Since the presidential elections and its petition ended Kenyan's have gotten their politics fix from discussing possible appointees to the first cabinet under the new constitution. President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto have reportedly spent the better part of their first weeks after elections deep in consultation about who to appoint. Last week they gave us the first hint that their cabinet appointments would not be business as usual when they unveiled a government structure of eighteen (18) ministries which is four less than the constitutional maximum. This was a clue that they were more keen on delivering on their manifesto than rewarding of friends.
Today they went further and gave us a good taste of things to come when they revealed their nominees for the ministries of: ICT, National Treasury, Health and Foreign Affairs.Have no doubt, it was no accident that these were the first nominees unveiled. It is clear that the digital duo consider these to be the most important ministries and the ones which they most need to fulfill their campaign pledges. Allow me to make an armchair analysis of what I foresee with each of the nominees if they are confirmed.
1. Fred Matiangi - ICT
Of all the nominees Mr. Matiangi is probably the most educated holding a doctorate in Comparative Literature from the University of Nairobi but he is by no means an academic type with his heads in the books. According to his current employer he has extensive experience in governance-related research, civil society advocacy, and donor-funded democracy and governance projects. So why hire an English professor with civil society networks? One word: Konza. Expect Mr. Matiangi will take up Bitange Ndemo's pet project with unfettered gusto, getting stakeholders committed and involved. His employer goes on to describe him saying that he has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to secure stakeholder buy-in, facilitate program objectives, and deliver high-quality technical assistance. This means that although he will follow through with Konza, he will also focus on quick and immediate results from the manifesto. Read the manifesto to see where Mr. Matiangi is planning to take ICT.
2. Henry Rotich - National Treasury
Mr. Rotich is the only nominee who is a long serving civil servant and the reason for this is simple: continuity. For his first budget I do not expect that we'll see any big deviation from past budgets as he has probably been one of the main authors in his position as deputy director in charge of economic affairs. That said based on a paper he gave I think the rest of his tenure will be defined by major tax reform as he tries to bridge the ever-widening deficit. What this means is that he is going to make the tax code simpler, ruthlessly pursue defaulters and cheats (including small scale traders), and broaden revenue streams through carbon credits and land holding taxes (no more land speculation business)
3. James Macharia - Health
Why appoint a banker to run a health ministry? It's because bankers are specialists in redistribution (usually to their shareholders though). Bankers collect deposits then use the same deposits to lend back to the public and in the process make their shareholders much richer. How will Mr. Macharia adopt his banking skills in redistribution to the Health ministry? It's clear from Jubilee's manifestos that they are keen on providing free basic health facilities and also universal health care. They are also alive to the fact that this might become a massively expensive program and do not intend for the government to solely finance it. Instead expect NHIF to play the role of redistributing wealth to promote health care for the most disadvantaged groups. We will see the NHIF rates go up, but also the benefits. His banking creds will probably come in handy as well as he negotiates with health insurance mandarins who have been known to oppose the scheme.
4. Amb. Amina Mohamed - Foreign Affairs
She is the only woman in the list but by no means a minnow among giants. From he recent campaign to be the head of the WTO we can surmise that she is supremely confident and ambitious. Like a few past ministers of foreign affairs she is also a lawyer by training with deep experience in the UN. As a pioneering Muslim African woman, she is uniquely positioned to garner global attention when she speaks. Expect Mrs. Mohamed to be deployed primarily as an adversarial, no-holds-barred advocate of Kenya's and the digital duos international interests.
President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto seem keen to break from the past and take full advantage of the division of the executive and legislature by appointing brilliant Kenyans with histories of success and who can deliver on the promises the two made in Kenyans.
I am keenly looking forward to their confirmations and seeing them getting down to work.