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A call for nationalism in legislation for Kenya

COMMENTARY
By Gideon Moi | September 3rd 2016
Senator Gideon Moi

NAIROBI: In this contemporary, globalised world we all live in, the word nationalist or nationalism has taken on a negative character. It is a term that has become synonymous with racism, anti-immigration, evil and even that chap Donald Trump!

Nationalism in Kenya, in Africa and for me, however, is something else entirely. It is a philosophy of unity, a call for service to a cause greater than all of us and a banner under which nation-building can flourish. It is not an out-dated term, nor one that should be looked upon with suspicion, it is a necessary vision and philosophy that will guide our great Republic towards prosperity.

When our nation’s founding fathers successfully waged the struggle for independence, they did so under a nationalist banner, but it has since lost its significance in our politics. Nationalism still has many practical uses that should be employed in the effort to bolster industrialisation and guide our journey towards achieving Vision 2030.

The Local Content Bill 2016 developed by the Senate Standing Committee on Energy was fundamentally inspired by this nationalist philosophy I speak of.

The Bill seeks to introduce a set of rules and guidelines into Kenya’s oil and natural resources sector as a means of protecting and facilitating the growth of local industry.

The oil and natural resources sector is notorious across the world for its exclusivity and for its accruing profits, benefiting only a few large corporations.

Rarely are these benefits trickled down to local communities and the wider population at large. The Local Content Bill was designed specifically to ensure that Kenyans benefit from the exploitation of their own natural resources.

There is no existing legislation in Kenya today that addresses the question of local content development in the comprehensive and cathartic manner that this Bill does. The Bill goes beyond monetisation of benefit sharing, looking beyond natural resource royalties to capture opportunities throughout the value chain. In short, every Kenyan now has the opportunity to identify a niche area for local capacity enhancement. I want them to seize the moment.

The development of the Local Content Bill for Kenya was as challenging as it was inspiring. We traversed three continents in search of the perfect balance between unbridled protectionism and supportive local capacity building.

After all, in this heavily integrated, free-market world, policies on local content seem retrogressive and have been labelled as such by a number of international financial organisations.

But the truth is, in Kenya and Africa in general, these forms of protectionism are the only way to develop local capabilities and ownership so that our economies diversify, become more complex and thereby achieve what the very same international financial organisations continue to say is lacking in our nations.

The need for this lies deep within the whole concept of globalisation that has marked the start of this century and shall continue to define our Republic’s economic development for decades to come.

Globalisation has brought with it many fantastic opportunities in the form of enhanced markets, increased access to capital, technological transfers and so forth. While we in Africa must embrace this irreversible phenomenon and seize all the opportunities that it presents, we must do so strategically and particularly keeping in mind the state of our industrial progress and the value of our natural resources to this end.

We in Kenya have not yet reached a point where we can compete and come out victorious on the world stage; therefore, we must do all we can to ensure that the resources beneath our soil serve to enhance our Republic’s position in what sometimes seems to be a global game of monopoly.

The oil and extractives industry in Kenya provides a perfect opportunity to leverage our natural resources to fuel domestic socio-economic growth and further to develop strategic and sustainable supplementary industries in this sector that will be able to compete at a Global level.

The Local Content Bill is a step towards ensuring that this opportunity to supplement Kenya’s developmental trajectory is not lost both in terms of grassroots benefits and local industrial participation. This is nationalism in practice.

It all begins through the identification of a national interest and its inculcation through the development of a vision for the Republic. We, in Kenya, already have this initial requirement through Vision 2030. Now what is required is tact and strategy in achieving this set vision.

It is only through nationalism and patriotism that we will be able to carry out this demanding task and raise our Republic towards prosperity.

- The writer is the Baringo County Senator and Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Energy

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