A country that is able to cushion its economy and guard its labour force during a crisis presents a benchmark for many other economies to emulate.
A crisis may manifest itself in various forms including; financial, health, social or technological. These have the ability to influence the economic growth of any country and trickle down on the security of its workforce.
Looking through some major global crises, one would identify the Great Recession (2008) as probably one of the most impactful financial crises to be experienced. In fact, some scholars and economists paint it as the worst global economic downtime since the 1930s. A Britannica article on Global Economics: Financial crisis of 2007–08 indicates that the recession was caused by a severe contraction of liquidity in global financial markets, that originated in the United States as a result of the collapse of their housing market. It further indicates that the recession devastated world financial markets, as well as the banking sector, resulting in losses in life savings, jobs and homes across the world.
And even though the US and other global financial markets were able to bounce back, the labour force at the time was highly affected. A Journal on The U.S. Labor Market During and After the Great Recession on the National Center for Biotechnology Information highlights that during the crisis, the number of jobs declined by about 6 per cent. Over 30 million individuals lost their jobs, and the rate of long-term unemployment doubled.
The global health crisis that we are currently going through can be described as pernicious. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time. However, it is more than a health crisis: it has the potential to create a devastating socio-economic crisis.
Countries continue to strain to find effective ways to ensure that their workforce and economies remain sustained during this time. Globally, the World Health Organization has placed guidelines, including working from home and operational standards, to ensure that even as people continue to work, they are observing safety.
The manufacturing sector in Kenya, for many years, has been an epitome of job provision. Even at this particular time, the strength of the sector to provide and sustain jobs has been demonstrated by the increased innovations and strategies adopted to ensure that there is a continuous supply of not only essential goods but also Protective Personal Equipment (PPEs). In fact, some manufacturers have changed their production lines to produce surgical face masks, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and non-pharmaceutical supplies.
The government efforts also to cushion the sector and the economy, cannot go unnoticed. And through the President’s recently launched National Hygiene Program, which is set to employ over 20, 000 people in the production on PPEs, the government is not only opening up more employment opportunities but is also solidifying that our local capacity to manufacture and produce for the local market, is sufficient.
But it is our rebound strategy as a country that we should look into with more optimism, particularly in growing manufacturing and employment opportunities. The innovations and inventions by industry are a clear insight into the underutilized capacity of the sector.
The government should continue to provide support to industry and open up more opportunities for innovative products and services. The strategy should focus on mechanisms that support import substitution, growing exports and exploring new markets for local products.
This will not only boost our income as a country, but it will also provide an opportunity for continuous growth, production of goods that meet international standards and most importantly, it will increase our ability to create jobs for the Kenyas.