The role of communication in achieving Kenyatta’s big four

16 August 2018. Coming into his second (and final) term President Uhuru Kenyatta did not hesitate to layout his big four agenda.

The big four – Universal Healthcare, Manufacturing, Affordable Housing and Food Security – define the blue print of what the president’s leadership is expected to look like for the next four or so years.

As such, pundits have argued that Kenyatta is focused on building a legacy prior to leaving office: that his focus is now on delivery and not politics.

As far as the actual work to achieve the big four is concerned specialists in relevant fields will be pulled from relevant disciplines to get the work done.

So far we have heard about ideas like 700,000 new acres of maize, potato, and rice cultivated under public-private partnership. We have also heard about construction of 8,200 houses on a scheme in Mavoko, Athi River.
On manufacturing, an industrial pack in Naivasha, apparel industry sheds in Athi River and a special economic zone in Dongo Kundu have been proposed.

We are therefore not short of ideas on how to get it done.
But if Kenyatta will succeed it would also be because strategic communication was used through the president’s second term.

“It will absolutely be fundamental,” Joe Kadhi, a retired don who taught journalism at United States International University and University of Addis Ababa says.

To start with, the president’s success hinges on the support of his employer: an estimated 45 million Kenyans.
Hence, for Kenyatta to achieve some measure of success, it behooves him to tag Kenyans along as he implements his vision.

And to do so effectively he will need his agenda communicated effectively. Just like he needed at least 50 per cent of votes cast to win the election so will he need at least half of Kenyans supporting his modus operandi on development.

Strategic communication is an effective way of articulating one’s vision. It involves sorting and packaging relevant information; in digestible form and quantities for dissemination.

In employing strategic communication it is important to start by laying out the ‘what’, of which – thanks to mainstream media – the president has done well thus far.

That won’t be enough though. And certainly, for an opinionated electorate, there will be need to keep their support through every milestone and avoid complacency at all costs.

Sociologist Dr Karatu Kiemo adduces that citizens are fluid with their support. “They can turn against your policies and vision when they feel that you no longer represent their interests,” he says.

Often, when a leader loses the support of their subjects, Kiemo notes, it is usually because that leader’s opposition (those who don’t support the president’s ideas but not necessarily because they disagree ideologically) is doing a better job at communicating with the masses.

Waking up to a deluge of news every day, and in the case of Kenya, a sustained expose on corruption, it is easy for the common man to lose track of the agenda.

Opinion makers, like economist Kwame Owino, say there is a lot about the big four agenda that needs further discussions.

Kenyatta cannot afford to forego the support of professionals like Kwame vis-à-vis the common man.
This is how strategic communication would help a great deal to get the big four actualised.

  • Public Relations – The president will need the big four laid out in simple language for the public. It is not enough that the public knows what the president wants to accomplish: it is also important that they understand details of what he wants accomplished and how he intends to get it accomplished. This way the public becomes stakeholders and can find ways to plug into the overall plan. It will also be important, that when hitches come up, the public is duly informed (and through proper means) to avoid speculations that could eventually harm the implementation process. This is an exercise that is best carried out with full involvement of mainstream media.
  • Advertising – Whenever there is need to communicate specific developments in the course of achieving the big four advertising may be necessary: be it through mainstream media or other forms of media.
  • Management communication – the president will not only need to pass important messages or information to citizens. In accomplishing the big four agenda there will be technical teams; working under different ministries through a convergence mechanism. Success is dependent on the commitment of each person who will be placed in the team to execute functions. A team (or even teams) will only achieve success if there is a semblance of oneness. Such oneness will remain assumed if good relations between everyone involved (and all units that will be overseeing the implementation phase) won’t be established. Communication between all officers – the president included – will be paramount. A solid structure to ensure seamless interactions within and without teams will give heft towards overall success. In fact, good organisation will also support the efficiency that advertisements and public relations will have.