Everything’s for sale in Kenya
Britain was once called a nation of shopkeepers. If so, then Kenya can only be a nation of hawkers, vendors, and peddlers. Not to mention hucksters and spivs. For everything is on sale in Kenya. I’m not referring to the normal range of goods and services. In Kenya, you can buy anything – including things that should never be on the market in the first place.
For a start, democracy is up for sale. Do you want to become an MP? No problem. Some hundred-shilling-note handouts, a few T-shirts and caps and the promise of nyama choma can buy you the post. That’s the price attached to the position by the average impoverished Kenyan voter.
Do you want government to do something for you? A juicy contract, some influence in the right places? No problem, it’s all available – at a range of prices. A few deposits in offshore accounts, some wining and dining and hey presto! Government is yours. And the wonderful thing is, very often you don’t even have to supply anything! Can there be a better deal than that? What a place in which to do business! Come one, come all.
So what’s new, you say? We know government is on sale. If only we could get rid of these swindlers masquerading as leaders, we would be fine. But would we really? I’m afraid the rot goes much deeper, dear reader. The disease is in all of us. We’re all buyers and sellers in The Great Kenya Sale.
What do our corporate managers and professionals sell? The shampoos they make and the services they offer? Yes indeed, but a lot more besides. Hefty procurement contracts are up for sale – just grease the right palms, and you could be supplying shoddy goods at showcase prices for years to come. Legal judgements can be auctioned to the highest bidder – just arrange a quiet handover in a dimly lit car park. Your opponents’ lawyers are up for sale – just talk to them about ruining their client’s case. Cooking your books? Worry not, auditors can be found to help you bake the final dish to perfection.
Proud companies providing employment to thousands don’t just sell their products – their managers and directors are often up for sale, too. They will loot it dry and leave a withered shell. They will put families out on the street. Nothing personal, just business. Managers got rich, the economy got poorer. A profitable day’s work for those who know how.
Looking for publicity? Need to put your nasty company in a favourable light? Or perhaps to have an investigation lead nowhere? No problem, journalists can be found to help you do all that, for very little outlay. Perhaps you want your property valued highly as collateral for a bank loan? Don’t worry, the bank’s own valuer will do the needful – for a share of the difference.
Our learned academics also have stalls laid out in this bazaar. Need a study done to show that your project will have minimal environmental impact? Never fret, our professors, too, have a taste for the finer things in life. And a consultant can undoubtedly be found to put a sparkling sheen on the economic projections. Take your time to browse carefully when visiting this soko of ours – most things are available.
Security is for sale, of course – guards, fences, and alarms. But so is insecurity. Need to organise a break-in? Start a riot? Execute a business rival? You can pay the same guards to look the other way. Pay some idlers to start stoning cars. Hire guns from wayward policemen. Get people to work on both sides of the law, simultaneously.
The beauty of the country is up for sale. Its mountains and its beaches, its wildlife and its trees – all carry a price tag. Can you afford it? Step forward. We will allow you to ruin coral reefs, pollute rivers and lakes, and fence off as many thousands of acres as you want. We even want to allow you to chase after our animals in four-wheel drive cars and shoot them dead – just for the thrill of the chase, just to indulge the sickness in your soul that wants to take an innocent life. We have no problem with that – the animals of earth are just goods on a shelf to us: pay your money and start shooting.
Are you wondering what happened to traditional African values like sharing and hospitality? Why, they went in a special clearance sale years ago! We exchanged them for more modern merchandise: individuality, greed and personal gain. What happened to the rich languages we were going to teach our children? We traded them in for English – much better to help the kids make it in life, don’t you think? Dholuo or Punjabi doesn’t really help you out there on the world commercial stage, after all. Sell it for a few burgers and fries (soda not included); that’s all a language is worth these days.
Sex has always been on sale – but not just in the streets of shame. It sells in the boardrooms and bedrooms of the high and mighty, too. Having a mistress is a sign of affluence and status; being one is an honourable vocation these days. Upmarket apartments, glittering jewels and foreign trips are the price; family values are the cost.
Can’t have children, and can’t accept it as God’s wish? No problem, with the right help, it can become God’s miracle. Little babies are on sale too, and you don’t even have to feel any guilt, because God Almighty will be roped in to underwrite the transaction. Have you run a once-vibrant city into the ground? Not a setback at all: prayers are available for cash, to help you fool all the people all the time. Looking for prime land for your temple? No problem, a tycoon will grab you some to cleanse his sins. In Kenya, even God is for sale, retailed by his own messengers for a few pieces of presidential-portrait silver.
But you don’t do any of that, do you? It’s these other people, isn’t it? Your personal virtue is intact, is it not? Until someone asks you to pay cash and avoid VAT, that is. Until someone shows you a pirated CD at a third of the cost of the original, that is. Until you spot an opportunity to fiddle your expense claims, that is. Until you start running a private business using your employer’s facilities, that is. Until the smallest temptation tickles your nose, that is. Then your personal virtue is well and truly on sale, at bargain prices.
Yes, we’re open for business in Kenya. We’re all punters in the sale of the century. Come and see the free market go to places it’s never been before. Listen to those cash tills ring – that’s the real music of the land! Roll up, roll up, place your bids and carry away your goods. You’ll be surprised at the range of merchandise and the throwaway prices. No credit, mind – nobody can be trusted here. Cash upfront (no VAT), for the soul of a nation.