By Tobias Alando
Any nation’s development heavily relies on the leaders elected by the citizenry. Leadership plays a key role in sustainable economic growth as it involves providing opportunities for growth and progressive developments. Therefore, elections are a key determinant of a country’s social, political and economic performance.
Unfortunately, the campaigns which kicked off several months ago have focused on slogans, political rhetoric and unpractical measures that do not address current realities facing Kenyans. This has been quite disheartening, particularly because political goodwill is essential in ensuring that matters affecting citizens are resolved. Add to this, the disruptions we have dealt with over the last 2 years that continue to strain on our economy. This should not be the case every 5 years when Kenya heads to the ballot.
The Presidential Debates held over the last few weeks were a breath of fresh air for the campaigns. Various political aspirants took to the podium to share their visions and aspirations for Kenyans. It was refreshing to see the shift in the campaign approach from selling the hope of a better future to having socio-economic issues taking centre stage. Following the conversations on various media platforms, one thing was clear – Kenyans had been longing for succinct discussions on the prevailing conditions in the country, by politicians.
Historically, there has been a slowdown in business in an election year in Kenya and 2022 is no different. Currently, the business community, both local and foreign, is witnessing a hesitation or a wait-and-see approach before embarking on new projects or expanding on existing ones. The decision-making process has also stagnated until the new leadership is elected. Even then, the restructuring in government that comes with any election will stall any major moves in the immediate term.
The political pillar of Vision 2030 aspires that Kenya pursues issue-based politics. It envisions a country with a democratic system that reflects the aspirations and expectations of its people. As such, electoral mobilization should centre around aspirants’ manifestos, which should be proof of their mastery of challenges facing the country and how they seek to resolve them.
Even beyond the elections, it is important that political aspirants continue prioritizing citizens’ needs at all levels of engagement. This means increasing focus on the challenges facing us as a nation, which are increasingly becoming a heavy burden to bear, for instance, the skyrocketing cost of living. One of the ways of solving these challenges is to nurture our manufacturing sector and enhance its competitiveness and productivity.
Manufacturing is known world over for generating sustainable, well remunerating decent jobs, improving foreign exchange income, and driving the country’s overall wealth and well-being. The Industrial Revolution, two centuries ago, and the East Asian Miracle of the last three decades have demonstrated the ability of manufacturing to grow incomes, reduce poverty and change the trajectory of nations.
Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), through the Manufacturing Manifesto launched earlier this year has contributed to the national conversation on the economic choices that will face the incoming government. Driven by patriotism and a long-term interest in the future and prosperity of our nation, the Manifesto gives a unique view of the issues borne out of years of experience in the market and engagement with stakeholders.
Our Manifesto presents policy proposals to enable the new administration at all levels of leadership, to ensure Kenya’s economic and social goals are attained. These include resolving macroeconomic issues grappling the country, raising the export intensity of manufacturing, reducing the regulatory burden, raising investment for industry, providing public goods for manufacturing, driving counties’ industrial competitiveness, putting in place an effective and pro-industry taxation structure and fully implementing existing manufacturing-centric policies.
We remain optimistic that Kenya will be a better place for citizens after the elections. It is our hope that we will be able to go back to business, keep our economy moving forward and build our nation.
The writer is the Ag. Chief Executive of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.