Economic growth in Kenya must be felt at the grassroots

The concept of ‘Africa rising’ seems to be on course with the latest World Bank report on the rate of growth of the African economies.

But while in 2013 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) gave glowing accounts of African countries like Rwanda, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Ghana enjoying an economic boom even as European countries, Spain and Greece struggled with rising unemployment rates from poor economies, the latest World Bank report projects that Kenya will be the fastest growing economy in Sub-Saharan Africa with a steady 6.2 per cent annual growth rate, which is expected to run up to 2030. If this projection holds, it will then be in tandem with our own Vision 2030 aspirations.

We must however take cognisance of the fact that Kenya will need foreign investors to partner with the Government to realise greater growth. With this in mind, the Government must create a conducive environment for investors in the country. Late last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta opened an investors’ conference dubbed ‘Invest in Kenya, the hub of East and Central Africa’, which was organised and facilitated by the Ministry of East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism in conjunction with the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.

The conference offered the opportunity for Kenya to showcase its investment opportunities and bring national, regional and international investors together on one platform to deliberate on ways that could pave way for increased private investments in the country. These measures included easing the registration process for businesses, increasing and improving on the infrastructure as well as reducing electricity costs and enhancing security, which is core to any business.

That by itself can be one of the surest ways of creating jobs for the youth of this country. It would then be easy to address poverty, drug addiction, indoctrination by militants and other issues that revolve around unemployment. The World Bank report shows some progress in the reduction of poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa from 56 per cent in 1990 to 43 per cent in 2012, but this must be accelerated.

Locally, however, a report by the National Bureau of Statistics shows Kenya’s economic growth rate in 2014 stood at 5.5 per cent, markedly lower than the 6 per cent registered the previous year. This could in part be attributed to insecurity, travel advisories and the resultant slump in tourism, which is a major foreign exchange earner. With these factors and major shifts in the global markets, the Kenyan shilling has been ailing, thus holding the country back. These challenges can and should be overcome.

Whereas projections for Kenya’s economy show improvement, the average citizen remains steeped in poverty. Many are faced with food shortages, clean and safe drinking water remain a dream, even as healthcare suffers from persistent strikes, shortages of drugs and lack of clear-cut policies. The national and county governments have been completely unable to bring sanity in this sector and have actually contributed to its decline. Education has also been adversely affected by perennial strikes over better remuneration for teachers.

As the Government seeks to address inequalities, it must improve the quality of life of its citizens. Many people live on less than two dollars a day, according to the Africa Prosperity Report by the Lagatum Institute, which held the African Prosperity Summit in Dar es Salaam early this year.