We must focus on cultural, social values for meaningful prosperity


As we ruminate over the next face of our constitutional dispensation as a nation, economic success remains our ultimate ambition. Kenya is targeting a 10 per cent economic growth per year and self-sustenance by 2030.

One of the issues identified as plaguing our economic take-off by the Building Bridges Initiative task force has been the lack of national ethos and skewed cultural values.

The importance of values as a component of economic success and its influence on social and political institutions has been demonstrated by the Asian Tigers.

According to empirical studies, well-known cultural orientations that are important in facilitating economic success include the strength of family ties, the spirit of enterprise and hard work, self-reliance, a sense of individual responsibility and the disposition to save and act with prudence in utilisation of economic resources.

These social values and characteristics have been drawn from by Asian countries such as Singapore and China to create successful economies.

These values must be the DNA of nations if economic progress is to be realised, according to social science scholars.

Policies that minimise welfare dependency have in turn reinforced the social and cultural values that have helped Asian economies to flourish, according to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in her book, Statecraft; Strategies for a Changing World (2002).

In a past address, Lee Kwan Yew, the former Prime Minister of Singapore, stated that “we, Asians, have different social values. These different social values have made for fast growth”.

This point was further emphasised by Dr Mahathir Mohamed, former Prime Minister of Malaysia, while explaining his country’s growth when he averred that “Asian values are actually universal values and African people used to practice the same values until their leadership decided to deviate from them.”

Therefore, all constitutional amendments will be of zilch value if we do not fundamentally alter our social and cultural values.

Good constitutions are only as good as the values and cultures that the people hold dear.

We must revisit what our beliefs and values around the institution of family are, our thoughts on hard work, grit and resilience, the spirit of self-reliance and independence as individuals and as a nation and our sense of responsibility and the disposition to save and act with prudence in utilisation of economic resources.

Auscar Odhiambo Wambiya,Governance expert

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