Why attendance at post-Covid-19 meeting should be broader
By Mbatau wa Ngai | May 12th 2020
The planned meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta, the private sector and the Central Organisation of Trade Unions to help curb the pandemic gives Kenyans hope that the country’s economy will soon be on a rapid growth path.
Kenyans also hope that the fruits of this growth will be shared equitably compared to the past when it led to huge disparities between the very rich and the poor.
The expectation is that the private sector will hold extensive discussions, among themselves, before the meeting. The State is also expected to consult widely before the meeting.
Unfortunately, there is no indication that majority of Kenyans, especially those eking out a living on the fringe of the economy — and they are the majority — will be represented.
This proposition is borne out of the knowledge that the people elected to represent this section of society, or the silent majority — switch sides as soon as they take up their new positions and side with the government or the rich investors.
Admittedly, a plausible case could be made that it is not easy to get the views of this great number of people, especially those living in rural areas.
The most logical alternative might, therefore, be to hold talks with those in the urban and peri-urban areas who have organised themselves in groups, according to the way they earn their daily bread.
These include Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and manufacturers working in areas that have grown into light industries. Indigenous industrialists such as Kariobangi Light Industries should attract interest because they have either built or are in the process of building Viken Thirty Industrial Park at a cost estimated in 2015 to hit Sh4 billion.
These groups of indigenous industrialists are a reminder of what Kenyans are doing despite the constant harassment from authorities.
Their daily commitment and use of rudimentary technology to produce goods that compete with modern facilities is a pointer that they could produce many of the basic goods that are imported.
These industrialists could also be encouraged and assisted, to produce raw materials for the larger industries. The inclusion of the SMEs operators in the talks would not only give them a chance to put their views forward or the help they require but also the chance to learn how they can help their counter-parts working in industry to sell their products.
The SMEs operators would learn, for example, that insisting on importing or selling imported goods that could be produced locally denies their children and grandchildren decent, paid jobs as well as rob the State the money it requires.
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