Technology key to the future of manufacturing

By Tobias Alando

Current technological advances are creating a new automated age, with recent developments in robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. In order to make proper decision making, investors are now, more than ever, seeking up to date information needed to map out areas of investments, and to businesses, the potential sectors in which they can scale into.

Technological developments have changed the way in which the global market is operating, which means that Kenya, more so the manufacturing sector has to keep up with these trends, in order to attain its contribution of 15% to the economy, as outlined in the Vision 2030.

Kenya is considered the leading technology and innovation hub in Africa. The development of a large-scale telecommunications infrastructure in Kenya, capable of delivering efficient and affordable info-communications services is recognized as a critical prerequisite for the country’s economic growth. The availability of such infrastructure is the first step towards competing in the global market. The second step is creating an environment in which our businesses can now integrate and keep up with these technological advancements, in order to understand the new market dynamics, needs of our customers, and increased capability to compete locally and in the regional markets.

Kenya’s integration of technology has moved a notch higher. The government has been keen on streamlining its operations, which has seen some of its services being automated, and accessible to the public. Case and point is the recent launch of the National E-Trade Portal, which seeks to provide traders with the necessary rules and procedures on importing and exporting through the help of the National Trade Negotiations Council (NTNC). In addition, the launch of the Integrated Devolution Data Portal for information sharing between County Governments, Constitutional Implementation Bodies, the public and other stakeholders providing a unified space for users to easily identify, retrieve and use devolution information.

World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2018 ranked Kenya position 80 in 2017 moving 12 places up from 2016 attributed to, among other business reforms, payment of taxes and trading across borders.

Business reforms on trading across borders are attributed to the integration of technology in the day-to-day activities, ranging from the Single Window System, which allows for the electronic submission of custom entries, as well as the electronic cargo tracking system, which is linked to Kenya Revenue Authority for customs clearance.

On the other hand, an improvement in the payment of taxes is attributed to enhancement of the electronic filing systems.

Such investments are critical in attracting local and foreign investors into venturing in our vast markets. In order to achieve Kenya’s economic goals towards Vision 2030, it is prudent that we integrated the use of technology in the manufacturing sector. It is for this reason that the Association launched a centralized business information portal for manufacturers, to increase the sector’s investment competitiveness by providing necessary information for investment. The portal seeks to provide business information to manufacturers and other key stakeholders on areas such as legal and policy environment and matters that affect Kenyan, East African Community (EAC) and other manufacturers; economic, industrial and trade statistics relevant to the local manufacturing sector and its sub sectors; business prospects in Kenya and EAC for sourcing and supply markets; and information that is relevant to Kenyan manufacturers from a regional perspective.

The ability to increase Kenya’s investment opportunities, through this portal, is demonstrated by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). CII is India’s business membership organization for manufacturers, which, through its centralized business information portal, has grown its manufacturing sector by providing its stakeholders with relevant trade information ranging from policy trackers to government notifications. The Confederation of Indian Industries, through its Global B2B ecommerce market place, has also registered over 35, 000 international buyers, showcasing new trade opportunities for its businesses in the country as well as around the world.

Therefore, the availability of such data in Kenya for local and foreign investors is crucial, as it will provide linkages as well as an understanding of the industry. This will grow the competitiveness of locally made products, regionally and internationally, and ultimately, improve the ease of doing business in the country.

Our sustainability and self-reliance as a nation is only guaranteed through our capacity to be a competitive economy on a global scale, and the use of technology will play a critical role in growing our economy.

The writer is the Head of Membership at Kenya Association of Manufacturers. He can be reached at 

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