Manufacturing: The next 60 years of Kenya’s development 

By Phyllis Wakiaga

Among policymakers and scholars across the globe, a robust manufacturing sector is broadly understood as a fundamental path to economic growth and development. The most recent illustration is the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in March last year, a single market for goods and services in Africa that aims to unlock manu­facturing potential and facilitate industrialization thereby driving sustainable growth and jobs among other objectives.

A strong manufacturing base for any economy is increasingly becoming the foundation upon which long-lasting economic frameworks are made. Very few developed economies around the world can speak of their growth success without attributing it largely to their manufacturing sector.

It is no surprise therefore that the President saw it fit to ensure that manufacturing was one of the key pillars in the government’s Big 4 Agenda. This is because Manufacturing plays a prominent role in any country’s economic development made evident by how industrial growth positively affects the overall GDP and productivity of any nation. A strong manufacturing base will support the thriving of the other three pillars in the Big 4 Agenda and build the capacity for the country to withstand global market whims.

Manufacturing activities promote development in that they boost the value generated in an economy by creating activity further along value chain from raw materials to finished products. In Kenya, the story of Manufacturing has unfolded vis-à-vis the country’s growth, accomplishments and resilience. It is through manufacturing that Kenya has made its mark in the world and risen into a regional beacon.

For 60 years, Kenya has grown in leaps and bounds politically, socially and economically. For those 60 years the manufacturing sector has been at the center of catalyzing this growth and shaping the Nation’s economic progress.Since before independence, manufacturing has provided productive jobs that have, in turn, provided security and stability for many Kenyan families. The sector has steered the development of infrastructure that has consequently opened and connected diverse societies to trade and interact with each other. Subsequently, this has led to Kenya’s long-standing reputation as a preferred investment destination in Africa.

Through this period, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has been front and centre in driving fact-based policy advocacy towards the formation of industrial policies to strengthen and support the country’s economic development.

Kenya is predominantly an agricultural country with an economy based on the production and export of primary agricultural products. Having consistently remained the top most economic support system for the country for many years, agriculture’s productivity remains rooted in the manufacturing sector’s ability to augment suppliers and businesses in value chains mainly through backward and forward integration.

It is therefore important to look at the next 60 years in terms of increasing value addition for our exports and addressing global market expansion supported by nurturing relevant fiscal policies. In so doing, Kenya can continue to multiply revenue streams for its economy and propagate shared prosperity for all citizens.

To mark 60 years of existence, KAM in partnership with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives as well as Brand Kenya has organized a five day festival to be held from 3rdto 6thof April at Kasarani in Nairobi.  The essence is to celebrate the advancement of locally made products and highlight their global positioning by showcasing them to the general public.

With continued automation and use of data manufacturing, the next 60 years promise to be the future of Kenya with continued investment and deliberate growth of the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing will therefore be central to Kenya’s ability to meet its development goals.

The Writer is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the UN Global Compact Representative for Kenya. She can be reached at

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