One of Albert Einstein’s basic theorems is that of relativity, which concerns the movement of an object itself inside a moving object.
He took as an example of somebody walking in a train. While the person walking in the train thinks he is moving at his normal walking speed, an outside observer sees he is moving at the speed of the train plus his walking speed. Sometimes, when you’re inside something bigger that moves fast, it’s easy to miss what’s truly hauling you forward. Of course, Einstein’s theory of relativity was one of the biggest shifts in human history. It explains the motion of planets, the bending of light from distant stars and galaxies, and is used to describe the history and expansion of the universe. And the recent images of a black hole reminded the world that the physics of black holes were discovered by Einstein’s theory too. This is a once in a millennium event. Yet, here in Kenya, we are also living in the midst of a paradigm shift. Granted, its implications won’t be quite as big as Einstein’s discovery – but it will still have a huge impact on our lives. Yet as with Einstein, it is important for us to remember that it is easy to miss this shift, since we are living in the middle of it. So, let’s take a step back and look closely at some of the news over the past few weeks.
Microsoft, one of the world’s biggest technology companies and the inventor of the Windows operating system, found on most computers in the world today, announced that they will open their African Research and Development hub here in Kenya.
As a first step, this will provide employment to hundreds of our best and brightest, hopefully reversing the brain-drain that afflicts the country. But something bigger is happening here: instead of being exploited for our resources and used as a market for surplus produce, we will start producing locally the technology that we use.That they chose Kenya for their first research centre speaks volumes both about our potential and the trust the global business community has in our leadership. As a complimentary event to Microsoft’s announcement, Kenya presented a digital economy blueprint at the Transform Africa Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. This blueprint focuses on digital governance solutions, encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship, and promoting digital know-how.The international media also took notice, and not only was it a beautiful event of African cooperation, but it also set us on the path to becoming a leading nation in the e-government field. Rwanda is already more advanced in that field than many old economic powerhouses of the 20th century, such as Germany. This is just another reason for deepening the cooperation between the two countries.
But a shift in paradigm cannot be one-dimensional. It has to change the situation in several different areas at the same time. We are also witnessing a change in Kenya’s geo-political situation.President Uhuru Kenyatta set a goal to become a member of the United Nations Security Council, the most coveted and influential organ of the United Nations. This is long overdue. We have been an anchor of stability in Africa in general and in Eastern Africa in particular for many years.Unfortunately, we had to gain first-hand experience in the fight against terrorism, but at least this has deepened our cooperation with Western powers facing the same threat. We play a crucial role in the ongoing peace negotiations between our neighbours Ethiopia and Eritrea, acting as a trusted mediator for both sides. I am certain that President Kenyatta will play a similar crucial role in the ongoing democratic reforms that the people of Sudan are demanding.Last but not least, things are also rapidly changing back at home. The Big Four Agenda pushes for development of infrastructure and growing of the economy. Perhaps most important, the President set a plan in motion that will finally set all Kenyans on track to receive basic health coverage.The launch of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) project is thus another game-changer for the life of all Kenyans if the plan goes according to the books. It is far from there, but once completely rolled out and adopted, the UHC will provide for the safety net we all need.It took 113 years to validate Einstein’s theory of relativity in distant galaxies – an objectively long time. But his theories changed our outlook on the world from the very day he published them.Kenya, too, will see the validation of today’s toil in the future. But to see that already now, one sometimes needs to take a step back and look at things as an outside observer.