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.