Research under uncertainty casted by the elections in Kenya

The almost deserted campus area the University of Nairobi.

New Global’s Doctoral Researcher Anne Hyvärinen is spending this fall in Kenya, immersing herself into the local environment and gathering insights for her research on water sector innovations and innovation enabling organisations. Currently, the tangled situation with the elections is creating some extra twists and turns to the daily life.

Uncertainty describes the current atmosphere in Nairobi. As the August 8th elections were nullified, the re-run is now scheduled for the 26th of October – already once postponed from the original re-run date of October 17. Since the August vote, demonstrations have been frequent as the Supreme Court annulled the results due to ambiguity in compliance with constitutions and laws. Since, the opposition has been demanding reforms from the electoral commission (IEBC), which has lead into demonstrations around the country. As a further hurdle, the opposition’s candidate pulled out, causing further uncertainty on what will happen. Next Thursday, the latest, we see whether the elections will take place or not.

These hurdles and controversies around the elections are of course influencing the life of Kenyans and others living in Kenya, as well as the economy. During my stay here in Kenya, I am affiliated to the C4DLab at University of Nairobi. At the C4DLab, I have the opportunity to see enthusiastic starting entrepreneurs in the supportive environment created by the Lab, hear about the challenges they face and experience how they can supported to thrive in the future. For the past few weeks, rest of the campus has been almost deserted – as the students have been sent home indefinitely due to unrest. Hopefully, quickly after the elections the campus is back to its bubbly life with all the students around.

Although the situation might seem confusing and mixed messages are heard on the streets, things still roll as usual here, at least mainly. I have been able to collect a good amount of data through interviews at several organizations, such as UNICEF, Water Sector Trust Fund (WSTF), Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and Kenya Innovative Finance Facility for Water (KIFFWA). The current situation of course brings in an extra twist, and a further topic of discussion with people you meet. As a positive side note, the daily traffic jams have not been quite as terrible– as it seems that some have decided to stay home in the fear of demonstrations. All in all, Nairobi is a vibrant city with lots of things to do and learn, when you just keep out of the places where, for instance, demonstrations might take place.