LABOUR DAY CELEBRATIONS AND THE CHALLENGES KENYA MUST OVERCOME


To observe an international day and labour for that matter is a great honour for the many dexterous workers who make economies tick. Kenya being part of comity of nations we honour the day with the usual pomp and fanfare. Moreover observing happenings over time the day has its own pains to release and to cry for attention. Long time ago as a pupil in a primary school during the Moi regime we would be at home planting trees in such a day with the nudging of Moi himself and his government apparatus. The habit died with time and the day today  is synonymous with crying for more wages and attention to high cost of living. A bigger problem facing Kenya as rightly articulated by current President Uluru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto is the unemployment crisis facing Kenya which needs intervention of creating more jobs.
A combination of rising cost of living and unemployment is quite lethal for any country. Peering at demographics of this country just like her East African and many countries in Sub Saharan Africa will have a significant rise in population. Studying births and improvements in health care we will enjoy a population boom. A big population is an economic boom if utilized well the way China has been trying to do. In the next few years China, India and Brazil bar making any serious mistakes, will be some of the greatest destinations for investment capital. Consider China or India having a middle class well over half a billion people in the next few years. That is bigger in numbers than   the middle class in some continents or in large markets like European Union and certainly larger than the US one. With incomes rising on average, any good investor would be keen to have a foothold in such. It is already happening. If I look at some of the top recruitment strategies in global companies like Google, Microsoft and Pepsi (and probably Facebook by marriage) it signals something. Many of big manufacturers are particularly keen on China and India market. The said countries have issues still to address which do include income inequalities but their large population is proving to be a blessing. But the challenge comes if your country has a large poor and growing population and this is one big headache for current and future Kenyan governments.
Some of the problems we have need to be contained immediately. One of this as aforementioned is the huge unemployment menace especially amongst the youth. This group can turn into a big problem. Their swelling numbers and their attendant social problem will likely end up as a political crisis. Idle minds are a risk and whatever we can do must be done. There are several areas in the economy that we need to fix as soon as possible. Some of the sectors have high propensity to absorb as many employees of different cadre. No sector should ever be ignored as we certainly need a balanced economy. Nonetheless there are some which need all the quick wins possible as they quickly absorb employees of all type of skills and in large numbers. If you look at USA one of the areas that have brought plenty of issues hence spilling into politics in a ruthless way has been manufacturing. We do also have an issue with this sector that we have become heavily dependent on importation even of products we could do well manufacture here.
I do pin point sectors like manufacturing, Tourism and Information Communication Technology (ICT) as areas that need some quick wins intervention to pull in as many people from idleness and desperation. It is no secret that manufacturing has to work as substitution for many imports and also to add value to many raw products that we export. This sector alone quickly absorbs skilled and many semi-skilled and  unskilled labour. The same for tourism if you consider direct absorption and the many included in the supply chains and services associated with it. For ICT a lot of future is here. There are a lot of services and products to emerge from this and beauty is some of the people can work at home and can serve a global market while in Kenya (check India ICT progress so far).   For ICT the availability of power (electricity) and cheap Internet cost is a must. This does not mean neglect of areas like Agriculture which needs to tick as we have to provide food and export produce in significant quantities, Financial services, Oil and Minerals, Construction, Wholesaling and Retail etc. All I’m pointing out is there are areas we could have quick wins and long term policy interventions  to pull in as many workers as quickly as  possible  and others which of necessity must also be in very  good shape if we  have to secure Kenya.
Harrison  Mwirigi  Ikunda
Nairobi
The Writer is a Researcher and Consultant.

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