Reversing Rural Poverty in an African Country

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REVERSING RURAL POVERTY IN AN AFRICAN COUNTRY: A REVIEW OF THE KENYAN POLICY REGIME

Dr. Ludeki Chweya Department of Political Science UNIVERSITY OF NAIROBI

Paper Presented at the ‘Mijadala on Social Policy, Governance and Development in Kenya’ sponsored by Development Policy Management Forum on 26 October 2006 at Holiday Inn, Nairobi

INTRODUCTION The development project in Africa has so far produced contradictory results. On one hand, the project has shown positive results for the majority of the population during the early postcolonial period, stagnation during the 1980s, and decline since the late 1980s. On the other hand, the development project has produced continuous positive results for a small proportion of the population. The wide inequality that has arisen from the development pattern has rendered unsatisfactory the overall development undertaking in Africa. This paper will explain the adverse development conditions in Africa from the standpoint of the Kenyan policy regime that was initiated upon independence in 1963 and continuously reviewed in the subsequent decades. The argument of the paper is that the policy regime that is marked especially by the Sessional paper no 10 of 1965, the Sessional paper no 1 of 1986 and the present Economic Recovery Strategy Paper has focused on macro-level adjustments and failed to link the development promise to the poor through re-organization of production and distribution. Specifically, that development is a function of capitalist production and past failure to realize development in Kenya can be attributed to the failure to organize production on a capitalist basis. The capitalist model involves large scale, market-oriented production that aims at accumulation of surplus that in turn facilitates continued expansion of investment. The anticapitalism discourse in and on Africa especially during the first three decades of independence was based on the assumption that capitalism is necessarily exploitative of labor and is therefore undesirable. The discourse thus adjudged capitalism based on the production side of the process whereas the problem lies on the distributive side. In other words, capitalism leads to accumulation of surplus (wealth) and equitable distribution of surplus facilitates socioeconomic transformation in socioeconomic welfare and in physical infrastructure. Continued production within the subsistence, peasant model forestalls accumulation, deprives society of a basis for social transformation (development) and ensures the reproduction of the status quo of poverty and deprivation. The path to development in Kenya is now predicated upon drastic policy shift in favor of the capitalist organization of production. The paper concludes with an argued claim that wealth creation in rural Africa and the eradication of poverty are a function of organization of the productive forces, including equitable distribution of the proceeds. MEANING OF DEVELOPMENT Scholarly presentations about development conventionally begin with claims that the conceptual meaning and definition of the term development is not conclusive ostensibly because perspectives vary widely. 1 The claims are, however, a case of academic fetish to find

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Rist G., The History of Development 1

problems, to problematize social phenomena. Claims that the definition of development is a difficult task is too cautious and too open-ended to be of any use to both students and practitioners of development. The meaning of development from the standpoint of a Third World country, say an African country, can only be contested among ideologues and polemical academicians to the surprise and bewilderment of a poverty-afflicted child, let alone his or her adult parent or guardian. From the standpoint of the ordinary population and scholars who live and work among the rural folk in Africa, for example, there should not be, at least for the time being, an argument about the appropriate meaning of...
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