Year 2015 was a tough one for businesses and majority of Kenyans particularly middle, low income earners and the many who are finding getting suitable employment difficult and increasingly so. Going even by the numerous profit warnings issued by listed companies in the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) plus the retrenchments going on, it tells that the economic atmosphere is not that good. So what to do? We certainly need a lot of attention on economic management and this includes killing corruption plus creates and encourages spurring of new industries.
I usually study the number of Kenyans who have been employed by telecommunications services such as money transfers led by the famous MPESA, the phone sellers and the bodaboda transport services (notwithstanding the indiscipline in the industry) and compare it to some years back. It means that changing the nation’s economic paradigm can spur a lot of industries that can take in more people. As we speak the Information Communication Technology (ICT) can only grow bigger and create more opportunities. So is tourism, if we sorted the many hiccups to the trade in terms of security and infrastructure. There is great room for growth in production and exports of manufactured goods. If intra Africa trade is streamlined Kenya and many African countries stand to grow exponentially. Manufacturing for instance in Kenya and in Africa has huge opportunities to tap into changes in global economic dynamics. The prevailing conditions are not far from what China foresaw and tapped to be the global manufacturing hub.
We cannot continue to casually approach issues and assume that our problems such as massive and growing unemployment and poverty levels in Kenya will just go away. Nor will our casual style of conducting politics which are anchored on tribalism and exploiting the ignorant masses take us anywhere. At times I get a feeling that we expect too much. We vote and play to the same political myopia and expect things to improve. They can’t. Well, so much start with politics. Without the right political atmosphere and leadership expect a nation to stagnate. It took the leadership of Deng for China to change course from the devastating rustiness it was in.
Both Jubilee and CORD in their pre 2013 election took cognizance on the massive economic re-engineering that is required of Kenya. Hopefully pre-2017 election there will be greater thinking on how to get Kenya out of the minuscule economic space it occupies in the globe and also spur industries to create wealth and employment in Kenya. Challenge has been in implementation of the glittering blueprints and the evils that encumber Kenya top of them being corruption and obviously tribalism.
All is not lost for Kenya. We can start by aggressively cracking down on the twin evils and other challenges that drag us down. We need to set a new culture of selfless service and rewarding hard work and entrepreneurship. Giving rewards to talent, those who push hard and those who are innovative to make us great will inspire a whole new generation that will make Kenya great. The problem is we have been operating in milieus that have been rewarding crooks, those who abuse office and voracious greed. This is a great dis-incentive to honest work and discipline. But we will overcome one day. This type of situation has not worked and will never work in favor of any country. Having realized this it is the time to create the right paradigm for growth and development.
Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda
The writer is a researcher and consultant