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Hustler ideology good for economic growth

OPINION
By Wisley Rotich | February 10th 2021
A man pulls a handcart carrying a man outside parliament during the Budget reading of 2020/21 at the Parliament Buildings on June 11, 2020. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

The hustler ideology is a serious national discourse mainstreaming the search for a solution to the sorry economic situation of struggling Kenyans (the hustlers).

The hustler narrative has gathered momentum across the country and for the first time in our history, become the only political ideology transcending ethnic formations. The disturbing revelation that over 14 million Kenyans are negatively listed by Credit Reference Bureaus (CRBs) paints a picture of a financially struggling population.

This is happening because a large population of Kenyans live below the poverty line. There has never been a serious discussion about our poor majority since independence. Which is the reason sustainable development goal number one aims at reducing the number of people in poverty by half. 

This narrative is gaining traction because it is about restoring dignity to millions of Kenyans who have been marginalised economically, brutalised, used as voting machines and their self esteem destroyed by the ruling class since 1963. Secondly, the ideology speaks to the hearts, aspirations and plight of all young Kenyans who have gone through difficult economic times with no gainful employment.

We ran down our economic drivers since the 1980s with virtually every agricultural manufacturing facility on its deathbed or operating on less than 10 percent of its capacity, yet our population has grown exponentially. The result of this has been slow economic growth compared to population growth, which has resulted in poverty and unemployment.

After nearly 60 years of a top-down approach, Kenya has made tremendous improvement in major infrastructure but the irony of all time is that it has fueled unemployment, inequalities, poverty, income disparities between the rich and the poor and left citizens on the brink of despair.

Why is it that even after investing trillions of shillings in our economy, there is no corresponding improvement to our economic growth?

The answer is; we rely on a few sectors and corporate companies to run our economy while we ignore millions of educated and skilled Kenyans. This approach must change. Kenya is ripe for a bottom-up approach to development. This will ensure all of us participate in economic development leading to equal opportunities for all.

Community-driven development approach with focus on nurturing new enterprises, innovations and strengthening producer organisations at the lowest level is the most sustainable way of delivering millions out of poverty and in the process, push our GDP growth to close to 10 percent per year.

The economies of China and Bangladesh went this route and less than 30 years later, they are reaping the fruits and have graduated millions out of poverty. Apart from the governance and conflict issues in Ethiopia, they are already on their route to prosperity.

Having an additional 16 million Kenyans actively and progressively participating in the economy will increase the tax base, restore dignity, foster unity, patriotism and improve happiness index.

For instance, if we target to transit one million start-ups annually, creating two employment opportunities each into formal and sustainable businesses, it means in 10 years, we shall have transformed our country.

Pure regulation

The advantage with this narrative is that we are moving away from over reliance on government financing to a culture of enterprise among the people and leave the government to be an enabler of all the hustle and helping in nurturing as opposed to pure regulation.

One interesting fact is that those who feel entitled and are uncomfortable with the masses getting empowered may end up being the biggest beneficiaries because when the masses are economically empowered, they will have an improved purchasing power which may end up in the pockets of those who are now uncomfortable.

However, this time, the inequalities will be much reduced.

Finally, the hustler movement will encourage hard work as opposed to betting, wheeler dealership and tenderpreneurship which are pegged on sheer luck.

No economy has ever grown out of luck, but out of deliberate resolve by all leaders and citizens. Let hustlers be and let’s respect each other’s hustle.

-Mr. Rotich is Elgeyo Marakwet Deputy Governor and an economist

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