Development is often driven more by leadership and vision than by the resources pumped into programmes.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s approach to resolving development challenges falls in this category.
The “Big Four” deliverables he unveiled during his Jamhuri Day address are more about strategy and less about budgetary allocations.
What will define his legacy is how the four will be implemented and the impact they will have on Kenyans and the economy by the end of his second and final five-year term in 2022.
The solutions proposed to advance the capacity and competitiveness of the manufacturing sector are simple in context and cost, but have a long-term impact on economic and social transformation.
They focus on emerging opportunities in the Blue Economy, leather and textiles, which have the potential to lead the country’s industrial revolution.
The Blue Economy, which covers all the resources in the expansive coastline and inland lakes, has suffered from multiple problems, including stealing of fish from Kenya’s waters by foreign trawlers.
The President has simple solutions to this problem: Get all the pirates out of Kenya’s waters and ensure all the catch is processed before export.
His target is to expand the output of processed fish from 2,500 tons to 18,000 tons a year.
Cracking down on illegal fishing in Kenya’s waters, cleaning up the ocean and enhancing processing before export will improve the value chain in fish and marine products.
It will reduce the export of raw fish, increase manufacturing value addition and enhance the contribution of the sector to exports and the economy.
The Blue Economy also covers inland water resources.
They include Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest fresh water lake, which supports a population of over 30 million in East African Community.
The constraints to the development of the inland water resources are well-documented.
The message is that simple solutions to these problems can increase national output and transform people’s lives through quality jobs and higher incomes.
Similarly, developing leather and textiles can be as simple as correcting errors and fighting bad behaviour.
The leather industry suffers from two chronic problems—the quality of leather and export of raw or semi-processed hides and skins. The problem is that a large number of the cattle slaughtered are scarred by skin diseases and malnutrition.
The result is that Kenya remains in the low quality, low-priced leather market segment. Its competitors such as Ethiopia and India produce high quality leather that commands high prices.
Vaccination and treatment of livestock for common diseases and proper feeding during drought would have a profound impact on the quality and price of leather.
Encouraging leather dealers to expand processing chains would stimulate manufacturing and export of leather products.
This will spur growth in shoe making and encourage manufacturers to move up the value chain to meet the quality standards demanded.
The garments and apparel sector has failed to deepen access to the United States under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (Agoa), which gives preferential access to textile products manufactured in Africa.
The textiles sector has potential for rapid growth to create jobs and wealth.
The challenge to manufacturers is to make high quality shoes, leather and textile products for the local and international markets.
The local market includes lucrative government contracts for supply of shoes and garments to the disciplined forces, which will be reserved for local manufacturers who meet quality standards.
There is potential to transform Kenya from a low to a medium middle-income country. It will determine how soon the envisaged benefits of Vision 2030 will be realised.
Mr Warutere is a director of Mashariki Communications Ltd.[email protected]