Technology Grows as Politics Decline in East Africa

East African leaders
East African leaders

Forty seven years ago, the gramophone was in huge fashion, Cassius Clay had changed his name to Muhammad Ali and was waltzing the world of boxing.

The African continent then, was dominated not by political competition but buy by aggressive nationalism borne by post independence nationalism and the inevitable coup d’etats. It was almost a given belief that the big man at State House had to be the man who controlled, not the votes, but the men holding the guns.

The most efficient ways of communications were the good old land line telephones, the telegraph and then came the fax machines. The old workhorse, the typewriter was the most ubiquitous office equipment. Always present, silent but ever present and useful. Forty seven years is enough time for a human being to be born, grow into an adult and serve as a useful citizen as exemplified by US President Barack Obama, who took over at about the same age.

And it is in that 47 years that the world has seen so much technological advancement and change that methinks will shape the direction of East Africa’s growth into its next phase of 50 years of the journey of 100 years into independence. Today nowhere in East Africa is the gramophone in use, having gone from it to the Cassette Disk and eventually to the CD and now the iPod. The land line telephone has gone into museums as the mobile telephone takes over the telecoms scene with relish.

The banks are threatened by mobile money and are fast working towards embracing them rather than using the old regulator to push the limits of new application they are coming up with. And with the arrival of google networks, hotmail and now twitter, the world and East Africa has become a truly global village. In as much as there are those still opposed to regional integration, the technology networks are not waiting for these few naysayers to come on board as they are proceeding with changing the face of East Africa.

Google now has an office in Kenya to cover East Africa from where it oversees its operations. Young 20 year olds are churning out new technological gems and gizmos. In time we shall even be voting for our political leaders from the comfort of our mobile phones. But as technology grows with a new technology hub, KINU being started in Dar es Salaam by Google, our politics continues to decline in East Africa.

The decline in our politics continues to be a matter of international concern and regional disappointment. A US-based think tank Flattau Associates in its Quarterly reports says democratic governance in East Africa continues to struggle. The Burundi political crisis continues to dominate the politics of that country as Rwanda struggles with lack of confidence on the fate of Rwanda after Paul Kagame.

According to the report released by director Jeremy Flattau, “the latest strength of democracy numbers for Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda show that democratic governance is suffering not due to lack of laws but their ineffectiveness. The handling of the ICC case at the East African Assembly has not engendered any hope nor has the ever present threat of Al Shabab. In the past freedom of association has been undermined in all three countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania against legitimate meetings, freedom of parties, access to information, and freedom of speech and media independence.

This despite Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania having signed up to open governance access by the public. The report on East Africa further indicates decline in democracy in the region has been as a result of negative incidents in these countries rather than legal changes that undermined democratic rights. It, however, points out that there are a number of pending pieces of legislation, particularly in Uganda, that have the potential to undercut democratic freedoms in the future.

Flattau says the Democracy Monitor Quarterly is unique because its scores result from measurement of events rather than a survey of expert opinions. DMQ is used by citizens to hold leaders accountable, the media to quantify the events they observe and report on, investors to understand the governance situation and governments and aid donors to monitor changing conditions Political scientist Frank Matanga of Masinde Muliro University, who has also undertaken a research on democracy, terms the report fairly accurate, saying Kenya has an attractive democracy in theory but there exists a major deviation in practice.

“Basing on pointers such as freedom of press, liberty, movement, assembly and open and transparent society, we are yet to fulfill them,” As Politics declines our technology both uptake and invention in East Africa is on the up and up. Woe unto people and Governments that are not watching this space.


B;  K”oyoo Nick