It Is Time To Reignite The National Dialogue on Industrialization

By Flora Mutahi

 The great news of Kenya’s performance in the Ease of Doing Business Report for 2017 could not have come at a better time. At the tail end of this year and while planning for next year, an election year to be precise, it is critical that we analyse our successes in light of the forthcoming changes we would like to see for our country.

Maintaining position 3 in the world of the most reformed countries is no small feat but it also shows us that the desired changes we need to make business competitive are not out of reach.  Starting a business was one of the indicators in which we showed improvement as a country and this means that we are sending a message to both local and global investors that we are ready to move our economy to the next level.

Even further to welcome investments, the government has been putting in place infrastructure and regulations that will secure the future of business and of industry in particular.

flora mutahi

Flora Mutahi: Chairlady, Kenya Association of Manufacturers

A good example is the recent launch of the Infinity Industrial Park, which is significant in the quest to re-ignite the industrialization agenda into our national psyche. Indeed the most conspicuous benefits of putting up industrial parks are largely, increased attraction of Foreign Direct Investment and a catalyzed growth and competitiveness of local manufacturing.

But more than that, it is a way in which a country measures its industrializing progress by gauging its efficiency in providing quality industrial infrastructure for manufacturers to thrive. It is also a means to access the caliber of locally manufactured goods vis a vis those of other countries.

An introspection; are we using the quality raw material? What do we need to do to improve it? Are we using the right machinery? Do we have the necessary skills within our borders? Are ideas of a progressive economy matched by action and the right strategies to deliver it and so forth?

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For the first time this year, Kenya will be hosting a manufacturing Summit and Expo in November with the aim to address the above issues through the summit and also showcase the progress we have made in terms of quality production from our local manufacturers.

Supporting such an initiative means that we are ready to dissect issues of local content procurement, sustainable value chains, upgrading our apprenticeship as a country and building capacity for our SMEs to take up in-coming opportunities in light manufacturing such as the one I have mentioned above.

In looking at our own capacity, we will be able to analyse the gaps that we need to fill in order for local industry to thrive. Industrialization, if prioritized, carries the potential to lift other important sectors of the economy as well. Take for example Agriculture, local suppliers who will have a chance to interact with investors like government will analyse their products’ composition including the type of raw materials used. If we find the raw materials to be wanting, then we will begin to understand exactly what kind of investments to make in order to produce quality raw material.

Do we need to look at the soils in a certain region? Is there a need to change the techniques of farming? What about storage facilities – is there more that can be done? If this happens local suppliers will be able to match up to international suppliers with regard to production capacity and build strong and sustainable value chains to keep industry alive.

If we intend to work towards moving up 44 more spots on the next ease of Doing Business Ranking then we need to begin to envision how we can become the next manufacturing hub for international markets. We should keep in mind how crucial industrialization is in the vision for shared prosperity.

It is high time that industrialization becomes the focal point for development once again.

The writer is the Chairlady of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and can be reached on info@kam.co.ke

 

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