The 2010 FIFA World Cup is a great boost to Africa. For thirty days, there shall be no war among our 5000 different ethnic groups. We shall all belong to the football tribe.
That incidentally is the real reason why the Kenyan Constitutional Review timetable cannot be altered or postponed. Kenya is free-riding upon the uniting effect from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa to reconcile ODM, PNU and ODM-K political parties.
The two principals and the architects of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act realised that during the June-July 2010 period, the population, particularly the youth, would be too pre-occupied with sports to make any serious objection to the proposed constitution. The timely and convenient distraction would reduce the popularity of the "NO" proponents as attention shifts to significant regional and international sports role models.
After the glamorous event is over, there shall remain barely three weeks to the 4th August national referendum. The issues shall have become dull and minds shall be numb. No critical thinking shall be done. Courtesy of virtual images and audio effects, Kenyans will ratify their constitutional document against the artificial background of unity imported from a foreign source.
While ardent soccer supporters and the population-at-large (the masses) are focused on the TV, strategic business investors such as Coca Cola, Nokia and Sony are subtly advertising their commercial commodities. These consumer goods shall come onto our shelves to alter our consumption patterns and habits. Those who watch T.V are assisting in advertising as they communicate the promoted brand labels by word of mouth to others.
In a fair economy, viewers should be paid a salary or wage for working overtime for these multinationals. Instead, all we get is entertainment and perhaps learning "good" manners. In economic terms, because the Kamba kiondos are not advertised on TV; the Luhyia songs like Mwana wa Mbeli are not sung; legends like the Luo's Lwanda Magere or Kikuyu’s Gikuyu and Mumbi are not told in movie scripts, the new generation may lack a national identity and end up imitating Western advertised values. If this hypothesis of social reproduction of collective identity is correct, then the tragedy of watching too much TV, whether World Cup or English Barclays Premier League on DSTV or Hollywood films is real.
Most African nations do not sufficiently support the fine arts, cultural heritage or sports. A majority of them lack a national cultural policy- leave alone a national broadcasting policy. Unlike in the West, African economies are too underdeveloped to sustain a leisure economy. Moreover, some of their broadcasting stations are prohibited from accessing UK airwaves unlike ABC, BBC or CNN in their respective countries.
Foreign values may cause intolerable psychological strain because local masses lack the means to attain their lofty goals. Since conformity is difficult and innovation is rare, it becomes easier to ritualize, retreat, or rebel. The result? Overzealous religious values; drug addiction; alcoholism and riots. Our challenge is to contain the future upsurge of these crimes after the footballers and other performers have packed and left.
If national identity or Africanness is important for African Unity, then one solution to the looming anti-climax in the post World Cup scenario is to remember to insist on buying African made products and promoting local over foreign produced commodities and services.
The World Trade Organization proponents obviously object to substandard and inferior quality arising from quotas or trade barriers. But global economic planners may emulate FIFA by imposing a duty upon foreign-based sportsmen to represent their national teams despite the prospects of losing out on potential earnings from their, mainly European, clubs.
Indeed, merit goods are not efficiently produced. Since the state supports sports, arts and culture and transmits them through electronic airwaves which have secondary effects, the impact of such merit goods too must be regulated to avoid "demerit" aspects such as dilution of national unity. In other words international sports has some negative aspects too such as hooliganism, consumerism and promotion of foreign ideologies which we must guard against.
By Charles Khamala,
A Nairobi based Advocate