. To fight hunger, the country needs to increase foodgrain production, and not merely focus on its export centric cash crops of tea and coffee. Creating opportunities in infrastructure development, transport, telecommunication and tourism could be another way of helping poor find jobs and break the shackles of poverty. Local entrepreneurs can be encouraged to start small scale industries to produce cheaper goods and create jobs.

Amidst all the chaos, young Kenyans are learning soft skills and finding jobs abroad. Increasingly, remittances by these professionals are becoming important for their family members based in Kenya. Broad-basing its economy beyond agriculture and tourism, and taking steps to sharpen the skills of its human resources and encourag manufacturing, are expected to help Kenya in the long run.

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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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