How do we handle disruptions

Thriving in Turbulence…How do we handle disruptions?

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My youngling (she is three) keeps saying, “when coronavirus ends, we shall do ….”. Like her, we say it loud or deep-down wish that we could miraculously snap out of whatever this is and get on with life as we knew it. It is hard to come to terms with the fact that there is a breaking of the norm because human nature dislikes change and the disruption of known patterns and routines we effectively control. However, whether we like it or not, life will never be the same again. The question is, how do we cope with the uncertainty of not knowing the full impact of COVID – 19 on our personal lives or in the future? How do we adjust to significant, life-altering changes we have no control over?

First, we must expect and accept that this and many other disruptions will be part of life. It will be helpful to spend time anticipating some of the things that could change and processing possible responses. This is not for purposes of deepening the panic but for purposes of preparedness, which helps navigate unexpected challenges better than when one is in denial. Second, there is no use trying to fit square pegs in round holes. We need to throw out most of the standard rules that may have worked in the past, with the understanding that new situations require different responses…

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Covid-19-destroyed-the-false-naratives

How COVID-19 has destroyed the false narratives we tell ourselves

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All African countries, including Kenya, latched onto the ‘Africa rising’ narrative peddled in the early 2000s after a series of labels and terminologies like the hopeless continent, basket case, or lagging. The reason for the Africa rising narrative was the economic growth of between 2.5% and 5% experienced by several countries, and which was higher than what was experienced even in developed countries. Unfortunately, economic growth, measured in gross domestic product (GDP), is an accounting system that calculates the value of production (of both goods and services) in a given period while GDP per capita divides that value by the total population. GDP, therefore, does not really indicate the sustainability of the sectors driving the economy or the wellbeing of the population, and that is why two countries with the same GDP can have different poverty and inequality levels.

COVID-19 has destroyed this false sense of privilege among urban households and exposed the blatant lie of Africa’s socio-economic demarcations, particularly those categorized as non-poor. It has exposed the precarious nature of their jobs vis-a-vis consumer behavior, which does not coincide with perceptions of a middle class that should sustain domestic consumption and growth in the future (even when out of an income for some time). The fact that this crisis is driven by the loss of income (projected to affect 75% of the population in Kenya) rather than rising food prices that have characterized previous global crises buttresses the vulnerability of urban households. As such, the resilience of rural households will be much higher compared to their urban counterparts because of expenditure patterns.

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Resist the status quo bias

Resist the status quo bias

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In Kenya and Africa at large, politics is a filter through which many, if not all, things are perceived. However, when COVID-19 took over our lives in March, politicians who claim to have all the answers, momentarily went suspiciously quiet while the media fumbled to get enough news items. At that point, COVID-19 was beyond political maneuver and beyond anybody’s control – evidence that politics is not everything. Given the magnitude of uncertainty or the looming impact of the pandemic, one would imagine that we would be rational enough to suspend selfish interests and focus on minimizing the ensuing devastation of the pandemic. Strengthening our health systems, critically working through economic recovery, revamping people’s welfare, and reducing debt, as we help flood victims, among other crises, should be the natural order of things. Instead, we are back to the politics – of reviewing the Constitution, fostering tribal unity, or ousting those threatening political party interests, etc. Just as quickly as we forgot about the locusts, we have pretty much moved on from the issue of the Coronavirus to amplify non-issues.

Kenyans must internalize one thing – that the political agenda has nothing to do with resolving critical life issues. Instead, it has everything to do with maintaining the privileges of the powerful and their beneficiaries. For that to happen, the systems of power, like the Constitution and the electoral system, have to continuously be recreated to align with these interests. The dominators also have to legitimize the process by crafting a generalized acceptance. By framing these trivial political issues (in comparison to the unaddressed issues) as urgent and life-threatening to the dominated group, they work at building a narrative that suspends logic to achieve consensus. That is why for example, the so-called ‘Luhya leaders’ have no problem defying the COVID rules or spending so much money flying across the country to meet and claim tribal solidarity (which by the way could easily have been done through zoom). The narrative portrayed is that a lack of urgent tribal harmony will lead to political decimation faster than a COVID related decimation. The narrative is crafted to make the community believe that the urgency applies to them, while all this time if the peasants truly mattered to the politicians, the resources would have been consolidated to help flood victims. The same applies to the proposal to review the Constitution in the middle of the current crisis – it is crafted to literary imply change. However, it has nothing to do with changing the fate of poor Kenyans, most of whom are economically desperate at this point. It is about entrenching political dynasties and maintaining the status quo.

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Building-a-shock-resistant-planet

Building a shock-resistant planet in a world of such great difference

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I had a rare opportunity to speak with innovative people questioning whether global immune technologies seeking to find systemic solutions to global pandemics can help build a shock-resistant planet. Such technologies include those that “can detect a novel pathogen in the air, water, or soil of the Earth and rapidly sequence its DNA or RNA”[1] to neutralize the pathogen before its damaging effects begins, and in a sense entirely bypass the limitations we have seen with governments in managing diseases like COVID – 19. This conversation can be retrieved from https://bit.ly/2ZNiSqU.

I live in a continent that shoulders one-quarter of the global disease burden has less than 2% of the world doctors, invests less than 1% of global health expenditure, and is among the continents with the lowest access to healthcare services in the world. While these impressive innovations towards “precision medicine” seek to prioritize preparedness, prevention, and confinement of disease outbreaks, I often wonder the extent to which such innovations can genuinely be global in a world of such significant difference.

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consume forecasts with caution

Why we should consume forecasts with caution

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The uncertainty of not knowing what lies ahead is disarming in many ways because it renders us powerless. One way to navigate that ambiguity is to use historical data to forecast the future. The predictions help create some certainty about where the future is headed and, in some way, make things less obscure. Various modelers, for example, had anticipated future COVID-19 infection cases, death, and recovery rates. BMC public health projected that Kenya would reach 1,000 confirmed cases by 14th April 2020 (33 days after the first confirmed case) and 4,000 cases by 21st April 2020 (40 days after the first confirmed case). The Ministry of Health numbers were similar, projecting “1000, 5,000 and 10,000

cases of Coronavirus by early, mid, and late April 2020, respectively ceteris paribus[1]”[2]. In hindsight and according to WHO data, on 14th April, we were at 218 confirmed cases, and by 21st April, we were at 291 confirmed cases.[3]

Other interesting examples of data forecasts include those made at the beginning of the year. GDP was expected to grow to 6% following consistent growth in the last five years, which placed Kenya among one of the fastest-growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Public Policy Failures

How foresight can help persistent public policy failures

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I was invited last week to speak about effective inclusion – a subject that many have worked on for a long with mixed results – and I felt it is essential to write a short article on why futures is imperative in fostering participation and inclusion in the public policymaking process. Policymaking is the mechanism through which the government identifies a public problem and puts a framework to address it. It is assumed that once the policy is implemented, the quality of life of the citizen will improve – mainly through laws and regulations that facilitate addressing the issue or through funding towards the achievement of the goals intended by the policy. Traditional policymaking is linear and includes identifying the problem & framing it, policy formulation, policy adoption, policy implementation, and policy evaluation. The process, in my view, is counterproductive at many levels, hence the need to infuse futures thinking. This is why.

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Rare occasions when Kenyan men are justified in beating their wives

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‘The Youth Fact Book: InfinitePossibility or Definite Disaster’, a book I authored in 2010, has been recognized as an authoritative one stop shop of youth facts, figures and analysis with regard to the state of Kenya’s youth population. It was featured extensively in the article below.

By KWAMCHETSI MAKOKHA (kwamchetsi@formandcontent.com)

Posted Friday, November 26 2010 at 12:35 on http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Opinion/Rare%20occasions%20when%20Kenyan%20men%20are%20justified/-/440808/1060924/-/item/1/-/15kkddkz/-/index.html

Burn the food, refuse to have sex and neglect the children — these are some of the surest ways for a Kenyan woman to get a beating from her husband.

Should these acts of provocation not yield results, she can also argue with her husband or go out without informing him, with sure-fire consequences. Read More

East Africa: Youth Can Seek Jobs in the EAC to Ease Pressure on Market

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‘The Youth Fact Book: InfinitePossibility or Definite Disaster’, a book I authored in 2010, has been recognized as an authoritative one stop shop of youth facts, figures and analysis with regard to the state of Kenya’s youth population. it was featured extensively in the article below.

Article by George Omondi

Increased spending on training is yet to match the rate of job creation in the country, a trend that analysts warn could have grave consequences because young people with skills are likely to remain unemployed.

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Foresight for Development: Featuring an African Futurist

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Katindi Sivi NjonjoKatindi Sivi Njonjo, a futurist with joy and passion for foresight

I first met Katindi for lunch in 2010 on a visit from California. I had just left my job at Institute for the Future and was preparing to go to graduate school in New York. I was so excited to meet her, to get some first-hand knowledge of foresight in Kenya. At the time I was a bit nervous; what should I expect? To my delight, Katindi was forever laughing and humble about all that she has achieved. I quickly knew that come 2011, when I have my summer break, I must find a way to return to Kenya and work with Katindi. And so I did.

I have discovered the more I learn about all the amazing work she has done in Kenya, the more humble she becomes. It is easy to see the joy and passion she finds in her work, and become enamored with the process through her eyes. I am happy to have had to opportunity to interview Katindi for Foresight for Development.

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Youth in East Africa: Infinite possibility or definite disaster?

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Article first featured on the Foresight for Develpment website on Saturday, 02 February 2013 17:21
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The Future of Youth

Following a disputed election in 2007, Kenya experienced spontaneous violence in reaction to the election results mainly in opposition areas, organized attacks mainly in Rift Valley Province against certain ethnic groups that supported the incumbent,organised retaliatory attacks as well as opportunistic sexual and gender based violence. Findings of the Commission of Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence enumerated the growing population of poor, unemployed youth, educated and uneducated, who agree to join militias and organized gangs as part of the major root causes of the conflict. According to a youth advocacy organization, Youth Agenda, young were responsible for 7.32% of all incidents of pre-planned violence. 54.88% of those who executed the violence were youth.

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