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Rather than positivity, Kenya needs to face its problems

Traffic between Thika and Nairobi as a result of Highway Bumps and reliance on the road 
as the sole link between the two towns. Arguing the traffic is better than in Lagos or
encouraging people to use the road earlier doesn't solve the problem


A fierce debate springs up every now and then on development in Kenya, or in other developing countries. There are two schools of thought - those who argue that a lot needs to be done and what is there is barely much, and those who feel a lot of progress has been made.

Those who focus on the progress will point out that at least Kenya (or another country) is better than its neighbouring or other countries in its status when it comes to some aspect such as roads, or education. While this is true, it however presents a lot of danger as we will discuss shortly.
Another point of those who focus on progress is encouraging individual responsibility rather than criticism. This may appear as a very positive contribution to solving the problem, but like a mirage it is merely an illusion. While a person may find that waking up at 4 AM to beat traffic works for them, it is a solution that can only work as long as it is restricted to a few people attempting it.

If just a quarter of road users woke up at 4 AM to beat traffic - then the trick would stop working. In addition, if this was a viable strategy, then there would be no need for governments to invest in functional public transport. They would simply encourage people to wake up earlier and earlier.

Tokyo, the world’s largest city with a population of 9 million in its core and 37 million in total if you include its suburbs is one perfect example that challenges the idea of individual responsibility. The average commute time in Tokyo is just 40 minutes, with most citizens taking between 20 minutes to 1 and a half hours to reach their workplaces.

In contrast, Nairobi, a city of less than 4.5 million in total has its residents often clocking an hour to more than 2 hours in traffic, even for short distances.

Tokyo’s secret is not waking up early, but heavy government investment in a functional rail network and other public transport infrastructure.

Similarly, arguing that at least Nairobi is better than Lagos doesn’t present a solution. When you are sick and visit a hospital, they do not ask you to return home untreated on the basis that you are at least better off than the dead. Rather, they strive to ensure the best outcome for you.

As I had earlier mentioned, the danger of looking at the positive side of things is that it encourages their not being fixed. Take the case of electric cars - for years, car manufacturers were convinced that low powered cars that did less than 100 kilometers per charge was the best the world could do. Yet, Tesla has proven electric cars can be very powerful and last more than 500 kilometres for every charge.

Thus, a lot of progress is achieved by wanting to outdo oneself. A country that feels it is doing well stops employing teachers, social officers, nurses, doctors and policemen even when it faces an unemployment crisis and poor access to services offered by such professionals. This is the dilemma many developing countries find themselves in.

As in the case of Tesla and Tokyo, solving problems is not accomplished by having a positive mindset around the current situation.

Instead, the best solutions are achieved by an overwhelming desire to conquer the problem while not having to make sacrifices. That’s how genius solutions are unlocked.

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