Seven zebras of the Tsavo alert on the eve of the curfew imposed due to rising COVID-19 cases in Kenya. What are the seven virtues we need to consider for suitable policy interventions?
The Penalty of Privilege in the Wrong Hands
A friend once shared a true story of a proud owner of a top-of-the-range SUV who defends the obviously poor state of roads in a rural Kenyan setting. This young owner of an extraordinary car, unable to contain himself and exercise the art of character through moderation to strike a balance, asks the passengers in his car, “Have you felt any discomfort on this road since you boarded my car, any bumpy ride betraying potholes?” Not waiting for an answer, he concludes fast with a pompous verdict, “You see, the problem is always the car, not the road. People just need to invest in good cars.”
The Provident Policy Agenda
Policy processes should consider three compelling elements: direction, coherence, and continuity — leading to the generally accepted standard definition of policymaking as an agenda-setting process with a set of norms for giving direction, coherence, and continuity to the course of action (Vickers, 1995). Policy provisions should, therefore, consider the usual cases rather than the exception. The road in the story is not suitable for use by the majority, who can only afford ordinary vehicles. Basing policy interventions on the exception like this young man’s extraordinary car and consequently ignoring the dilapidated state of the road cannot be more mean and misleading.
The Prudence of Policy Action
Just before reaching our destination on the eve of the curfew imposed by the Government of Kenya amidst rising cases of COVID-19, seven zebras on the roadside greet us with their majestic posture and high alertness. As if they already got wind of the impending curfew and wanted to hear more about it, they rotate their ears through 180 degrees, a hallmark of their sharp sense of hearing. Their adorable stripes, unique to each of them like barcodes, conveniently complement a strong message on the need to domesticate policy interventions to fit each country’s socioeconomic status.
The tendency to copy wholesome the measures other countries boasting robust social safety nets have taken in the face of COVID-19 features in our discussion. A short argument ensues: Why not a lockdown? Why go for a dusk-to-dawn curfew? Does it mean that coronavirus spreads faster at night in Kenya? Kenya proceeded to enforce a curfew starting on 27th March 2020, though with casualties of police brutality who could not reach home before 7 p.m. due to transport hitches, among other reasons. This weekend, the global scenario of the COVID-19 pandemic has painted a grim picture of explosion in confirmed cases exceeding 660 000 and deaths exceeding 30 000. The weekend has also seen the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Kenya increase from 31 to 38 — including community transmission.
The Virtues of Policy Process
To any thought leader, the turbulent start to the enforcement of the curfew and the reckless statements of the owner of the extraordinary car in the story invoke weekend reflections on the virtues leaders need to hold dear during policy processes. Like the seven zebras defined by stripes which are unique like fingerprints, the following seven familiar virtues should be contextualised to guide innovative policy responses to match the unique situations countries find themselves in with the coronavirus pandemic.
We need wisdom in guiding the character of leadership to make prudent hands-on policy decisions that resonate with the map of local socioeconomic and COVID-19 realities and interface with the global scenario.
We need moderation to reap the economy of frugal living and facing the daily challenge of self-denial for the greater common good. Moderation is a key point of entry into effective crisis management during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We need courage for resolute government decisions to initiate the tough and adventurous journey of containing COVID-19, thus opening a limitless horizon of possibilities in a way that rewards only the bold and the determined.
We need justice for the responsible exercise of power with forthrightness and responsive social communication that empowers others to share in inclusive prosperity.
We need hope to help one another to maintain the overall expectation of victorious outcomes through the trying season of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We need faith to see the invisible and do the impossible, a telescope that makes the eventual conquest of COVID-19 a present reality worthy of our gratitude in advance.
We need love to shun all forms of selfish and greedy acts of self-preservation in order to triumph over COVID-19 together as interdependent societies.
Nashon, a geospatial expert, lecturer and trained policy analyst applies dynamic models to complex adaptive systems. He is a youth mentor on career development and the founder of Impact Borderless Digital.