Economy, News

This is How Kenya Can Follow in Dubai’s Footsteps

My fam­i­ly and I were thrilled to the core while enjoy­ing every dra­mat­ic moment as our dri­ver recent­ly nav­i­gat­ed the gold­en dunes of Dubai’s Ara­bi­an Desert.

Dubai is so orga­nized and inno­v­a­tive that it has been able to trans­form its three major resources of the Sun, Sand(desert) and Sea into mind bog­gling reli­able rev­enue streams. Con­se­quent­ly, Dubai now earns mil­lions of dol­lars every year from desert safari tourists among oth­er activ­i­ties that are not oil relat­ed. As I rode through the sear­ing heat and gold­en dunes of the Ara­bi­an desert, it occurred to me that Kenya’s vast semi-arid north­ern region can actu­al­ly be a tourist mag­net, just like the Ara­bi­an desert.

Dur­ing our stay, we strolled into the most famous Star­bucks cof­fee shop for what proved to be most mem­o­rable expe­ri­ence ever. The barista at the Dubai mall shocked me when he told me with a big smile that they had some spe­cial cof­fee known as Ukam­bani cof­fee. It was going for Kshs 1,125 a cup! Although I thought that the price was rather steep, I hap­pi­ly bought it beam­ing with pride that Ukam­bani cof­fee was a hot com­mod­i­ty internationally.

Most Kenyans are unaware that there are thou­sands of cof­fee farm­ers in Ukam­bani. They are scat­tered across Makueni and Machakos with a few also based in Kitui. Grow­ing up in Kitui, our neigh­bor Thya­ka wa Musuu used to grow cof­fee. Painful­ly, a com­bi­na­tion of errat­ic rain­fall and errat­ic pay­ments even­tu­al­ly halt­ed his cof­fee ven­ture. The apt­ly named Ukam­bani Cof­fee that I bought is evi­dence to the fact that low­er east­ern Kenya can earn sub­stan­tial­ly more from cof­fee and oth­er cash crops.

Over the years, Dubai’s vibrant econ­o­my cre­at­ed so many jobs that they exceed­ed the capac­i­ty of the City’s three mil­lion local peo­ple to han­dle them. Con­se­quent­ly, eighty per­cent of Dubai’s pop­u­la­tion com­pris­es of a dynam­ic expa­tri­ate com­mu­ni­ty that is drawn from all over the world.

Kenya has reached a cross­roads now. Are we going to go the Dubai way of mak­ing the most of what we have or are we going to remain stag­nat­ed in the same place, seem­ing­ly unable to tack­le our prob­lems and nev­er advanc­ing? The main dif­fer­ence between Dubai and Kenya is not oil or sky­scrap­ers. It is leadership.

Dubai’s leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Mak­toum once said that ‘Dubai will nev­er set­tle for any­thing less than first place.’ Over the years, he has pro­vid­ed lead­er­ship that has enabled Dubai to occu­py first place in many respects. Not only does Dubai have the world’s tallest build­ing in Burj Khal­i­fa, it also hosts Dubai Mall, the world’s largest mall that mea­sures the equiv­a­lent of more than 50 soc­cer fields.

Last year, Emi­rates Air­line announced a prof­it of Shs50 bil­lion. This was the 32nd con­sec­u­tive year of prof­it, which has made Emi­rates to be one of the lead­ing glob­al air­lines. Aston­ish­ing­ly, in 1985 the air­line start­ed by leas­ing only two planes from Pak­istani Air­lines. Today with 263 air­crafts, they oper­ate the World’s largest air fleet. The Emi­rati gov­ern­ment is direct­ly respon­si­ble for this suc­cess because Emi­rates is a State-owned company.

Each of our 47 Coun­ties should also com­mit to set­tling for noth­ing but the best. As we approach the 2022 Gen­er­al Elec­tions, Kenyans have a chance to audit not just per­for­mance but vision. Vision­ary lead­ers shun con­stant pol­i­tick­ing for con­stant strate­gic action. When they do that, the fruits of their lead­er­ship become evi­dent. Can you envis­age Kisii coun­ty prac­ti­cal­ly diver­si­fy­ing their soap­stone to enter into the build indus­try to cre­ate san­i­tary­ware whose glob­al mar­ket is pro­ject­ed to be $13,616 Mil­lion by 2025?

Our Coun­ties can­not cre­ate thou­sands of new, decent jobs if they don’t attract dozens of new local and inter­na­tion­al investors. These investors don’t just come auto­mat­i­cal­ly. They must be enticed and facil­i­tat­ed on a con­stant basis. It is said that every local per­son in Dubai earns a min­i­mum of Kshs 1M sup­port from the Gov­ern­ment on a month­ly basis. I have no doubt that with vision­ary lead­ers we can trans­form our econ­o­my to such lev­els once we think and act green.

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About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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