When the government was re-elected for its final term in 2017, it outlined its priorities for Kenya under the banner, the Big Four Agenda. The focus was on food security, affordable housing, manufacturing, and affordable healthcare for all Kenyans. The agenda 2022 was also designed to fast-track the Kenyan dream of Vision 2030. Before the Big 4 agenda, the country was suffering from a number of illnesses. The high rate of unemployment, Corruption, inadequate food of acceptable quality, hunger, lack of proper healthcare services, inadequate housing, poor economic growth, among other ills.
The main reason for the agenda 2022 was to remedy the challenges the country was facing through the implementation of the 4 pillars. Along the way, the World was hit by a global pandemic, and Kenya was neither spared. The country was hit hard by the effects of the pandemic. Kenyans suffered the most by losing jobs; others had to work from home; generally, the country suffered in all sectors of the economy. Despite the effects of the pandemic, I believe that Kenya has the potential to contain the effects of the pandemic and to put the economy back on track through a number of reasons that I will elaborate. However, my essay will focus on Manufacturing as one of the four pillars.
Potentials in Manufacturing
Despite the challenges the country has faced, the government has made several strides in helping Kenya to realize the dream of becoming a manufacturing country. The president has revived the Eldoret-based Rivatex. He has been spearheading the revival of these factories to put the economy back on track with a view of creating jobs and promoting locally manufactured products. During this time of the pandemic, the company has been able to directly employ more than 1000 employs. More than 2000 people were directly employed by the company. The company has made this happen through the promotion of locally grown cotton. The company has indeed shown great potential.
It has been manufacturing eye-catching shirts for the president. Apart from the eye-catching shirts, it is currently producing bedsheets, military uniforms, hospital linen, especially during this time of the pandemic, suits, among others.
We must now have to appreciate that the local textile firms are now convincing Kenyans to buy products made from local talents. By producing not just affordable but high-quality products. This has complemented the 4 pillars in a number of ways; creation of employment and economic growth to remedy the earlier discussed ills before the coming of the four pillars.
A directive was also issued by the president to all government workers to put on locally made clothes to promote the concept of buy Kenya build Kenya. The government came up with a strategy to provide government serviced industrial parks like the EPZ in order to attract and locate investments. The government has also been providing tax incentives to foreign investors. This has attracted foreign investors like the MAS Intimates, a Sri Lankan Company which uses local talents to produce garments that have been selling the Made in Kenya hashtag. Some of the products are sold locally and abroad. The company has employed more than 2000 Kenyans to complement the objectives of the four pillars.
The government has also partnered with the county governments in achieving Manufacturing. Through the principles of cooperation and coordination, and interdependence, we have seen the Kitui County Textile Centre making the personal protective equipment for the struggling health care system. During the early days of the pandemic, most of the equipment were being sourced from foreign countries. The centre is now making police uniforms which shows a clear indication that the country is on the right track to achieve Manufacturing as one of the four pillars of the Big-4-Pillars.
Masks produced by the centre in large quantities were being sold by Kenyans who bought them from the centre at a wholesale price, thus creating employment during the pandemic period in this process. As a result of the increase in demand for the ‘lifesavers,’ masks there was need for more production. This led to the cottage industry utilizing this gap to supply the much-needed masks in the country.
The Juakali sector has not been left behind. It has benefitted a lot as a result of the pandemic while providing locally-based solutions that were of great impact in the fight against Covid. In the early days of the pandemic, the Ministry of Health was overwhelmed and wanted to cushion itself to prevent a healthcare system collapse as was seen in other countries. The creation of the isolation centre’s led to a demand for hospital beds; in this, the JUAKALI sector stepped up, and production was seen in many counties, with the government resulting from relying on the sector on the issue. Kenyans also started creating hand washing detergents, which were very vital in the fight against covid.
According to a report from the world bank, Kenya’s GDP is expected to grow by 4.5% in 2021, a positive indication of recovery from the covid pandemic. Further, the institution is projecting a growth of 5% by 2023. It is without a doubt that with the efforts that have been put in place by the government during this pandemic, we can further accelerate the achievement of the 4 pillars, especially in the area of Manufacturing. The government needs to establish a vaccination campaign for all Kenyans to fight the pandemic.
The country must take full advantage of the growing demand for manufactured goods that are locally made. The government must also gradually stop importing goods that can be locally made. Kenyans also have a role to play if we want to achieve the big 4 agenda. We need to change the culture of not appreciating our own products. We must support the buy Kenya build Kenya agenda. The government also needs to come up with a policy that a certain % of the goods should be sourced locally to see this succeed.
By Kalama Thomas, a student at Embu University