Our private sector is detoxing Kenya’s poisoned politics

Friday November 10 2017


Kenya Private Sector Alliance chief executive Carole Kariuki speaks on business and elections at Intercontinental Hotel, Nairobi, on September 7, 2017. Donors, such as the World Bank, see Kepsa as the people who are development-minded. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Organisations that speak with a big voice and carry a small stick, such as the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, cannot remain silent when the country is stuck in an endless election cycle.

Unless something drastic happens, Kenya could be holding elections well past the endpoint for Vision 2030, thus jeopardising all efforts to turn it into a middle-income economy with a good standard of life and predictable politics.

Job applications from the millions of unemployed masses seeking opportunities in the private sector are going to thin down to a trickle as their hopes callous into despair.

The lucky few in employment will be worried sick not knowing if they will be still wanted the following day or not.

Boycotts called to arbitrarily punish companies for not suffering foolish election demands about servers and fattening opponents are a backhanded compliment on the centrality of business in Kenya’s politics.

Finally, the congenital haters of business have come round to acknowledging that they cannot seize, consolidate or exercise power in Kenya without the say-so of Kepsa board members such as Muhoho Kenyatta and chairman Vimal Shah.

Milk, mobile phone airtime and cooking fat are not to be trifled with in an election season.

The boycott targeting Mr Kenyatta’s Brookside Dairies for his kinship with President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Shah’s Bidco Industries and Bobby Collymore’s Safaricom for their chumminess with the government will not set the 203 members against one another.

They will bunch together to resist boycotts as they speak for the 500,000 businesses across the country.

The private sector is the engine of good ideas, having authored the peace that prevailed in the country before, during and after the 2013 General Election.

Such was the brilliance of Kepsa’s peace campaign that donors such as the Danish Development Agency (Danida) and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID) told the privateers not to spend a coin of their legitimate profits on the initiative as they would underwrite it.

Donors, such as the World Bank, see Kepsa as the people who are development-minded, and have been falling over each other to fund the alliance’s activities, including the Kenya Youth Empowerment Project, passing over the litigious militia in the civil society keen to rush to court over everything from the voter register to the turnout.

Kepsa has been so busy that it has not been able to upload its annual reports since 2015.

Its Annual Report for 2014 shows that even when factories are shutting down and business is comatose, the business community has been dutifully paying taxes to buy the maize intravenously fed to looters and demonstrators through the muzzle of the gun.

Kepsa itself should, of course, be tax exempt seeing that it does so much good.

Kenya’s private sector has been generating the wealth fattening the nabobs of devolution — the open mouth that keeps on consuming and never gives back.

Refusing to pay one’s share of value added tax and other levies that fund health and education under the government is the dictionary definition of treason and must be punished as such.

Kepsa members will carry on with business even in the face of the most severe boycotts.

They will continue to stock the supermarkets with their goods and provide services, whether people like it or not. Boycotts are ten times worse than looting.

Already, Kenyans are worried sick about how they will pay school fees come January, when the government waives tuition charges for basic education at primary and secondary level.

Already, crashes in the Nairobi Stock Exchange have significantly reduced the size of the church collections, offertories and tithes, causing clerics to call out in a loud voice for power sharing.

Police should use maximum force on those not consuming their quota.