Category: Economic Opportunities

A New Sunrise in Agriculture Only Possible if We Can Feed Ourselves

Dr. Kalua Green 29 October 2022 0

Most Kenyans do not realize that one fifth of the food on their tables is imported. It could be that apple they munch just after finishing the main course – it may be from South Africa; or that Spanish omelet they gobble the following morning – it could be from Uganda. It could also be the pasta they devour later that evening – it’s probably from Italy.

Even more telling is the fact that on numerous occasions, the ugali we consume is cooked using flour from imported maize. I wish to share useful data combined by Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM).

Every year, each Kenyan eats an average 70 kilograms of maize and maize products. Despite this widespread consumption of maize, we don’t produce sufficient maize to meet our needs. According to the 2022 Economic Survey, aggregate maize production decreased from 42.1 million bags in 2020 to 36.7 million bags in 2021.

Despite Kenya’s glaring maize deficit, we continue to produce less maize that we consume. Our farmers are currently producing eight 90kg-bags of maize per acre yet the optimal yield per acre is fifteen 90kg-bags. This underperformance is even worse in the rice sector where farmers are currently producing 15 bags of rice per acre against an optimal yield of 35 bags per acre.

In 2021, Kenyans consumed 800,000 tonnes of rice. Out of these, only 186,000 tonnes were locally produced. The rest – approximately 631,000 tonnes – had to be imported. Things were just as bad with wheat. Out of the nearly 2.2 million tonnes of wheat that we consumed in 2021, almost 1.9 million was imported. For us to create more jobs, grow our economy and achieve food security, this trajectory must stop.

Now, water and fertilizer are two contributors to our agricultural underperformance.

Fertilizers improve supply of nutrients in the soil, consequently nourishing plant growth and increasing the subsequent yield. Thankfully, there may now be sufficient fertilizer through the Government’s subsidy program. However, abundance of fertilizer will be rendered useless if rains will delay as has been the case in recent years. That’s why we must support the mainstreaming of irrigation-centered climate smart agriculture in the country.

President Ruto has in umpteenth times reiterated the importance of irrigation. He has revealed plans to double the land under irrigation to 1.4 million acres in the next three years.

The President has also committed to formalize the long-awaited Climate Change Council which he will chair. This shall lend the Council immense powers. Among other duties, the Council will approve and oversee implementation of the National Climate Change Action Plan. For sure Climate Smart Agriculture must be at the heart of this plan.

Climate Smart Agriculture will transform our agriculture from rain-fed subsistence farming to irrigation-fed commercial farming that will boost both food security and sustainable livelihoods. Indeed, it’s possible for maize, rice and wheat to follow in the footsteps of tea.

Tea is our leading foreign exchange earner. In 2021, we earned Sh130 billion from it.  This was almost twice the Sh77 billion that Safaricom, East and Central Africa’s most profitable company, earned in the same year.

Despite the high tea export earnings, we can generate more revenue from our tea. Only five percent of the exported tea had value added into it. In a recent meeting with the President, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers proposed that we should increase value addition from the current 5% to 50%. If we do so, we will earn billions more because low value addition robs us of approximately Sh 1,300 per kilo of tea exported!

It’s time to invest more into our agricultural produce and get more out of it. If we do so, we will drastically increase the 22.4 percent that agriculture currently contributes to the GDP. That will create thousands of decent and well-paying agricultural jobs. Think green, act green!

 

How The Automotive Industry Can Drive Kenya’s Economic Revival

Dr. Kalua Green 22 October 2022 0

Millions of vehicles snake their way on our roads daily as Kenyans travel to and from work. As much as this leads to the never-ending traffic jams, it also signifies immense opportunity in Kenya’s automotive sector.

According to National Safety and Transport Authority (NTSA) by the end of August 2022 Kenya had 4,382,335 registered vehicles out of which 2,782,102 are motorcycles. The difference therefore includes personal vehicles, tractors, heavy machinery, trailers, commercial vehicles and three wheelers

Obviously, most of these vehicles are imported. It is time to overhaul Kenya’s automotive sector by increasingly choosing to manufacture locally. Doing so invites three overwhelming opportunities namely: Job creation, Strengthening the value of our local currency through increased exports and reduction on input and, Diversification of Kenyan exports by expanding the automotive export basket.

Thankfully, this journey has been galvanized by the National Automotive Policy. It has laid out an enabling environment for automotive industry players to ‘realize their full potential and position Kenya as a major automotive manufacturer.’ The Government must ensure its full implementation by setting up the National Automotive Council.

Thrillingly as part of Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Kenya is now exporting automotive batteries to Ghana, Malawi and the East African Community. During a recent Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) Conference attended by President Ruto it emerged that Kenya has now become a net exporter of batteries having exported 60% and imported 40% of the produced batteries. This proves that Kenya can be a manufacturing powerhouse in the automotive sector.

Evidently, The Government has a huge role to play in this quest for automotive supremacy in Africa. For instance, in May, the government banned importation of second-hand buses and trucks. This will boost the local auto assembly industry. In consultation with all stakeholders, a similar ban should be extended to all commercial vehicles. Such is the legislative action that will multiply investment into the local automotive sector and create 300,000 new jobs in local assembly and parts manufacturing.

According to KAM Kenya has an installed capacity of assembling 96,000 commercial vehicles per year but we are only assembling 12,000 vehicles. This shortcoming must be addressed immediately. As reported during the recent KAM conference Africa’s demand for vehicles is at 5 million units per year yet we only manufacture and assemble 1.2 million units. Kenya must take full advantage of this lucrative vehicle market. Additionally according to the IEA Technology report of September 2022 by 2030 EVs will represent 60% of vehicles sold globally and therefore the journey started by Autopax limited of producing electric vehicles locally for African market ought to be sustained.

The motorcycle sub-sector is also ripe for unprecedented growth. Fueling this growth are the Motorcycle Assembly Regulations which have since been adapted across the East Africa Community. These regulations paved the way for authorized local assemblers to locally procure 14 out of about 300 parts out of a motorcycle. As a result, thousands of jobs have already been created. For Kenya to become a motorcycle manufacturing hub in Africa and for us to create the 250,000 new decent jobs as clearly illustrated by KAM the Government needs to firmly support the full implementation of the Motorcycle regulations.

Incidentally, China and India protect local manufacture by charging 100% duty on imported motorcycles. As such, the protectionist approach through Regulations is in sync with global practice.

The incoming Cabinet Secretary for industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development must seize the moment. A critical step forward is to implement local procurement procedures for locally manufactured vehicles and use of locally manufactured parts. More specifically, I suggest that the President decrees that all Governments should buy locally assembled vehicles. That will make a powerful statement that Kenya is committed to local automotive manufacture. Think green and act green.

Why GMOs are not the silver bullet for Kenya’s Agriculture

Dr. Kalua Green 15 October 2022 0

Kenya is one of the most ecologically rich countries in the world. The country boasts a wide range of ecosystems including coastal, dryland, mountainous and savannah grassland, with extensive genetic diversity.

These diverse ecosystems are conducive for crops like millet, sorghum, onions, leafy vegetables, coffee, barley, wheat and tea. Do we know the depth of the genetic riches contained in these crops? That knowledge begins with the crops’ seeds. Seeds largely determine a crop’s genetic composition and agricultural output.

The ongoing debate about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) must take place within a holistic context that includes seed, growth, harvest and post-harvest factors. In this regard, GMOs are not the silver bullet that will magically fix our food insecurity. You can have the best harvest in the world but if without proper distribution, that harvest will rot and people will still die of hunger.

Indeed, GMOs are just one of the tools in the agriculture toolbox. The very structure of President Ruto’s government attests to this. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development hosts numerous agricultural institutions with equally diverse expertise. These institutions include: Kenya Seed Company; Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS); Kenya School of Agriculture; Commodities Fund; Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and National Biosafety Authority (NBA).

GMOs mostly fall in the docket of the latter two organizations. The Government should urgently enhance funding to the other institutions to fully realize their mandates. That will drastically enhance food security in Kenya.

For instance, the Agricultural Information Resource Centre (AIRC), which was founded in 1966, exists to disseminate agricultural information to farmers, extension workers and other stakeholders. The Kenya School of Agriculture exists to transform the agricultural sector through improvement of productivity, value addition and marketing of farm produce. Its mandate entails training in modern and evolving agricultural technologies.

These two institutions can empower farmers to embrace climate smart agriculture that will deliver increased yield and income. This goal will be boosted by President Ruto’s implementation of the Kenya Climate Change Act which created the Climate Change Council. The Council which was not operationalised in the last administration should play a major role in revolutionizing climate smart agriculture across Kenya.

Further, petty or divisive politics must not weaken the quest for food security. It is in the public domain that only a handful of big farms associated with prominent people, produce the bulk of seed used in Kenya. Such dominance, while undesirable, should not trigger a stampede to GMO seed. Rather, the Kenya Seed Company should be sufficiently funded towork with various farmers to spearhead production of locally owned seed that taps into our immense genetic resources. This approach will preempt a future where our seed market will be dominated by foreign entities or mysterious players.

Almost two decades ago, I was the Chairperson of the Kenya Biodiesel Association and championing gradual, informed and locally driven transition to biofuels. Unfortunately, our efforts were nipped in the bud by foreign-owned oil companies that have zero tolerance to competition in the oil sector. This experience taught me that whenever any player dominates market share of any product, Kenyans bear pay the price. As such, if we allow foreign players to eventually dominate our seed market, irrespective of their seed technology, we will remain beholden to them for a long time.

That’s why our food security must walk hand in hand with our food sovereignty. It is worth noting that no seed can be sold in Europe unless it has been sourced from within Europe.

Similarly, we must be the exclusive owners of our seeds as we stride towards food security. In addition, we must fully utilize all the tools in our agricultural toolbox, not just GMOs. Think Green, act, green!

Why we Must Urgently Rethink the Place of Political Parties in Kenya

Dr. Kalua Green 8 October 2022 0

The Party of National Unity (PNU); United Republican Party (URP); Ford Asili; The National Alliance (TNA). These were major parties in previous elections but are currently part of our political parties graveyard yet their leaders remain active in other political outfits.

This begs the questions – are political parties mere special purpose vehicles for elections?

In this year’s election, 49 political parties out of 98 registered parties secured elective positions. Our Party – the Green Thinking Action Party (GTAP) – was among them. It is incumbent on these parties to continue engaging their members systematically.

According to Section 23 of the Political Parties Act, the Political Parties Fund forms the basis for financing political parties in Kenya. Consequently, qualifying parties are largely funded by taxpayers. That’s why they must be fully accountable to Kenyans. This accountability also applies to smaller political parties that don’t qualify to receive Government funds. After all, they exist because of their membership. Unfortunately, red flags abound in this accountability space.

Undeniably, most Kenyans have no clue about the ideology of their political party, yet these are the deep-seated set of beliefs that must be lived and seen in legislative priorities of the party.

Political parties must therefore lay out legislative agendas that are in sync with their ideologies, not just their ever-changing manifestos.

Unfortunately, many of Kenya’s registered 98 parties lack defining ideologies. In fact, a good percentage of these parties were formed with the express purpose of being sold at a profit to aspiring politicians. But before we cast a stone at such parties, we must look hard in the mirror and discern the logs in the eyes of our own preferred parties. If they are not tribal groupings, they are probably under the exclusive control of party leaders and a select few.

Are the smaller parties becoming part of the problem by not dissolving and joining larger parties to strengthen them from within? That would be a viable route if the so-called larger parties were not under the exclusive control of their leaders. Unfortunately many of these smaller parties end up embracing those same undemocratic practices. In this regard, we must all take responsibility for our country’s sorry political party culture.

In addition to party leaders and officials, party members too must take responsibility. As of March this year, at least 24 million Kenyans were registered political party members. Out of these, 64 per cent were men while women constituted 36 per cent. These members should be the real owners of their political parties. They must infuse ideology, transparency and accountability into their respective political parties. As long as they remain passive, party leaders will keep using them for political relevance.

In the same vein, party offices should not just exist for the sake of inspection by the Office of the registrar of political parties (ORPP). Rather, they should metamorphose into hubs of relevant positive community activities at the grassroots level. This can be further reinforced through regular, democratic party elections for all office bearers from the national level to the Ward level.

In the words of former President Moi, “Siasa ni Maisha, siasa mbaya, maisha mbaya.” Because political parties are the nerve centers of organized politics, it follows that bad political parties beget a low quality of life for the citizenry. That’s why changing our political party culture must be an urgent, lasting priority. This involves changing our perceptions of political engagement. Currently, political actors are regarded in the corporate world as high risk or Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) who should not hold certain offices or lead initiatives, yet these same institutions that covertly fund political activities. Its time for this hypocrisy to stop. Being politically active should be celebrated, not demonized. Think green, act green.

 

 

The Hustler’s Fund Must Avoid Pitfalls of Previous Kitties

Dr. Kalua Green 1 October 2022 0

Last Friday, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) announced that inflation hit 9.2 per cent in September, the highest rate in 63 months. This resulted from a stubbornly high cost of living. Between August and September, maize flour prices rose by 8.4 per cent even as power prices went up by 20.9 per cent. Further to this, petrol prices shot up by nearly 20 percent, in the process hiking transportation costs by a staggering 25 per cent.

It is therefore gratifying to see the Ruto administration taking firm baby steps forward. But although the new administration is still in its infancy, the President has already pronounced himself boldly on the matter of small businesses. He is spot-on.  After all, SMEs create 80 percent of employment in Kenya. During his speech to the joint session of parliament last Thursday, the President said that his government would allocate Ksh50 billion every year to the Hustlers Fund for MSMEs.

There is no doubt that the Hustlers Fund, if well executed, can provide much needed affordable credit for small businesses. Currently, such credit is virtually impossible to come across. The Youth Enterprise Development Fund provides a business loan product that attracts a single-digit interest of 6%. But there is a catch – the loan can only be secured through conventional security, which is a challenge for many youth.

Banks are worse. Some of the cheapest loan rates in the banking sector are at 13% interest rate. This effectively knocks out many small businesses as they simply can’t afford to service such high-interest loans. To make matters worse for them, last Thursday the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) raised the key lending rate from 7.50 percent to 8.25 percent. This will likely lead to higher-interest bank loans, further marginalizing small businesses.

In the developed countries, affordable credit is often the norm, not the exception. Back in 2013, Britain’s Sainsbury’s Bank launched a personal loan rate of a mere 4.8% for three years. Despite this low rate, customers were allowed to borrow up to Sh2 million! It would be amazing for small businesses in Kenya, wouldn’t it?

The Hustlers fund seems intended to fill a gap that is currently not met by existing financial institutions but to ensure its success, transparency and accountability must be the norm. We must also be intentional in training to eradicate the culture of entitlement of free money.

Direct partnerships between The Government and renown manufacturers of tools of business that Kenyans regularly borrow to buy, may provide one of the possible fool-proof measures in Hustler Funds loan disbursements. In this bargain, the Government in a well thought out arrangement that involves umbrella associations would directly pay manufacturers of popular products like motorbikes, posho mills, tillers and water pumps. Using existing systems of recovery to reduce risk of default, the manufacturers would then supply the products of choice to Hustler Fund loanees. Both parties will get value for money. In addition, local manufacturing will be boosted, which will create more jobs for Kenyans. Further, this arrangement would save the fund from the high default rate that have plagued previous such funds.

In most businesses, it takes time for a Return on Investment (ROI) to be realized. It is therefore unrealistic to expect that small businesses will within weeks break even and afford paying back loans, however low the interest may be. The Hustler Fund therefore, ought to provide sufficient grace period before the loan repayment commences. Further to this and perhaps even more important, the Government should consider enrolling select small business owners into business incubation programs. This is what green money entails – it tackles the bigger picture in a sustainable manner. Think green, act green!

Why Electric Mobility Should Top President Ruto’s Economic Agenda

Dr. Kalua Green 17 September 2022 0

It is time electric mobility became the norm in Kenya. This will unlock thousands of new decent jobs, manage our unsustainable cost of fuel and contribute immensely to better health. Thankfully these three are at the heart of Kenya Kwanza’s manifesto. In this regard, I suggest that electric mobility be prioritized by the Ruto administration.

In order to further appreciate why electric mobility is the way to go, let us take a quick trip to Norway.

Imagine paying parking fees that are 50 percent less than normal parking fees. Imagine also driving for free on the Nairobi expressway. This is what happens in Norway for electric vehicle motorists. They pay less parking and zero toll charges, amongst other tax exemptions. It’s no wonder Norway has the highest number of electric vehicles in the world per capita. Indeed, in 2020, electric cars in this Scandinavian country constituted almost 75 percent of all new car sales. The owners of these vehicles spend no money on fuel!

This vindicates the power of policies to boost electric vehicle sales. That’s why Kenya need to act speedily to enact and implement numerous pivotal electric car-friendly policies. For starters, there should be zero rating or exemption of import and excise duties not just on electric vehicles but also on their spare parts, batteries and charging station equipment. Incidentally, Rwanda adopted this policy measure in 2021.

Kenya shouldn’t just focus on increased electric vehicle sales only but also local production of the same. Just as mobile phones leapfrogged landlines and made it possible for most Kenyans to own phones, local production of electric vehicles can drastically increase vehicle ownership in the country. For this to happen though, the Government must incentivize electric mobility investments.

A practical incentive entails reduction of corporate tax from 30% to 20% for the first five years for investors operating electric vehicles assembly plants and charging stations. This would accelerate local production by companies like Autopax Limited. India took similar action in 2017, leading to increased local production of electric vehicles.

For local electric mobility to thrive, there is need for a corresponding local production of advanced batteries. That would significantly reduce electric vehicles’ cost. As such, the Government must incentivize billion-shilling investments into this sector. In February this year, US President Joe Biden’s administration announced plans of investing Shs360 Billion to strengthen U.S. Supply Chain for Advanced Batteries for Vehicles and Energy Storage.

With the right incentives, Kenya can attract multi-billion-shilling investments into local production of advanced batteries.

Even more relevant for Kenya and other African countries, electric motorbikes and motorcycles are now becoming accessible for ordinary consumers. Considering that Boda Boda business is one of Kenya’s mainstays, there is a massive market for ebikes. Their main attraction is their affordability to maintain which is why existing local makers must be fully supported.

Against this backdrop, Honda which is the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, plans to introduce 10 or more electric motorcycle models globally by 2025. Further to this, it aims to increase annual sales of electric models to 1 million units within the next five years. This speaks to the broad market opportunities of electric mobility. Just as is the case with electric cars, generous tax incentives will go a long way in enabling and expanding local production of electric motorcycles.

Apart from economic benefits, electric mobility will tackle the negative effects of Climate Change. This will tackle pollution-related diseases. In 2021, research at Harvard University further confirmed that replacing petrol-powered vehicles with electric vehicles in cities could significantly reduce air pollution–related death and illness.

Indeed, electric mobility can reduce our high cost of living as we also create jobs, save lives and boost our economy. Think green, act green!

After The Elections Now Begins The Real Test of Leadership

Dr. Kalua Green 27 August 2022 0

Kenya’s youngest political party produced a president!

The Green Thinking Action Party (GTAP) which is roughly one year old, wisely selected and sponsored 33 candidates out of 489 interested aspirants countrywide during the just concluded General elections. These candidates collectively attracted 47,364 green votes and voices of confidence to the party ideology We glorify God for such a profound victory.

Dominic Mwamisi, the GTAP candidate for Mutha Ward, Kitui South Constituency in Kitui County emerged victorious. He became one of the country’s newly elected 1,450 Members of County Assemblies (MCA’s). In essence, MCAs are akin to Ward presidents. They are closer to people at the local grassroots levels and hence best placed to tackle local problems.

Although GTAP’s 32 other candidates did not attain majority votes to grant them victory for the seats they passionately sought, the Kenyans who voted for them won by delivering a resounding clarion call for green leadership and transformation which will one day materialize.

The upcoming months will separate the serious, visionary political parties from those that were mere political vehicles for a few individuals. As Party Leader of GTAP together with my team, we shall remain faithful not just to the current registered 43,873 members of our party but also to our transformative ideology. Our agenda espouses Ethical and Effective Governance, Sustainable Wealth Creation and Dignity of the households.

Just like our MCA-elect who emerged victorious against all odds, numerous other Kenyans also won despite the daunting hurdles in the way. They include 24-year old Linet Chepkorir aka Toto who won the Bomet County Women Representative seat. Barely one year ago, she was a mitumba and chips vendor in Bomet town. When she commenced her campaigns, she campaigned on a boda boda. A similar indefatigable spirit was experienced in Nakuru County’s Elementaita Ward where George Nene, a 22-year old fourth-year Egerton University student won the MCA seat. He often campaigned on a donkey and spent less than Shs20,000 on his campaigns.

These young Kenyan leaders are among a small group of victorious leaders who persuaded voters through their sheer vision and passion, not their money. They are a stark contrast to hundreds of other victorious leaders whose victory was partly pegged on the millions that they spent. Unfortunately, many of those who spent millions will probably seek to ‘recover’ their investment.

The proposed Campaign Financing Act is very clear that candidates should divulge the source of campaign funds. However, this act has never been enacted, hence breeding corruption. All key political stakeholders must weed out such funds from the political landscape.

Indeed, elected leaders must make life better for their constituents. An inspirational political victory will be rendered meaningless if it doesn’t result in better lives for constituents. In the case of Dominic Mwamisi, this better life means water accessibility. In Tuikombe village of Mutha ward residents must travel with their donkeys for twenty-three kilometers to fetch  for fresh water. In Kothoa village a twenty-liter jerrican today costs KShs50. Coupled with these water challenges is insecurity. Just a few days ago, a teenage boy in hKataa village was shot dead by camel herders from northern Kenya. They often venture in search of pasture as a result of effects of Climate Change.

Kindly supported by Kenya’s President, Kitui Governor, Senator and various stakeholders, Dominic must provide decisive leadership that will address these pressing problems. On its part GTAP will hold him accountable through the Party’s Green Score Card parameters based on his election pledges to the community.

Indeed, all elected leaders must realize that ultimately, the Goliaths they must conquer are the problems of their constituents, not their political adversaries. Think green, act green!

 

How President- Elect Ruto can Unite Kenya’s Three Factions through Economic Empowerment Lest We Perish

Dr. Kalua Green 20 August 2022 1

Numbers don’t lie! The final 2022 poll numbers have clearly revealed three groups of people in Kenya. For starters, 22.1 million Kenyans registered to vote in this year’s elections. Out of these, just over 30% voted for President-Elect H.E. William Ruto while another 30% for former Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga. Approximately 30% of the 22.1 million registered voters didn’t vote at all. Remember that millions more did not register as voters.

Obviously, when citizens reach a point of such indifference, then the country is hurtling towards Intensive Care Unit.

The President-elect’s first major task should be to unify these differing groups of Kenyans into a united force for a better country. This doesn’t mean that we should all think in the same way. Rather, we should lift each other up instead of tearing each other apart.

Since the president is the symbol of national unity, he must face the social and economic bulls by horns. If the economy begins to rise in an all-inclusive manner, it will empower Kenyans from all corners of the country. That’s the kind of practical unity that we need.

In the spirit of empowering millions of Kenyan economic sufferers, I suggest that the President-elect adheres to global financial norms. As Mario Cuomo, a former New York Governor famously said, ‘politicians’ campaign in poetry, but they govern in prose.’ In other words, the time for election promises is now over, what is now demanded is meticulous, intentional action.

One of these actions is to meet our obligation to external lenders because countries are measured by their fiscal strength. I suggest that we resist any impulsive temptation to restructure our international loan repayments as this may send mixed signals which result in dire consequences that include a weaker shilling and issuance of junk bonds. As their name suggests, junk bonds have a high risk of default on payment.

A country only starts swimming in such waters when the economic storm becomes worse. As such, the Government must reassure international investors that their money is safe with us. This will reroute our economic ship into calmer waters. Such calm financial waters are always the preferred fishing ground for Foreign Direct Investment which we must focus on. In addition, the new administration must nurture such a financial climate that tangibly entrenches Public Private Partnerships.

Importantly, our Green Thinking Action Party (GTAP) will engage with the Government in unity of purpose based on our profound ideology and will deploy the green scorecard to ensure that economic growth does not hurt our environment and society in any way.

Further, New State and private trade partnerships must be forged across Africa. Such trade unity will unlock intra-Africa’s massive trade potential as we empower the populace. Indeed, time is ripe for the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to be turbo-charged.

On the global front, the economy continues to struggle, which further complicates matters for Kenya and Africa. In the UK as reported, inflation has hit a 40-year high resulting to some basic commodities rising by 12.7%. This proves that similar food price hikes here in Kenya are caused by both global and local factors. The new administration will need to come clean about this so that they can manage Kenyans’ expectations. Unrealistic expectations based on election promises undermine unity.

Ultimately, it is we the people of Kenya who must keep building our unity. Those of us whose preferred candidates won the elections must rejoice wisely, and those whose candidates lost must lament peaceably. On their part leaders must unite the nation by growing the economy to avoid an implosion of our youthful great nation. Think green, act green!

HERE ARE THREE REASONS WHY VOTERS STAYED AWAY FROM 2022 ELECTIONS

Dr. Kalua Green 13 August 2022 0

Thirty-five percent of registered Kenyans didn’t bother to vote in the just concluded elections. Only 65 percent voted, a far cry from the 85.91% of registered voters ten years ago in 2013.

Recently, I have been talking to Kenyans who did not vote to understand why they didn’t vote. Their answers are so striking that we need to listen to their voice and respond accordingly.

First, “Voting in this country is a waste of time since votes are always stolen anyway.” This answer came from Kyeva a 44-year-old mother of three from Tala in Machakos County. She cited the Supreme Court’s nullification of the 2017 elections as proof that rigging is commonplace in Kenya.

Hopefully, these recent elections will go a long way in restoring the faith of Kenyans in electoral integrity. Apart from manageable logistical hitches, there is unanimous agreement that IEBC conducted these elections in one of the most transparent ways ever. Going forward we must equip them with more funds so that they can deliver increasingly credible elections. Unless Kenyans believe in the integrity of the electoral process, they will keep shying away.

Secondly, “Leaders forget about us as soon as they win elections. So why should I bother to vote for them.” These sentiments were shared by a Kevin 24-year old college graduate from Nairobi. Most of his fellow generation Z youth share those sentiments.

Only forty percent of youth between 18 and 35 registered to vote. This means that six out of ten young Kenyans didn’t participate in these elections. If they had, they would have undoubtedly swayed the elections in their favor.

We have been quick to condemn Kenyans who didn’t vote as unpatriotic and insensitive to development yet voting is not compulsory in Kenya as it is in some parts of the world. Nonetheless, their voter apathy is surely sending a message which we must listen to.

The 24-year old’s message is simple albeit powerful – leaders only engage them when they are hunting for votes. That culture must end. The newly elected leaders must engage constituents habitually. American legislators do this through platforms like town hall meetings. These meetings are usually held in the localities that elected representatives come from. Through the meetings, constituents can pose tough questions to legislators. I recommend such regular, interactive sessions to our newly elected leaders. These must be day-long, thorough sessions, not brief one-sided declarations in marketplaces or roadsides.

Thirdly, “Same Forest, different monkeys.” This answer came from Balozi a fifty-year old married father of two from Nakuru. He also didn’t vote because he hasn’t seen much change in the last four electoral cycles that he has voted in. Consequently, he has become as disillusioned with politics and elections as the young people who are in his children’s generation.

H.E. William Ruto was first elected to parliament during the 1997 General Elections. On his part, Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga was elected to parliament in 1993 after the 1992 General Elections. Evidently, they are both veteran politicians. Many Kenyans yearn for breath of fresh air. As such, the President elect must turn his vast political experience into a breath of fresh air that will inspire the electorate to believe in politics and the electoral process that anchor it.

More importantly, the president-elect must deliver on all the promises in his manifesto and if If he falls short, he must come clean with instead of using PR to create an impression of fulfilled promises.

Political leaders have betrayed the trust that Kenyans had in them. The only way they can be trusted again is by uniting the country and walking the talk. Think green, act green!

POLITICS ASIDE, WE MUST RESTORE FAITH IN OUR DIGITAL SYSTEMS

Dr. Kalua Green 9 July 2022 0

The motorcycle industry in Kenya is in trouble. Here is why. In the last several months, motorcycle sales have plunged by a staggering 75%. Without doubt, the lingering effects of the Corona pandemic are still depressing the economy and affecting business. Additionally, one of the major reasons has been the inefficient National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) electronic service portal. Subsequently assemblers are experiencing a myriad of motorcycle registration challenges. This has resulted to cashflow challenges, Unforeseen lawsuits due to delayed transfer of asset ownership and in reality loss of livelihoods to thousands of Kenyans because every delayed bike sale is a potential Boda Boda job opportunity.

A few days ago, a crisis meeting was held between The CS of Trade and Industrialization Madam Betty Maina, Honda Head of Operations for Europe, Africa and Middle East, Motorcycle Assemblers Association of Kenya (MAAK) and NTSA among others. During the meeting, we clearly spotlighted some key inefficiencies that have a direct correlation with the plunge in motorcycle sales. Thankfully to great leadership of the CS and The Director General of NTSA a Rapid Response Initiative was agreed upon and deadlines pinned.

We appreciate that any system can face operational challenges. However, the fact that NTSA acknowledged the challenges and reverted asking us to use their system during off peak hours meaning nighttime and early morning it means that the problem is far beyond NTSA. There seems to be a systemic failure bedeviling Government online platforms.

E-citizen, which is the online gateway to all government services has been experiencing numerous service outages. During these periods, logging into the platform takes extended periods, adversely affecting critical services like issuance of passports and work permits.

Banking systems are also struggling. One of the largest banks in Kenya experienced a system outage for close to a week. Such outages have negative impacts on businesses and people. Interestingly, the Banking network relies on the Integrated population Registration System (IPRS), which is connected to the National Registration Bureau (NRB).

The IPRS was launched in March 2015 to manage credible data which was noted to be critical for development and indispensable for planning and delivery of public services. Accordingly, public services rely heavily on this platform.

This brings me to the all-important matter of national elections. There is an ongoing voter identification tussle between political parties and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on whether to use manual or electronic register to identify the 22.1 million voters that are eligible to vote.

IEBC’s Electronic Voter Identification System (EVID) helps in identifying voters. If compromised, this system can end up ‘identifying’ dead voters as actual voters. It can also ‘identify’ uncollected IDs and deploy them to vote one way or another. Indeed, all digital systems can be compromised so that they can behave one way or another. That is what computer viruses do to our computers.

Fortunately, we have a three-step opportunity to instill integrity into our national electronic platforms to ensure a vibrant democracy and the sustainable development that accompanies it.

Firstly, all pending backlog on NTSA, eCitizen, all public portals and IPRS must be updated to allay unnecessary fears and business suffering.

Secondly, I suggest that IEBC immediately discloses an authoritative manual voters register to political parties so that they can independently verify its accuracy and authenticity.  Further, political parties ought to be supported to establish independent tallying centers.

Thirdly, I suggest that the NRB urgently discloses all uncollected National IDs per ward. Similarly, the Ministry of Immigration should disclose the number of uncollected passports.

These can only happen for common good once we think and act green!