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Did Development Fail in Kenya?

Nairobi -- A month ago, Kenya fell prey to a sudden burst of post-electoral violence that has left over 1000 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. The intensity and scale of the violence have stunned the world.

Of course, Kenya had lived through tense electoral periods before, and few people who know Africa were blind to the many difficulties the country continued to face. But things seemed to be going well recently. This year’s campaign was exceptionally peaceful, and millions of citizens voted on December 27 – at times walking and queuing for hours to cast their ballot.

Perhaps more fundamentally, Kenya was unanimously seen as the “good student” of development, sometimes referred to as a symbol of an African renaissance. The “Kenya vision 2030 framework,” a set of ambitious macroeconomic, legal, and constitutional reforms, was being implemented in close partnership with the World Bank.

Cherished by the donor community, Kenya received almost $1 billion of official development assistance in 2006 – up by 250% since 2002. Its booming horticulture and tourist industries were hailed as models for other African states in their efforts to integrate into world trade. The country’s economic expansion, which averaged 5.5% in the last four years and fuelled the progress of neighboring economies, appeared to prove that vigorous growth is possible in Africa even without mineral or fossil resources. Today, this economic miracle is up in the air.