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.

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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