Building Economic Complexity in Kenya and Expanding Economic Opportunities for Women and Youth
KIPPRA hosted a roundtable breakfast meeting on 28th February 2018 to discuss policy options Kenya can adopt to achieve structural transformation to enable expansion of economic opportunities for disenfranchised youth and women.
Achieving high and sustainable levels of economic growth and translating the same into inclusive growth that reduces poverty and inequality, and creates opportunities for productive employment and shared prosperity remains a critical development goal for Kenya. The country has several opportunities that it can exploit to raise and maintain its growth performance including taking advantage of the tripartite trade agreement between SADC, EAC, and COMESA which can boost opportunities for trade and economic growth.
There is broad consensus that integration into the global economy is a reliable way for countries to grow, which supports the view of countries pursuing an export-led growth. Further, there is empirical evidence that has shown that more complex economies have higher levels of economic growth. Accordingly, this requires an analysis of the current manufacturing product space as well as the identification of new products into which the economy can move into, given current capability and production levels.
The workshop titled “Building economic complexity in Kenya: Laying the foundation for expanding economic opportunities for women and youth in Kenya”, therefore, brought together stakeholders within the manufacturing sector to help identify key constraints, such as skills, access to capital, infrastructure, technology, red-tape/bureaucracy, facing the shift to proposed product spaces. Through the discussions, KIPPRA policy analysts also sought to understand whether shifts into the identified products are likely to result in the pursuit of more inclusive growth patterns that benefit youth and women as well as to conclude a skills review to establish baseline levels and determine necessary gaps.
In her opening remarks, KIPPRA Executive Director Dr Rose Ngugi said the forum provided an opportunity for KIPPRA to obtain stakeholder views on the ongoing project as well as to identify priority areas/issues that might be considered critical or that may require urgently policy attention. Her remarks focused on how to enhance capacity for value addition as the country promotes export diversification and at the same time gain a fair share in the market.
Mr Francois Steenkamp, Researcher, Development Policy Research Unit, School of Economics, University of Cape Town discussed the scope of economic complexity and structural transformation, which includes thinking about inclusivity, particularly how to bring women and youth into the economy.
KIPPRA Policy Analyst Manaseh Otieno Oiro gave an overview of the project, which focused on how Kenya can achieve structural transformation in a way that expands economic opportunities for disenfranchised youth and women. Mr Oiro also Economic Complexity Index (ECI) and how it provides a holistic measure of the country’s industrial characteristics right from production to exports. The presentation also included an overview of Kenya’s export products in relation to other counties such as Thailand, Japan and China.
Mr. Jackson Wambua from Kenya Association of Manufacturers highlighted some of the initiatives his organization was focusing on to promote inclusivity in manufacturing. This includes convening a forum of women in manufacturing to discuss specific challenges women face in the industry. Mr Wambua also heighted the fact that Kenya’s exports to the East African Community were shrinking and what the immediate steps to be taken to improve quality and quality of exports.
Participants then gave their views and comments, which KIPPRA Policy Analyst and Head of the Trade and Foreign Policy Department Dr Chris Onyanga, said would contribute to the ongoing study.