We can make 2024 a more rewarding year for Kenya

Cabinet Secretary for Investments, Trade and Industry Rebecca Miano. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

When the recently released TIFA and Infotrack polls revisited the events and circumstances that defined most of 2023, a majority of Kenyans seemed to agree that it was not an easy year.

At the same time, a notable majority of Kenyans, going by the twin poll, are hopeful that 2024 will turn out better than 2023.

Such an upbeat attitude is the ultimate balm on any festering injury humankind is likely to suffer from time to time as well as a worthy harbinger of the good tidings we reap from embracing certitude.

They say that the hour just before dawn is the darkest. The same is true for rock bottom spates because, after all, the only other way to go is up when you are down. All said, it is one thing to wish ourselves well as we enter 2024, but quite another to do the right things to make our wishes come true. In other words, over and above our palpable optimism at the moment—most welcome as it is—we have our work cut out.

To begin with, it will do our collective national psyche a load of good to nurture and maintain good cheer precisely because there are events and circumstances, by nature, that defy the human leash. In the same vein, we must ignore merchants of negative energy and purveyors of doom and gloom whose preoccupation is to spew unending despondency.

Theirs, particularly in the wake of staggering positive vibes, is akin to malicious drilling of holes at the base of a seafaring vessel to spite both captain and crew.

As we ponder over the lessons we have learnt through a turbulent economic stretch predating 2023 and brace ourselves to reap more favourable outcomes in 2024, I am reminded of seven crises that stirred various economies with reverberations that echoed throughout the world in the last 100 years.

First, within that time frame, there was the Great Depression of 1932 in the USA then the Suez Crisis of 1956 followed by the 1982 International Debt Crisis. Thereafter, there was the East Asian Economic Crisis of 1979-2001, the 1992-1997 Russian Economic Crisis and the 1994-2002 Latin American Debt Crisis that affected Mexico, Brazil and Argentina simultaneously. The latest in a series of similar financial cataclysms that caught the world's attention was the Global Economic Recession of 2007 to 2009.

From our own experience of recent times, the global economic upheavals cited here and a host of others that have occurred elsewhere in the world across history, we are not short of hindsight, insights and foresight to cushion us from the pitfalls of foreseeable economic downturns.

Neither should we treat the economic dreariness Kenya has experienced in the recent past as an isolated occurrence. That though does not grant us the licence to engage in heedless experiments that could pit us in a worse-off economic situation.

Before things get better, they sometimes seem to get worse. Lest we forget, the Sunday Standard of October 26, 2023, carried incisive reports on the inaugural 10-months economic performance and the general consensus was that Kenyans were between a rock and a hard place economically. 

From columnists Robert Shaw to Billow Kerrow (also the Finance Shadow Minister of the time), to the then CEO of the Institute of Economic Affairs, Dennis Kabaara to the late Ken Ouko, the verdict was that Kenya’s economy was in the ICU. Others who chimed in with similar sentiments included Gordon Opiyo and John Kamau.

After de-clogging and restructuring the governance system of the day, the Mwai Kibaki administration managed to ultimately bring about some modicum of order and decorum in government. This led to reforms that bore sweeping changes; changes that grew the economy steadily and put money—as it were—in the pockets of Kenyans. Save for the 2007-8 political disruptions, Kenya generally enjoyed a blissful economic moment in the Kibaki years.

So far and for good measure, The Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) recently announced the relocation of its African headquarters from South Africa to Nairobi. Still, the improvement of our seaport services has recently seen a spike of traders keen on using the Port of Mombasa. Besides, the bumper harvest from the last season has pushed inflation down significantly. 

After slightly one year in office and having a fuller view of the state of affairs of our economy, I have a reason to hope for better performance in onboarding more investors, shoring up trade both internally and externally and increasing our manufacturing even as other sectors of our economy look forward to better times in 2024.

If we purpose it, we shall make it, in any case, we owe it to ourselves as Kenyans.