I really had a lot of hopes pinned on this growing middle class that they would prevail in politics. I had hoped that the swelling ranks of these would do two things: 1.keep the elites honest, 2. and inspire the lower classes that life’s conditions could improve in Kenya.
1. The middle class depends on efficient government systems and is so impatient to move up the ranks of wealth that I expected they would hold Kibaki’s regime to task on issues of corruption. To a large extent this expectation was borne out. Doing business did get easier in Kenya and for the first time government seemed to respond to the needs of local entrepreneurs not just the World Bank. Many of my friends started or expanded their businesses and acquired many of the trappings of the middle class.
2. The expanding middle class meant more and more Kenyans were moving up from the poorer classes. But I guess not enough of them were moving up since ODM was able to mobilize a full half of the voter register to vote for change. ODM’s rallying cry was more equitable distribution of resources. Clearly that message resonated with half the country. How come? Why does ODM draw so much of its support from this very same middle class?
Is it a case of the middle classes expecting too much and being disspointed by Kibaki’s 6% growth?
Is it that the arrogance of the Mt. Kenya mafia did not augur well with this emergent middle class with its values of egalitarianism? Did the Mt. Kenya mafia represent a glass ceiling of opportunity that the emergent middle class knew could never be broken?
Or perhaps the reason is best found the BBC report that “around 60% of Kenya’s population of 37m lives on less than a dollar a day and although Kenya’s GDP has been growing for the past three or four years, many of the other economic and social indicators have dropped.
Kenya slipped five places in the 2005 Human Development Report, life expectancy has fallen (WHO) and Kenya is seen as one of the 20 most corrupt countries in the world (Transparency International).
Still, what about that middle class?