Unreliable and expensive power, lack of access to capital and inability to compete in the international market have cost Kenya's manufacturing dearly, industry experts and government officials have said.
These were some of the issues dealt with on Monday evening during the Nation Media Group's Leadership Forum which brought together industry chiefs and the public in a discussion on how Kenya could leverage its manufacturing to improve job creation and grow its economy.
Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed acknowledged that a combination of factors had made it difficult for Kenya's industries to flourish, making locally made products less competitive in and outside the country.
"We have suffered from poor policies and underinvestment for 50 years and we need to attract investors to grow the industry," the minister said.
He, however, added that the industry had continued to grow despite the challenges and that the government was doing all it could to improve manufacturing, with the most recent being reducing the cost of power.
Manufacturing contributes just 10 per cent of Kenya's Gross Domestic Product, against a target of 15 per cent by 2022.
Kenya's development blueprint - Vision 2030 - relies heavily on the growth of manufacturing.
"A strong domestic manufacturing sector is crucial to the growth of any economy, and manufacturing has been found to reduce social inequality and alleviate poverty through job creation," Kenya Association of Manufacturing chairperson Phyllis Wakiaga said.
She pointed out that manufacturing had been hampered by cheap imports which priced out local products, a lack of pride in locally made goods and a culture of corruption.
Ms Wanjiru Waweru, chief executive officer of Funkidz Africa, a furniture making business pointed out that unreliable electricity drove operation costs up, making it difficult for small business to repay their loans.
"We have to rely on diesel fuel during power outages, which costs us time and money, making it difficult for us to deliver our orders," she said.
"This in turn makes it hard to service loans, something many banks do not understand."
Ms Waweru urged banks to make capital more accessible to small and medium enterprises.
The panelists agreed that technology was a game changer-for manufacturing and that industries could not survive without it.
"This is the fourth Industrial Revolution which is driven by technology. To remain competitive, our industries must leverage digital transformation," Professor Bitange Ndemo, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi and former ICT permanent secretary, said.
Also present were Crown Paints CEO Rakesh Rao and Coca Cola East Africa general manager Ahmed Rady.
This was the fourth NMG Leadership Forum sponsored in collaboration with the University of Nairobi.
It is a high level platform that brings together leaders to discuss the most salient issues of the day.
Past forums have focused on food security and gender equality.
The discussion was aired live on NTV and was hosted by Mr Laban-Cliff Onserio.