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Covid-19 pandemic shouldn’t slow down manufacturing

By Megan Anyango | June 10th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

As our country faces all of the challenges that accompany mitigating a global health pandemic, it is important that we do not forget the other development goals that we have been working tirelessly towards in recent years.

In particular, the Big Four Agenda promises to enhance manufacturing by raising it from 9.2 per cent to 20 cent of GDP by the year 2022.

2022 is not far away, but despite the recent slowdown, we are still on track to achieve this ambitious goal. Enhancing manufacturing spills over into other economic areas. In particular, it is tied to infrastructure and job creation, especially in more remote areas far from Nairobi.

Enhanced manufacturing also aims at improving the financial opportunities available at the Port of Mombasa and the new Sh6.9 billion Inland Container Depot (ICD) at Naivasha.

Recently, Transport CS James Macharia has been discussing the benefits of using the ICD for neighbouring countries. To begin with, Kenya Railways is expected to erect a marshalling yard to accommodate seamless parking for transit vehicles.

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Most of the coronavirus transmissions occur via main transport corridors. According to the CS, using the ICD will reduce the risk by 50 per cent by reducing about 600km of potential road transit. It will also make putting testing protocols in place easier for a smoother transition.

Kenya will also give its neighbours each a 10-acre piece of land at the ICD to build warehouses as they see fit, in addition to a free 30-day storage period.

The ICD is also essential to eliminating road congestion and significantly reducing the number of accidents occurring on the road from Mombasa. In doing so, it will reduce the amount of time it takes for cargo from neighbouring countries to reach the Port of Mombasa.

Creating an economic zone around the remaining 1,000 acres surrounding the ICD is also part of the plan to spur economic activity and job creation. Uhuru has worked hard to ensure that Kenya is and remains the main point of entry and exit for goods reaching and leaving East Africa.

More than any other country in the region, Kenya serves as a launching point for international trade and commerce. In fact, after Egypt and South Africa at the Northernmost and Southernmost points of our continent, Mombasa is the largest entry point into Africa. Through hard work, intense planning, and keen foresight, Kenya has become a global entryway into Africa’s ripe for growth markets.

It is an inevitable reality that our country, as well as all others in Africa, will suffer a difficult economic blow this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, much wealthier countries such as Australia and China are on track to reporting negative GDP growth for the first time in decades. It is a truly global challenge, and we cannot feel sorry for ourselves.

Yes, it might be more difficult in the next few months to put money on the table. It is going to be hard for ordinary families like mine or yours. However, the Uhuru administration has promised to take care of us. He is thinking about how these global challenges, instead of destroying us, can be used to benefit us in the years to come - even long after he is president.

Creating the ICD at Naivasha has been a top priority for several years, and setting it up to ensure that it is fully operational has been a mammoth task. By offering the benefits such as storage space and 10 acres of land for use by neighbouring countries, we are also achieving two important things. First, we are making sure that all of our neighbours have access to quality shipping infrastructure. Second, we are sealing our status as the regional leader of East Africa in the eyes of all international trade partners.

It is our responsibility to give back to the continent in any way we can, and to build alliances with other African countries before the rest of the world. These bonds are stronger than any other, and the more we prosper ourselves, the more we can help others prosper in the same way.

This is the kind of country that Uhuru has built, and whether there is a health crisis or not, this is the kind of country that Kenya will remain.

Ms Anyango is a social commentator. [email protected]

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