Category: Economic Opportunities

CAN THESE POLITICAL MANIFESTOS BE TAKEN TO THE BANK?

Dr. Kalua Green 2 July 2022 1

An American detective television series known as Baretta aired on ABC from 1975 popularized the phrase – take it to the bank. The phrase refers to a promise whose reliability is so guaranteed that it can be equated to money that is safely locked away in a bank.

The big question that Kenyans are asking about a month away to the elections is this – can we take the manifestos that the Presidential candidates have launched to the bank? Are they that reliable?

Let’s briefly review highlights from two alliance parties’ manifestos. Azimio’s vital ten point agenda kicked off by declaring that manufacturing was the engine for creation of wealth and employment. As such, it spotlighted Small and Medium Enterprise MSMEs, including jua kali sector, as drivers for the ‘made in Kenya’ initiative.

Similarly on its part, the Kenya Kwanza’s vibrant seven point agenda promised inclusive growth encompassing Agriculture; MSME economy; Housing and Settlement; Healthcare; Digital Superhighway, Creative Economy, Environment and Climate Change.

An objective reading of both manifestos will leave one impressed by the amount of work that went into preparing them. I sincerely congratulate experts from both sides for meticulously assembling these promises and making sound arguments about them. Without a doubt, most valuable time and sleepless nights were invested into the development of these manifestos. I was thrilled to discover that most of the issues that I have discussed in the past through this column were included in the manifestos.

That said, the question I posed earlier must be repeated – can these manifestos be taken to the bank? Can Kenyans trust the presidential candidates and their teams to deliver what they are promising? On numerous occasions in the past, this trust has been betrayed. It is obvious  that voter apathy is now prevalent amongst Kenyans. Last month, IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati revealed that only 39.84 per cent of youth aged 18-34 years registered to vote. This represented a 5.27 per cent decline compared to 2017.

If whoever wins on August 9th doesn’t keep the manifesto promises, this number may decline even more in 2027. Ultimately, what happens in between elections is just as important as what happens during elections. From August 10th onwards as the realism hits our leaders, Kenyans must hold the victors absolutely accountable.

According to the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties, there are 90 registered political parties in Kenya. These parties must be on the forefront of holding whichever party wins the elections fully accountable. They must continuously organize their members in this effort. Similarly, my humble prayer is that faith communities together with the 19 million Kenyans who are part of the country’s workforce across the country will marshal each other in holding the Government accountable otherwise the manifestos will simply remain what my daughter refers to as believable lies.

The Kamba community have a saying “undu kaambaa katekakwatye tiw’o kaambaa kakwatwa.” It translates to ‘the sound that (a bird) makes before it is captured is not the same sound it makes after it is apprehended.

As we enter the home stretch of the campaigns, the two leading presidential candidates are going to keep echoing the promises enshrined in their manifestos. They will promise, cajole and entice the voters. After elections, the reality of things on the ground can easily lead them to make different noises – give excuses, threaten, dismiss or simply ignore. If we the people, who are their bosses, will remain vigilant, then they will have no option but to keep their promises.

In the final analysis, the manifesto that really matters is the one inscribed in the hearts of leaders and citizens for God’s glory. Think green, act green.

HERE ARE FOUR SPECIFIC ECONOMIC ACTIONS THAT OUR NEXT LEADERS MUST ACT ON

Dr. Kalua Green 25 June 2022 0

There are numerous economic challenges that Kenya’s newly elected leaders will need to tackle decisively from August 10th four of which I enumerate here below.

Firstly, we need to strengthen local manufacturing. The Kenya Shilling appears to be on the ropes. Against this backdrop of a weakening shilling, the US dollar for vast reasons seems to be in short supply. Some of the reasons may include demand for foreign currency to repay National debt and the obvious scramble by manufacturers to purchase raw materials from overseas. This has prompted the Kenya Association of Manufacturers to raise concerns that its members are finding it difficult to access dollars at the official rates. Consequently, production costs in the manufacturing sector are skyrocketing. The Country’s next leaders therefore must take firm steps towards lowering these production costs by targeting export market for Kenyan products as one of the solutions.

Secondly, we need to revamp the textile industry by intentionally developing the entire value chain. Due to the existence of African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and its promising strategy, just imagine the economic empowerment that would come with the requisite production of cotton locally.

A great company like United Aryan which currently employs about 12,000 Kenyans would easily quadruple in their business and employment capacity. The leaders we elect must fit the bill to realize our grand textile dream.

Thirdly, we address our lingering leather challenge. Kenya has the third-biggest livestock resource in Africa. Despite this, Kenya’s contribution to Africa’s leather production is a paltry 3.5 %. According to the Kenya Leather Development Council, Kenyans buy up to 24 million pairs of shoes every year. Unfortunately, the bulk of this money goes outside Kenya as we are a net

Egypt is one of the leading producers of leather products in Africa and the Middle East. Egypt’s ascension to the leather industry’s pinnacle did not just happen by accident. Egypt constructed the Robbiki Leather City that hosts multiple tanneries. The City has provided 25,000 direct and indirect jobs. In this regard, Kenya must fast track full completion and subsequent total utilization of the industrial leather park in Machakos.

It is extremely unfortunate that this park has taken years to complete. We must elect leaders who will give Egypt and our neighbor Ethiopia a gracious run for their money when it comes to producing leather products.

Fourthly, we need to revisit microfinancing in this country. Is microfinance really helping those who need financing most or does it create for them more financial problems down the road? The experience of motorcycle buyers leaves more questions than answers.

Six out of ten of all new motorcycle buyers are women. As Chairperson of Motorcycle Assemblers Association (MAAK), I have witnessed this phenomenon as mothers flock our  premises to purchase motorcycles for their sons or to do a side business. Almost 65% of these purchases are financed through microfinance arrangements whose cumulative interest rates is about 60 % Per Year. Indeed, the microfinance sector in this country is sinking into predatory territory. About 35 % of the youth in Boda Boda sector are inevitably losing their assets due to the high interest charged.

It is incumbent on our next leaders to disabuse Kenyans who are bleeding in the hands of most microfinance institutions. Just as buyers scrutinize products before purchasing them, voters must carefully examine the leaders seeking their votes. Do they have what it takes to tackle challenges like the ones I have listed here?

Leadership is not a crown to be worn but a powerful tool for solving problems. Think green, act green!

 

EXCLUDING YOUTH FROM TOP LEADERSHIP IS A RECIPE FOR CRISIS

Dr. Kalua Green 18 June 2022 0

When Kenya attained independence in 1963, some of the most iconic independence leaders were youth below the age of 35. In 1963, Tom Mboya the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs was 33 years old; Samuel Ayodo, the Minister for Local Government was also 33 years old; Mwai Kibaki KANU’s Executive Officer was 32. Nearly half of the other independence cabinet members were either in their late thirties or early forties.

Sixty years later, you will have to search long and hard to find a political leader of national stature who is below 35 years. The combined average age of the Kenya Kwanza and Azimio top coalition leaders is in the sixties bracket. Evidently the millennials (born after 1981) are nowhere to be seen at the top.

Beyond our borders, youthful leaders below the age of forty have led their countries in times of need. Thomas Sankara one of Africa’s most iconic leaders became President of Burkina Faso in 1983 at the age of 34. Madagascar’s President Andy Rajoelina became President for the first time in 2009 when he was 35. French President Emmanuel Macron became President in 2017 when he was 40. Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen assumed office in 2019 when she was 42 and Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin was 34 when she assumed office in the same year.

Kenya may not have had a young President or Prime Minister but we have outstanding young leaders in other sectors of our society.

Joshua Oigara became KCB CEO in 2012 when he was only 37 years old. James Mworia was only 30 years when he was appointed CEO of Centum Investment Company, East Africa’s largest private capital firm, not forgetting our top athletes who exhibit great leadership and discipline to conquer the sports world at young age.

Many of the so called ‘Young Turks’ who played a pivotal role in midwifing Kenya’s multi-party democracy in the 90s were youth in their 30s. They include Mukhisa Kituyi and Kivutha Kibwana. Even the likes of Raila Odinga, James Orengo and Paul Muite were in their early forties during this period. Kalonzo Musyoka may not have been a multi-party firebrand at the time but he was elected to parliament in 1985 at the tender age of 32.  The same goes for William Ruto and Musalia Mudavadi, who were elected to parliament at the ages of 31 and 29 respectively.

Most of these political leaders are still the dominant political players in Kenya. This begs the question – are they unwilling to mentor younger leaders or are the younger leaders unable to claim dominant political space?

I courteously remind the trendsetters of the words of William Powell who said that ‘Power must be taken; it is never given.’ With the new normal brought by Climate Change challenges leading to high cost of living, it is up to the youth to believe in their own leadership, nurture it and exercise it at different societal levels. They cannot just copy and paste the leadership style and substance of older generations. They must strategically claim their space and proceed to provide a breath of fresh air in the country’s leadership. And for instance, if they do not hold any leadership positions in political parties, something is already amiss!

To the older generation. Ultimately, you are only as successful as your successor. Generations to come shall consider it the most ingenious task once the current leadership swallow their self-importance and midwife dynamic roles of youth in leadership. Such an intentional act shall reunify the Nation, accommodate young leaders and whisk sustainable development for common good. Think green, act green.

HERE IS WHY KENYA’S ECONOMY IS AT ITS BEST EVER STATE

Dr. Kalua Green 4 June 2022 0

Who is your favorite political leader of all time? Many would say that it is Nelson Mandela because of the role he played in leading South Africa out of the shackles of apartheid. Interestingly, South Africa is not as united as it was when Mandela was President. Today, Julius Malema who was once youth leader in the Africa National Congress leads the Economic Freedom Party. He is now one of the ANC Government’s fiercest critics. Does that mean that that the Foundation Mandela built wasn’t strong enough? The jury is out on that.

For me, Mandela was a great leader for his unique season. He rose to presidency at a time when reconciliation was one of South Africa’s deepest needs. This need couldn’t be met through bravado. He had to bring forth the diplomat in him, which might appear weak to some. However, Mandela was no push over. If anything, he was one of the most resolute leaders. Mandela’s five years of presidency from 1994 to 1999 were characterized by strong economic growth. He achieved this by taking firm decisions like rejecting nationalization, which was the official policy of his party. He also used his famed diplomacy to increase trade opportunities for South Africa.

Great leadership often hinges on firm resolution and commitment to values. Although millions admired the late Tanzanian President John Magufuli, others found his leadership style to be too authoritarian. However, the best way to judge leaders is by interrogating their results. As Jesus said of His followers, you will know them by their fruits.

In May 2016, six months after Magufuli took office, he had already secured a major victory for Dar es Salaam the country’s commercial capital. He launched the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that instantly turned Dar es Salaam into one of the few African Cities with an efficient public transport system. Magufuli went on to achieve a lot more, including streamlining public service delivery and weeding out corruption. He achieved all this through his legendary firm leadership style.

History will be the best judge of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s leadership style. Factually, Kenya’s economy is in its best ever state. In 2021, Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 5%, making Kenya’s economy to be one of Africa’s fastest growing economy. We are now Africa’s sixth strongest economy, only behind Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco. In Sub-Saharan Africa, we are the third strongest economy.

Egypt and Algeria, the third and fourth strongest economies respectively, were led by strong, no-nonsense Presidents for at least two decades. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak was President from 1981 to 2011. In Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika also led for two decades, from 1999 to 2019.

Although an elected Prime Minister leads Morocco, the fifth strongest economy, its King has exclusive authority over the military, religion, and the judiciary. Morocco’s King, Mohammed VI has reigned for 23 years, since 1999. This doesn’t mean that benevolent dictatorship is a prerequisite for economic growth. After all, both Nigeria and South Africa, the two strongest economies are governed through democracies. In South Africa, presidential elections are held every five years while in Nigeria, they are held every four years.

Back to Kenya, the evidence is clear that our economy is doing well even if many people are yet to feel the benefits of this growth political overtones notwithstanding.

What has led to this unprecedented economic growth?

Keith Hansen, World Bank Country Director for Kenya has an answer, “Kenya’s economy has shown considerable resilience to the enormous shock of the pandemic, and this year is expected to post one of the stronger growth rebounds in the region thanks to diversified sources of growth and sound economic policies and management.”

The sound economic policies and management have been led by President Uhuru Kenyatta. There is of course room for improvement, particularly regarding job creation and poverty reduction. This improvement will need strong decisive leadership both at the presidential level and the gubernatorial levels.

At the presidency, I only nudge President Kenyatta to enact the National Climate Change Council for Kenya to strategically face the future with confidence. Think green, act green!

WHY COUNTIES MAY HOLD THE KEY TO KENYA’S ELUSIVE FOOD SECURITY

Dr. Kalua Green 28 May 2022 0

Is it not possible for Kenya to become World’s breadbasket? Indeed, that can only happen if we start producing surplus food. Currently, we are producing less than what we need, we then sell off to buy farm inputs and so we have to import more food. The net effect is that, in 2019, Kenya imported maize worth Ksh4. 2 billion from Tanzania. In 2020, the country faced yet another maize deficit and imported approximately 277,350 tones (3.1 million 90kg bags), mostly from Uganda and Tanzania. This year, the maize deficit is so steep that we are told that Kenya will be forced to import beyond the East African community. Of course, there is an ungodly narrative behind these importations which is a story for a different day.

Indeed, a deliberate food production revolution might just be what Kenya needs to feed all her people, sell surplus food and turbo-charge the economy. After all, Denmark with a population of 5.5 Million people produces food for 100 Million people! They are World’s number one in food industry innovation. The genesis of this revolution is in our mindsets.

Primarily, we must move away from micro-production to macro-production. Smallholder farming in its current state can never deliver surplus food and sustainable profits. We may not be able to do away with small farms but we can do away with smallholder farming mentality and practices. This approach has worked well in Nigeria for a tomato agribusiness.

Tomato Jos is a Nigerian agro-processing company that focuses on local production of high-quality tomato paste for the Nigerian market. Before building a factory for tomato paste production, the company planted high quality tomatoes. They then integrated smallholder farmers into planting such high quality tomatoes. At that juncture, they established a factory for processing the tomatoes into tomato paste. Through this model, smallholder tomato farmers were integrated into a large-scale tomato ecosystem.

If it can happen in Nigeria, it can definitely happen in Kenya. One of our 47 Counties can decide to become a tomato superpower. That County can then enact conducive tomato investment policies and put in place a reliable infrastructure for investors. Such action will attract investors who will set up world-class tomato processing factories like Tomato Jos.

Every County in Kenya can specialize on one or two agricultural products, align their budgets to develop and become the best in producing those products. As I have refereed umpteenth times, Japan took this approach and eventually reaped handsome dividends. In 1979, the late Dr. Morihiko Hiramatsu was Governor of Ōita Prefecture, Japan’s equivalent of a County. He rolled out the ‘One Village One Product’ (OVOP) initiative. In this development model, a village would select a product unique to its region and focus exclusively on producing that product.

This is the model that Kenya’s 47 Counties can follow to detach its citizenry from poverty.

For fifty-three years, I have witnessed my own lovely mother Deborah Kalua farm various crops and keep domestic animals. But she has never made money out of these smallholder farming ventures. Just like millions of Kenyans don’t we owe her a sustainable approach to her agricultural adventure?

With a very tiny population engaged in agriculture, according to Statista the Danish food market in 2022 is worth the equivalent of Kshs 2.3 Trillion. Compare that with Kenya’s 2022 Kshs 3.3 Trillion budget.

According to a report by the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (FAS USDA), Brazil’s food processing sector is worth at least Shs21 Trillion. The sector supports about 36,100 companies, mostly SMEs. In the US itself, the food sector is responsible for 22.2 million full and part-time jobs.

I hereby end with two questions. Are we not part of this global space where we can strategically replicate these food production strategies as the global population inevitably increases?

As we match into the August National elections, can’t we elect hands-on leaders and political parties who understand the effect of Climate Change and can captain an agricultural revolution for common good?  Think green, act green.

WHY WE MUST MANAGE SCRAP METAL TO ROOT OUT ECONOMIC SABOTAGE IN OUR COUNTRY

Dr. Kalua Green 18 May 2022 0

Sisyphus. This name aptly reflects the current state of our economy. According to a Greek tale, Sisyphus was a Greek man who was punished in a most cruel manner. The Greek god zeus punished him to roll a large rock up a hill for eternity. Every time he arrived at the hilltop, the rock would roll back to the base and he would have to roll it up again. This was an exercise in futility.

Sometimes it feels like our economy is doomed to this scenario. After the unprecedented economic growth of former President Mwai Kibaki’s first term, our economy was plunged into the dungeons by the post-election violence.  Since then, it has gone through innumerable twists and turns. Some national factors that seem to be sabotaging the economy silently and incrementally include widespread vandalism. 

Earlier this year on 20th January, President Kenyatta issued a moratorium on the export, buying and selling of scrap metal. The President explained that the moratorium’s goal was to curb increasing vandalism of key installations. This vandalism had adversely affected road barriers, guardrails, utility infrastructure, conductors, cables, copper wife, railway gauge blocks and rails, transformers and other materials.

The President went on to refer to vandalism of such critical installations as ‘nothing less than economic sabotage, which is treasonous.’

Economic sabotage is an act that deliberately undermines a country’s economy. Just as was the case with Sisyphus, economic sabotage keeps pulling down an economy, even when it grows.

Last year on November 22, a train from Mombasa was delayed due to vandalism of the SGR railway line. Such are the seemingly small acts that have the domino effect of sabotaging an economy.

For years, Kenya has been experiencing extensive vandalism on power transmission lines all over the country. This has resulted in economically costly power outages. This came into sharp focus in January this year when the Kiambere-Embakasi high voltage transmission line collapsed, leading to power outage all over Kenya.

It has been verified by Kenya Power that criminals often vandalize the power infrastructure so that they can earn illegally by selling scrap metal or connecting electricity illegally. Indeed, Kenya Power has already incurred losses amounting to more than Sh5.5 million in Murang’a alone due to such vandalism.

In the Central Rift region, Kenya Power is losing over Ksh200 million every month in revenue because of similar challenges. Indeed, Kenya loses billion of shillings annually to the vandalism menace leading to high cost of living, accidents and unnecessary deaths. To add salt to injury the Kenya Power transformer at former President Kibaki’s home was stolen soon after his burial, not to mention the number of vehicles that are regularly stolen from innocent Kenyans only to end up in scrap metal yards.

Of course, the current ban was met with protests by a section of politicians citing losses to business community. Nevertheless, the current efforts by Industrialization ministry and the various stakeholders including the scrap metal council to review guidelines and rules in the industry is a welcome move. Vetting and licensing of players by a multi-agency team at the county level is a good suggested addition to the regulations. The fact that a mandatory record keeping has been introduced and that critical national infrastructure must be sold to Numerical Machining Complex and Kenya Shipyard is a welcome proposed security move. Above all it is ingenious that the team has proposed a self-regulated sector through an association.

In this charged political season, it will be increasingly hard for sane voices to be heard through the political noise. All the more reason why these voices must speak out more. A nation can only be as successful as its leader’s commitment to tackle effects of climate change and foregoing economic disruption.

Have you ever seen a father or mother who undermines the ability of their own households to earn revenue and place food on the table? Kenyans are vigilantly watching to see leaders who will behave in such a manner by condoning economic sabotage in our country. Think green, act green.

Why Kenya’s Political Rhetoric is Causing More Harm Than Good

Dr. Kalua Green 28 August 2021 0

Ferocious political noise rips apart societies and drives away investors. This is what is happening in Kenya today. With elections eleven months away, various political leaders are hurling insults and accusations at each other causing politics to overshadow all else. What they don’t seem to realize is that their ardent supporters habitually follow suit and ultimately split the Nation thereby upsetting service delivery in the Public and Private sectors. This is the exact opposite of the civilized politics that the 2010 constitution envisages.

How To Turn Covid-19 Frustrations Into Entrepreneurial Motivation

Dr. Kalua Green 22 August 2021 1

I was recently having a business lunch when a lady seated near me said with exasperation, ‘If I hear the name Covid one more time, I will scream!’

How We Can Fire the Economic Engine Through Women

Dr. Kalua Green 22 August 2021 0

Recently, I was honored to pay a courtesy call to His Excellency Luke Williams, the Australian High Commissioner to Kenya. We discussed matters of mutual interest including Green Growth and the vast opportunities that both countries present to their people. Because women’s economic empowerment is a critical part of the Green economy, I was electrified to learn about Australia’s passion and record for advancing women’s economic empowerment.

Why We Must Walk or Cycle into Better Health

Dr. Kalua Green 10 August 2021 0

We are living in difficult economic times. In 2020, global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows fell sharply by 35 percent. This was akin to losing just over one third of the water in your tank. If you were using that water for irrigation, at least a third of your crops would potentially wither and die. Decreased investment and the accompanying depressed economy have resulted in a death of jobs across the country.