Policies and education failing in the fight against inequality | ACORD Learning Forum 2014
Existing policies created by governments, regional and international bodies need to be implemented to ensure that existing inequalities are addressed to ensure better lives for African citizens.
Speaking during a panel discussion tackling inequalities during ACORD’s Learning Forum, Hon. Professor Anyang Nyong’o, senator for Kisumu County, Kenya, said inter-mediation with governments was needed in policy creation and execution.
“Any state can undertake policy creation, but those policies need to lead to economic creation,” he said. “A national democratic and developmental state can endeavour to ensure that these policies are put in place and address the negative issues that capitalism has.”
Nyong’o said there was need to address political transformation as this directly impacts on economic growth. He recounted how, as Kenya’s minister of Economic Planning and National Development in 2003, a paper “Economic Recovery Strategy for Wealth and Employment Creation” was launched that caused a stir in among non-governmental organisations due to the use of the term wealth instead of poverty, showing the misguided mindset that exists about addressing inequalities.
He further noted that employment and wealth creation strategies must include the self-employed and peasant farmers
Ms. Karin Andersson, counselor, head of Sweden’s Regional Development Corporation, Swedish Embassy in Kenya, noted that decent employment creation is a major factor in reducing inequalities and addressing conflict in the society.
She further noted that current education curricula was lacking in providing the private sector with the kinds of employees needed. This has to be changed so that the youth have the adequate skills and training to cater to the specific demands of the private sector.
“Also, seeing that agricultural production is an important area for Africa, land rights needed to be addressed so that farmers, particularly women, can be more productive,” she said.
Stefano Prato, managing director, Society for International Director (SID), said that a very significant portion of Africans were self-employment through entrepreneurship. Despite this, this sector was excluded in structural transformation.
“Structural transformation does not address the inequality issue,” he said. “Do we consider the workers of the flower factories employed? There is inequality in their terms of employment.”
Prato further noted that Africans needed to start producing and using their products and reduce on their imports. He said implementing social protection interventions and increasing the minimum wage are positive innovations that would address inequalities. He also advocated for the establishment of public-private partnerships.
Willice Onyango, executive chairperson, International Youth Council, Kenya, said many young people believe that employment will solve inequality. However, access to employment has never solved inequality.
“The youth have to use their skills and training to create their own opportunities,” he said.
Onyango noted that international trade agreements were very biased towards countries that are on their way to middle income status. He further lamented that the environment was endangered at the detriment of future generations.
“Natural resources are for everyone and future generations must have access to these rights for their own survival,” he said. “Those who endanger our environment must be held accountable.”
The policy of “I steal therefore I am” was one of the reasons inequality existed in Africa, noted Jacob Njakululu, ACORD Kenya programme manager.
“Most key policy makers in government were at one time running a public body that they looted,” he said. “They use the money that they stole from those companies to run for election and get voted into power.”
He noted that trade unions tended to have affiliations with existing governments, resulting in a lacklustre representation of workers’ rights.
“There is a blurred line between the private sector and government,” he said. “Government employees are in a conflict situation since they are investing in the private sector.”