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Why President Uhuru's big 4 agenda may be a bridge too far

By Mbatau wa Ngai | Published Tue, March 6th 2018 at 00:00, Updated March 6th 2018 at 08:16 GMT +3
President Uhuru Kenyatta. [Photo: Courtesy]

Doubts are mounting if President Uhuru Kenyatta will accomplish the ambitious goals he has set in his second term in office.

These are fuelled by fears that same forces which frustrated the goals he set in his first term are still in charge of the economy.

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These forces, particularly, in agriculture have frustrated government efforts to streamline the marketing of cash crops. The cartel-like behaviour of millers, marketers and exporters is injurious in the coffee sub-sector.

The predatory nature of actors who have had a stranglehold on the sub-sector has been fuelled by corruption in the crop’s value-chain. The result is the impoverishment of the coffee farmer(s).

Why is this sad state of affairs is allowed to continue when the problems facing the sub-sector are easy to resolve provided there is political will to crack the whip even among the influential people at the top. The solution should begin at the farm level where the farmer gets the appropriate information on how to increase yields in a cost-effective way.

Import substitution

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Instances where good husbandry has led to ten-fold increases in productivity need to be disseminated across the coffee growing areas. The next step would then be import substitution where the product is exported to wholesale and retail outlets wherever the stimulant is sold.

If this means the break-up of century’s old trade relationships that were tilted in favour of middlemen in and outside the country, so be it. It is not lost on analysts that some of the middle-men minting a fortune out of the local produce own and live in expensive neighbourhoods.  

What is true of coffee is also true of other export crops including pyrethrum whose farmers abandoned it when carpetbaggers, who cared nothing about the producers or the damage they were doing to the economy, strangled the sub-sector to death.

Perhaps, the President will be advised to take a firmer stand on the sector considering that the past practice of writing off debts and subsidising fertilisers has had only a limited success.

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A proper turn-around will only be achieved when the rot along the entire value-chain beginning at the co-operative societies’ level is rooted out.

It would also be helpful if the President accepts that the private sector will not help him achieve his goals since most investments to fit the country’s five-year election cycle. President Kenyatta should borrow a leaf from the Asian Tigers and China and get the government to invest in value-addition industries.