Value in Politics and Development – Alex Njeru


Politicians have for a long time been our marionettes, we the puppets as we sway, swing and react to their every move. They promise heaven, they deliver nothing or hell, still we cling onto their every word, watch their every movement and hope against hope that ‘the politician is right’ the odds of that happening being 1/100000. Which brings me to the question, why do we have this obsession and infatuation with our politicians? Could be because we do not understand the very nature of politics, or much more generally how the world works?

Electioneering in Africa provides a perfect prism of examining the asymmetrical relationship and order between a people and her political leaders. A politician goes campaigning in a remote, dry, sparsely populated area in northern Kenya, mainly inhabited by pastoral communities. In his bag the politician carries a bag teeming with freebies should he get elected into offices, things ranging from; free health care, free education, free water, free herd insurance, and any possible freebie apart from a pathway to heaven are mentioned. The people buy into the promises, they fall head first into the pit of false hope, for there is nothing in this world that has the allure of hope.

We fall for the promises because we do not understand how the world works; we do not understand the universal theory of values. A politician will come and promise a new or an upgrade of a new road, but do we stop to ask, for what purpose, is the investment justifiable.

The theory of value is pretty simplistic; ‘Value begets value’. Thus if a politician promises a road or any other justifiable value we must stop to ask ourselves whether we; for whom the road is intended posses the value that would justify the new road.

As it is we crave for development, infrastructural development and the good things that the world has to offer, but we do not want to engage in value addition. As I see it value may be categorized into two; inherent value, meaning natural value, here we have natural resources like oil, minerals etc and ‘created value’ this kind has more to do with the employment of human faculties, entrepreneurship than natural resource values.

What Africa and Africans fail to understand is that a region suffering from undernourishment in natural resources will find it hard to attract investment in that new road it so desires, that is if investment and application of natural resources is guided by reason. A relatively rural and remote area with oil or gemstones will invite investment in droves. Most of Africa does not have an abundance in; oil, bauxite, ferrite or coal most of Africa thus finds it hard to attract infrastructural development.  What should Africa’s rural and remote areas do to attract worth infrastructural investment and development?

Africa needs to engage in serious value addition. Africa for a time too long has been engaged in primary production, which in effect has left Africa vulnerable to the vagaries of international markets. Africa has to slowly let go of the fixation it has with subsistence agriculture, which in effect will free up the productive energies of the youth to other sectors and industry.

Africa also suffers from chronic underdevelopment in human resources. The systems and philosophy of education in most African countries seem oriented towards recycling and replication of knowledge rather than inventions and innovations. Some African countries have slowly become infatuated with ‘the university graduates. Colleges and universities in Africa are churning out ‘half baked graduates’ at an unprecedented rate. This means that vintage ‘village and technical polytechnics have gone into dereliction, robbing Africa of invaluable and relatively cost-effective semi-skilled labour. As the doors to village and national technical polytechnics close, the skills of the electrical technician, the mason, the carpenter are become scarce, a market gap which has been plugged by many menial labourers from the far east.

Africa needs to rethink her development strategies; she needs to be in synergy with a globalizing world. It seems as if globalization has passed Africa by, she has remained oblivious of the benefits of globalization and a global economy, Africa has been mark-timing.

Of values and election promises