22 January 2013

Kenya: How Nation Will Industrialise


THE ambition of every progressive government in the free world has eternally coalesced around becoming an industrialized state. The countries of South East Asia have today become case studies of how effective governance triggers industrialization. Sizable populations in these regions have joined the ranks of self-sufficiency and self dignity. Populations condemned to living in the margins have today emerged as mainstream players in the marketplace.

The top brass within the Orange Democratic Party under the stewardship of Dr. Raila Odinga ,himself an industrialist, appreciates the urgency needed to move Kenya into the ranks of the Newly Industrialized States. The current situation where 60% of our population lives on less than a dollar a day is clearly unsustainable and a big let-down to our country 40 years after independence.

As an indigenous industrialist myself, I intuitively and instinctively believe that Kenya's march into becoming a NIS will be best achieved under an ODM administration. It is a political party that unambiguously pursues policies that place industrialization on the pedestal.

This what I believe the first Industrial Secretary in the next government should undertake.

Successive governments from 1963 have attempted with mixed results to place Kenya on the runway of economic-take off driven by policies that bat for industrialization The Government Session Paper No 1 of 1986 on Economic Management for Renewed Growth and the Session Paper No 1 of 1994 on Recovery and Sustainable Development to the year 2010 showed that there is no shortage of ideas of how to move Kenya into the ranks of the NIS.

But there appears to be a conflict between policy, policing, and implementation leading the session papers to become phantom expectations for a country hungry for real action.

The next Industrial Secretary should look for a serious synergy between the public and private sector for the purposes of Research and Development, maximizing the utilization of natural resources, achieving a micro-economic balance, and harnessing the efficient capital and commodities markets.

Kenya should set up a National Industrialization Development Council to coordinate the myriad activities taken by agencies and utilities under the industrialization docket. The body would coordinate and implement the policies and actions in both the public and private sectors. The NIDC would be responsible for coordinating policy review with independent institutions such as the Kenya Institute of Public Policy, Research and Analysis.

Kenya can emulate the achievements of countries that have become Newly Industrialized Countries such as the legendary Asian Tigers such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, but only if a fundamental restructuring of the economy happens.

It is a pipe dream to expect Kenya to adopt wholesale the policies of those 'newly industrialized' countries since our resource base, geographical location and linkage to the global economy today has very different characteristics.

Within our manufacturing sector there is derisory value addition in our products. That must change. Our products must as a basic rule put value addition to enhance local branding including creating local linkages across the board.

In addition the local informal sector provides a 'point of entry' for many Kenyan entrepreneurs into the manufacturing and service sectors and is arguably a 'testing ground' for development of low cost products. It is also a sector that is geographically well distributed throughout the country and therefore the sector needs to be integrated into the industrial sector properly.

The availability of a well educated and trained workforce is critical if Kenya's industrialization process is to be successful. Entrepreneurial skills therefore must be enhanced in the education curriculum. And the curriculum of middle level institutions must be deepened so that we inculcate the culture of industrialization in middle level colleges. Towards that goal, a National Skills Training strategy should be explored with the collaboration of the private sector.

Lastly we should attempt to domesticate our technology so that it fits with the demands of the local market.

Peter Kuguru is the author of Trailblazer

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