Opinion: What next for private sector following Uhuru-Raila pact

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga

The reason why I was among the first public personalities to warmly welcome the rapprochement between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his fellow leader, Raila Odinga, was because of the historic precedent it set for Kenya.

The Uhuru-Raila deal marks the beginning of a new chapter in Kenya’s political history; a chapter where politicians confront the central issues facing voters instead of directing their energy towards undermining each other.

This budding collegiality between the two leaders has not only brought relief to a country that was deeply divided, but also restored confidence in the markets and boosted the economy. Tellingly, a day after the pact was announced, the shilling edged up 10 per cent against the dollar to a trading range of Sh101.00 -Sh101.30.

The return of political stability is yet to be fully priced into the markets or the economy. As the Chamber, we project sustained economic recovery on the back of political stability but predicate this outlook on a number of factors.

Firstly, there has to be a deliberate effort by legislators and politicians allied to President Kenyatta and his fellow leader, Raila Odinga, to work together. The spirit of collegiality that inspired the golden handshake between the two erstwhile rivals needs to permeate the entire political landscape.

When politicians see eye to eye on issues of national interest, the private sector can be confident of a bipartisan and consultative approach to policy formulation, legislation and regulation. This reduces uncertainty and helps spur investments, pointing to the possibility of increased private sector activity for the remainder of the year.

Secondly, President Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda needs to be seen as a Kenyan project and not a Jubilee project. The Big Four Agenda focuses on driving socio-economic development through a focus on affordable healthcare, affordable housing, manufacturing and food security.

Hopefully, Raila’s allies will support the implementation of the Big Four at every stage, taking special cognisance of its immense potential to spur economic growth and improve the welfare of ordinary Kenyans.

For instance, affordable healthcare not only has the potential to enhance the health of millions of Kenyans, but also catalyse economic growth. Data from the Ministry of Health indicates that medical bills are the single biggest cause of the poverty gap in Kenya, pushing over 1 million people below the poverty line annually.

Affordable healthcare can prevent these 1 million people from slipping below the poverty line each year. This is welcome news for us in the private sector as a lower poverty rate translates into higher disposable incomes and stronger consumption in the economy.

Evidently, bipartisan support for the Big Four, which will hopefully materialise following the Uhuru-Raila pact, will bode well for the private sector.

As businesses, we stand to gain from a healthy, adequately housed, and well-fed population that has the requisite knowledge, skills and technological know-how to drive an industrialized economy.

Finally, for the economy to fully recover, politicians need to give the private sector sufficient room to voice its concerns and protect its interests. One of the primary reasons why Kenya is the commercial hub of East and Central Africa is its established track record of protecting the private sector and instituting market-friendly policies. This must not change.

Kenya’s private sector has been the engine of innovation and job creation through the years, helping competitively position the country in areas like financial services, innovation and ICT.

Consequently, Kenya is ranked the third most innovative country in sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa and Mauritius, according to the Global Innovative Index 2017. This is a pointer to our vibrant and competitive private sector, where companies continually innovate in order to stay ahead of the curve.

The private sector possesses the ability to bring in an elevated level of efficiency, innovation and creativity which the public sector can tap into through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). This can unlock much needed private sector investments in strategic sectors such as infrastructure.

At the wake of the Uhuru-Raila pact, the opportunity for the private sector to meaningfully contribute to the development of Kenya has never been greater.

However, the political class needs to embrace continued collegiality amongst themselves, focus on the Big Four and give the private sector sufficient space to operate, including exploring ways of working with the private sector through PPPs.