Why every county's industrial park should be unique

Trade Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano. [Edwin Nyarangi, Standard]

The establishment of 47 industrial and aggregation parks will herald an economic revolution. Industrial centres are by nature the panacea to turning around a growing economy and in Kenya they have the potential to transform the country into an industrialised nation with a middle income by 2030.

The budget of Sh23.5 billion with each park allocated Sh500 million shared between the national and county governments on a fifty-fifty basis is not an eye-popping figure. Yet the money could do wonders especially in the agricultural sector, the backbone of our economy contributing over 27 per cent of our GDP.

However, for Kenya to realise the full benefits of the business incubation centres which are also expected to create thousands of jobs, the objectives of their establishment must be intentional. We should not build the parks for the sake of it. That would lead to wastage of public resources.

What do I mean? The centres should be distinct brands, not generic. They should be tailored for each region, taking into consideration specific economic activities with those within a particular economic bloc complementing each other. A park built in Kwale County should not be the same one in Turkana, Lamu or Kajiado.

In these parks, I see Kenya’s economic landscape with newly discovered minerals including coltan in Embu and gold in Marsabit being processed. I see agri-based industries in Meru, Nyandarua, Kisii, Kakamega, Kilifi and Nandi with value addition on miraa, coffee, cashew and macadamia nuts, tea and bananas.

In Mombasa, Kisumu and Homa Bay, I see fish processing as the Blue Economy takes its place in Kenya’s economic transformation as well as industries in edible oils, textile and apparel sector with cotton ginneries churning out tonnes of lint each year.

The Jua Kali dream in Nairobi’s small scale manufacturing industry will be realised at the capital city’s industrial park. Livestock improvement breeds, beef canning and leather tanning will be realised in Isiolo, Wajir and Garissa industrial parks.

The parks should be innovation and incubation centres where ideas are turned into business opportunities. Kenyans have never been short of ideas. During the Covid-19 pandemic, for instance, we were mesmerised by innovations, including unique hospital beds.

During secondary schools’ science congresses, students come up with an array of innovations. The same happens during Agricultural Society of Kenya shows and other trade fairs.

The question is, where do these innovations go? The answer is with the 47 industrial parks. Inside these centres, these dreams should be turned into reality. The result will be an industrialised nation and thousands of job opportunities for our growing young population. We will also provide a lasting solution to rural-urban migration.

All the 47 parks should be research and development centres where universities are funded to carry out research.

Finally, climate change is real with threats on food security, livelihoods and economic recovery. Therefore, climate smart technologies should be incorporated into the development of the industrial parks.

-Mr M'eruaki is the board chairman of Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service