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The Sunshine Awards, 2010

It’s that time of year, so “A Sunny Day” announces its annual Sunshine Awards, to record the scene-changing events and organizations of 2010. This is the 3rd year of these awards; I ask you to remember, however, that they are entirely personal and not subject to any known auditing process.

The Achievement of the Year was undoubtedly the installation of a new constitution in Kenya. Kenyans voted for a new dispensation by a hefty margin, ignoring naysayers and vested interests alike. Sure, the implementation is going to be subject to severe roadblocks and reversals. Certainly, we are not out of the woods, not by a long shot. However, we have written a new rulebook and, for the first time in decades, have the opportunity to change the way the game is played. Bring it on.

Kenya’s Institutions of the Year were therefore the now-defunct Committee of Experts and the Interim Independent Electoral Commission, who designed the new order and allowed it to pass peacefully in the polls. These people have never received their due, and this column is happy to record their achievement. Compared to the divisive, vitriolic and downright incompetent institutions that preceded them, these two were a breath of fresh air.

2010’s Fresh Sentiment of the Year, perhaps linked to the above, was the swing in perceptions about Africa’s economic future. I track these things avidly, and in 2010 I witnessed the most marked change in goodwill towards Africa that I have seen in my time. Suddenly, all the analysts are highlighting the strong foundational numbers: the young population; the burgeoning middle class; the growing connectivity. Suddenly, Nairobi is awash with investors and business visitors. Suddenly, even the most cynical are beginning to believe that maybe, just maybe, Africa’s time is around the corner.

In Kenya, the Potential Game Changer of the Year is likely to be the International Criminal Court. All the ICC has to do is indict and prosecute a few of the head honchos who rained violence on innocent Kenyan heads in 2008. It matters less whether the evidence is strong or whether the charges stick. For the first time, we may have consequences for those who think they can play with others’ lives. For the first time, there may be a downside to sparking ethnic violence. That can only be good for us.

The Business Event of the Year was Kenya’s sudden appetite for “telecom wars”. Some may find the dramatic price war sparked by the arrival of Airtel overdone and overheated. But consumers all over the land are rejoicing at lower calling and internet rates, which in turn should ignite a much-awaited connectivity revolution. I believe, quite sincerely, that this war is great for the nation. Prices will soon balance themselves out to a new equilibrium, and then the battle will shift towards quality, service and products. Both consumer and producer will benefit, as competition is the best spur to innovation and differentiation. So carry on fighting, ladies and gentlemen of telephony, but let’s keep it clean and clever.

And finally and most recently, the Damburst of the Year was undoubtedly the release of the Wikileaks diplomatic cables. All those who have said or harboured things they didn’t really want to share are now in the uncomfortable position of squirming in their seats. This is a seminal event, one that heralds a new information age. It is going to be very, very difficult for any of us to operate in dark corners any more. The confluence of technology, connectivity and globalization has done for secrecy. For us in Kenya, where many ugly things lie under stones, this is a very welcome development.

May 2011 be a year in which more sunlight falls on more places and more windows are thrown open.

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