By Geoffrey Moenga.
Political processes are very imperative to any particular country since much of the fundamental decisions that determine its future are based on those decisions. As such, all stakeholders including the corporates are deemed to remain concerned on the end game of these processes. Elections, across the world, remain to be one of the major political processes that has insidious and sometimes inadvertent outcomes on the concerns of all parties involved if not handled with ultimate dexterity. During the election year, there is a great sense of uncertainty in business especially in the stock market, if that would be a point to go by in terms the response the investors have in election time. In the US for example, when President George W. Bush exit, the US exchange fell by 40%. There is uncertainty of policy initiatives by the new executive that makes the business people lurk in a temporal stalemate spell towards election time. One could ask, aren’t the corporates capable of doing something to assure a less precarious transition?
In Kenya, time to time, we have been on the limelight as a nation for the wrong reasons majorly internal violence and civic unrest related election conduction. Among those memories, the 2007 post-election violence stood out when we vowed as a nation never again shall we go back there after more than a thousand lives were in the discourse. Chief among aftermaths of the estranged nation at the time, amid the grip of the negative ideological differences was the weakening of the economy and loss to private sector enterprises. As one of the fastest growing nations, the economic setbacks emanating from such national events ought to be proactively tackled and mechanisms put in place to avoid any slowdowns in development. Consequently, companies both private and public have a role to play to enhancing a better country with well-informed citizens ready to participate in their democratic rights and being involved in fulfilling their civil responsibility.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and Corporate Civic Responsibility (CCR) are major obligations that companies of the modern times need to be engaged in to not only thrive well in their performance in their industries but to also enjoy the right environment, social, economic and political, that can favour their operations. Much as they could be sounding to mean the same, CCR has not been well done in comparison to the CSR its essentiality in contributing to the nation’s political and economic wellbeing. By definition, Corporate Social Responsibility originates from a corporate’s desire to do good things beyond any of its legal, financial and other business obligations. In other words, it is a self-assumed function to express and advance charitable or otherwise positive activities for the benefit of the general society in which it financially prospers. CSR activities are often rooted in a “nice to do” attitude of corporate leaders. On the other hand, corporate civic responsibility (CCR) suggests awareness on the part of a business entity of its responsibilities as a corporate citizen. As such, CCR programs spring from the hearts of corporate leaders to express and implement their genuine commitment to perform certain activities for the commonweal (public good) because they consider their corporation a legal entity a corporate citizen.
The business entities have an obligation to enhancing a discernible political and social less frantically and with deliberate efforts geared towards building a nation whose citizens who understand their democratic roles and constitutional responsibilities. While the manifestations of the CCR and CSR are looking much similar, it is imperative that the corporates embrace the CCR attitude of a selfless desire of a “must do” approach. It shall be the beginning to more stable country where political events like next year’s general election shall not provoke immense uncertainties.
At a time when the electoral is making a lot of efforts in achieving greater numbers in the registration process so as to enable the elections depict a clearer picture of the desired leadership by Kenyans through voting, the corporates too are obliged to play a role in ensuring the desired turnout. Undoubtedly, the kind of leadership that is elected by the citizens determines the kind of economic policies to be initiated. It thus becomes of high interest to the businesses which are corporate citizens to see to it that the right noble and able leaders are chosen. We only achieve best that say of the people when we have great participation.
Through the involvement in the corporate civic responsibility, the corporates will be able to ensure that the generation’s voice is elevated, informed and engaged in all matters of national importance such as elections. If the records from the 2013 General Elections are anything to go by, then the corporates have a great role to play to ensure that the interest of participation in such crucial national matters especially among the youth is brought to life. In the 2013 general elections, out of the 14,352,533 533 registered voters, 12,221,053 (85.90 %) took part in the 2013 General Elections but 2,022,196 (14.09 %) did not vote. But the number of registered voters in 2013 was only 57,801 more than the registered voters for the 2007 General Elections (14,294,732). The participation of the corporates in rallying members of the public to participate in the elections could have helped kill the apathy that developed following the previous elections and perhaps choose credible leaders.
As it stands now, averagely, the adults in Kenya account for 50% of the total population but on 40% actually register as voters. The youth turn out in particular in the registration and voting in this time was uninspiring and would need the attention of the corporates who incidentally they interact with as employees, customers and partners. In the 2013 elections, the youth accounted for 49% of the registered voters which was lower than their projected voting cohort of 58% in the total national population.
As a nation, we need to get rid of the looming naiveté towards matters of national importance among our population especially the youth and emphasize on their capacity to determine the direction the country takes through exercising their democratic right. It is the fundamental reason why the Corporate Civic Responsibility ought to be spread across the industry players in the corporate world. In Kenya, voter registration is a key requirement for the conduct of elections as established in Article 83 (1) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010; the Elections Act 5(1)(2)(3)(4)(5) and Article 88 of the Constitution that gives the IEBC specific responsibility for continuous registration of citizens as voters. Nonetheless, it becomes difficult for this to be realized if the private sector and all corporates fail to insist on the importance of the exercise.
The ever elusive peaceful elections and peaceful national co-existence shall be achieved when not only the constitutional institutions play their role in mitigating in the achievement of optimal values among the citizens, but also when NGOs and members of the private sector take deliberate efforts in ensuring that the communities and societies in which they operate in do adhere to their responsibilities as bonafide countrymen and enjoy the fruits of their land. It is a prime time to embrace the CCR programs in efforts to build a better and transformed nation.