President Uhuru Kenyatta was right to describe the South Korean economic growth since independence in 1963 as an example that demonstrates what a country can achieve in one generation provided it has a visionary leadership.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto escort President Park Geun-hye of South Korea on arrival at State House, Nairobi. [PHOTO: PSCU]

The hope is that South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s three day visit earlier this week re-ignited the vision of Kenyan leadership that seems to have been side-tracked by the cacophony of political noises swirling around it.

As the saying goes, the taste of the pudding is in the eating. Kenyans will, therefore, hope to see evidence of a re-ignited visionary leadership in several areas. Local leadership will be doing the country a favour were it to take advantage of South Korea’s global leadership in e-government as there is compelling evidence that it leads to a leaner, more transparent and efficient administration.

This has the potential to lead to huge savings in public expenditure with Kenya’s Auditor-General and Controller of the Budget estimating it could be as high as a third of the country’s annual budget which currently stands at slightly over two trillion shillings. A conservative estimate is that the money saved could be as high as Sh700 billion going by the 2016/17 financial estimates.

This amount is so huge that the corrupt individuals benefiting from shady deals would be expected to fight tooth and nail to maintain their stranglehold on contracts and the only way to cut them off is by moving ruthlessly against them by first sending home and prosecuting their enablers in government, departments and agencies.

Some of the monies saved could then be used to assist the potential and existing owners of small and medium-size businesses with special emphasis on those in manufacturing. In this regard, the Government might do well to take a second look at the over 150 entrepreneurs operating from Kariobangi light industries who are in the process of setting up the  Sh4 billion Viken Thirty Industrial Park in Ruai, Nairobi.

This would give the Government an idea of what these entrepreneurs, whose somewhat modest ambition is to raise the country’s share of the regional market from seven to 15 per cent, require to operate their businesses at optimum levels. The Government may be surprised to learn that more than financial help, these entrepreneurs require mentorship from global manufacturing firms such as those found in South Korea. The entrepreneurs may also require introduction into the global markets.

The huge savings made in government contracts and supplies could also be used to set up joint companies with South Koreans in areas such as digital technology, medicine and home appliances where the Asian country has a commanding global leadership.

This would be an easy thing to do considering that Kenya only scratches the surface of the trade agreements it has with both America and Europe. The only thing the companies involved would need to do is to ensure they meet the local content requirements. This might require importation of semi-finished raw materials that are not available locally.

Joint ventures

The other area where Kenya can take advantage of the South Korean Presidential visit is in agriculture. The promised Sh5 billion in loans or grants could be used to grow crops that have a ready market in South Korea. These crops can be easily identified by research teams drawn from both countries. Logic dictates that these crops be processed locally before they are exported so that the country can earn maximum benefits.

South Korean companies may also be asked to invest in joint ventures with Kenyans to process other agricultural produce—including coffee and tea—not only for the Seoul market but other large Asian markets, including China, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Yet, another area in which Kenya can benefit hugely from South Korea is in education, especially in the teaching and learning of science and technology. Kenya’s introduction of digital learning in primary schools should make this partnership easier.

Perhaps what the country requires is to launch a crash training programme for teachers in secondary schools, training colleges and universities to run parallel with the expected introduction of a new education curriculum. This need not be a daunting task if the exercise begins with the local training of trainers.

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