There is a general feeling among Kenyan politicians that if something does not sort them, then they just change the law to get rid of it without considering unintended consequences. Harambees otherwise known as Crowdfunding as been a feature of Kenyan and African life from long time ago. African communities came together to contribute labour, food and other resources for common good as both a social and a cultural event. Crowdfunding as its commonly known internationally is therefore a very well established practise in Kenya. Politicians have abused it to commit voter bribery and money laundering, now they think the best way to stop their crimes is to change the ways Kenyans organise!
The ability of the citizenry to organise and pool resources with let or hindrance from their government is Key to a democratic country, the move to eliminate harambees and control where NGO funding comes from is a clever way of tightly controlling the people by squeezing their ability to independently marshall resources without government approval.
As time went by, instead of the communities contributing, politicians started using the excuse of harambees to bribe voters and launder stolen funds. Bribing voters is a crime, money laundering is a crime. Now instead of ensuring that crimes are not committed the politicians want to take away the ability of the communities to organise, socialise and contact cultural events in essence ensuring that only they have the ability to organise and raise resources.
The Senator Anyang Nyong’o has had an Ad Hac committee collecting views on public fund raising and harambee.co has received questions about crowdfunding in light of the concerns about the general perceived abuse of the public collections.
Here is our views and how we are addressing the concerns while providing a much needed and time tested service to the people of Kenya and Africa.
First, although Harambee was started as a noble philanthropic undertaking where wananchi came together to pool together their meagre resources so as to build schools and health facilities, it progressively degenerated into a “free for all affair”. These days Harambee is organised even for non-deserving causes.
Fundraising should be restricted to Family, Friends and Supporters with common interests for their common good. Borrowing from US Tittle 111 -Crowd-funding Act
Two, such social amenities and infrastructural facilities like schools and health centers can now be put up by much better structured funds like the CDF and LATF. What is the point of burdening the taxpayer with Harambee, and in particular elected leaders, when there are these better and more accountable methods of creating such amenities and facilities?
The target for fund raising should not be leaders who bring in huge sums of money but small contributions for common good. The limit for harambee.co is $1999.00 in US$ contributions by paypal and Ksh70,000 in kenya shilling contributions by peaspal. This a tight network of equals and not some” bigman” showing off funds from undisclosed sources.
Three, with devolution, grass root development can now be carried out within properly established local governance institutions than before. Hence devolved government can more efficiently use public resources to provide social amenities without relying on ad hoc funding through Harambee.
Crowdfunding targets private citizen initiatives and has no connection directly with government. The people delegate to government their right to organize, they do not become helpless spectators in the activities of society.
Four, if we get rid of Harambee we shall get rid of a major source of corruption in Kenyan politics. It is a form of corruption that cuts both ways: it involves both the giver and the given. For example, during campaign time Kenyans organize harambees for almost anything, and candidates try to outdo each other in contributions so as to impress the would-be voters.
Restrictions in amounts, to close networks of family, friends and supporters plus restrictions in methods of contribution ensures no money laundering in harambee.co operations.
Banning or restricting harambees because of rogue politicians misusing it to bribe voters and launder money of dubious sources would be like requiring all Kenyans to obtain licenses for open fires and panga purchases because a few people in 2007/2008 turned them into tools of murder. Kenyans use open fires for cooking everyday and pangas are used on farms on a daily basis, government cannot take away this right of use, it will be like killing a fly on a family table with a slage harmer.
Crowdfunding Businesses the world over have taken measure to ensure that sponsors of campaigns take only contributions from people and entities known to them as family, friends and supporters, they have also restricted the amount one person may contribute to a cause and the total amount that an entity or individual may solicitor through their platforms , They are satisfied that these measures will maintain the good of private fund raising while eliminating bribery and money laundering, the Kenyan Senators and MPs should not kill a fly by a hammer or take away the ability of citizens to mobilize resources in the pretext of cabbing voter bribery and money laundering