Kenyan athlete and 2016 gold Olympic winner Eliud Kipchoge made history on the 12th of October 2019 by running in Vienna, Austria to become the first human to run a sub two-hour marathon. Photo: Eliud Kipchoge
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African leaders should run the 1.59 marathon in governance

Can African leaders learn anything from athletics icon Eliud Kipchoge’s #NoHumanIsLimited? Kipchoge’s victory has galvanised individuals to push themselves to do, and be better. Can his victory galvanise African leaders to govern better, and provide an environment that can enhance the ‘human capability’ of citizens?

On the 12th of October 2019, Kenyan athlete Eliud Kipchoge made history. He became the first human to run a sub two-hour marathon. With the hashtag #NoHumanIsLimited, Kipchoge had the whole of Kenya and the continent behind him when he took on the challenge. His success was met with congratulations from Kenyan politicians, several African leaders, and the whole world in general. For Kenyans, it was a proud moment to be Kenyan. For Africans, the impossible had been done.

Former US President Barack Obama took to Twitter to express his congratulations. Obama said, “Yesterday, marathoner Eliud Kipchoge became the first ever to break two hours. Today in Chicago, Brigid Kosgei set a new women’s world record. Staggering achievements of their own, they’re also remarkable examples of humanity’s ability to endure – and keep raising the bar.”

Governance concerns

The bar of governance on the continent is at a dismal level. One must however reflect on Kipchoge’s victory in light of governance on the continent. While many Kenyan politicians have shown their support for Kipchoge, Kenyan sportsmen and women have however been subject to lack of government support and underpayment. The buzz around Kipchoge’s achievement will dominate the Kenyan and world media, and the woes facing Kenyan athletes will continue to be drowned.

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Beyond what the impact of Kipchoge’s win has in the Kenyan space, the question is whether Kenyan leaders will reflect well enough on the desire to make their country the best and serve the people by providing an environment that would enhance the ‘human capability’ of Kenyans.

For a continent where ‘human capability’ has been negatively impacted on by corruption, lack of investment for infrastructure development, and a lack of basic sense of duty to the service of their citizens, African politicians can surely learn something from Kipchoge’s 1.59 marathon record.

Unfortunately, the record African leaders continue to break has nothing to do with supporting ‘human capability.’ It is a travesty that in 2019, African leaders fail to challenge themselves to make their countries better places for their citizens. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation gives an award for presidents who perform well and don’t overstay in power, this is an indictment on how low the bar of leadership is on the continent.

Kipchoge’s victory is beyond athletics. It is a challenge that should be handed down to the politicians on our continent who are not keen on supporting and creating spaces for ‘human capability’ to thrive.

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