Countries that are flourishing have set focus on; building infrastructure, education and training, healthcare, innovation and technology and business sophistication among others.
By THRITY ENGINEER-MBUTHIA
Experts see economic growth as ‘the increase in market value of goods and services produced by citizens in a country.’ It is the process where a country goes through a change that positively impacts the citizens. As a result, there is prosperity that leads to better disposable incomes and living conditions, business growth and long run profitability.
Contrary, economists will probably say that this definition is simplistic in nature. Economic growth is impacted by complex factors like a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), inflation, standards of living and taxation.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Index Report of 2017 – 2018, “governments, businesses and individuals are experiencing high levels of uncertainty” due to changes in technology and other macro factors. Richard Samans, Head of the Global Agenda explains that “economic growth is important for human welfare. He emphasises that the end goal of economic growth is to ensure ‘sustainable and equitable welfare for the population of a country.”
The index, which reviews competitiveness of countries worldwide and pinpoints the factors that lead to prosperity and productivity, shows Kenya at position 91 out of 137 countries. Countries like Switzerland, United States and Singapore are top on the list. What do these countries have that Kenya can learn from, and which would allow the country to prosper?
Countries that are flourishing have set focus on building infrastructure, education and training, healthcare, innovation and technology and business sophistication among others.
The Business Facilitation Program by UNCTAD showcases investment opportunities in Kenya, and focuses on infrastructure that have been driven by capital intensive projects like Standard Gauge Railway, superhighways, affordable housing projects and positioning the country as the destination for tourism and conferencing.
Opportunities for those in events, conferencing and cultural knowledge combined with hospitality are also growing. As much as some of the larger projects call for public private partnerships, one of the things Kenyans need to consider is how to tap into opportunities at grassroots level. With an increase in tourist numbers and more focus on hospitality, the agricultural sector then becomes key. This is the ability to produce more food at a faster rate, with a higher probability of success combined with improved roads and transportation options to ensure fresh produce gets to market on time. This also requires elimination of wastage using knowledge, skills and benefits of technology.
Education and training
The government should focus on up-skilling the citizens who will then be able to engage in value adding activities. There are many programs – some run by the government, some donor funded and some paid for, which teach technical skills. For example, there is a growing interest in farming but not everyone may have the knowledge of say, dairy farming and so information and experience sharing becomes important. In today’s world, you do not have to wait for someone to teach you. A lot of information is available on the Internet, and whereas it is not a complete substitute for practical experience, it is certainly a start. Another great place for information is social media, where a lot of people are willing to help each other succeed. There is need to encourage citizens to relook at education not as a way of passing exams and getting good grades but rather on learning. This will allow people to apply what they have learnt and get outcomes.
A healthy nation is a wealthy nation. A focus on health care for individuals means a population that can work and earn a livelihood for themselves and their families. It also means opportunities to provide updated modern health care services. Currently, there are many private facilities that have come up to address the need for health care. What these facilities have not been able to do, is address the health care needs of the lower socio-economic levels of society. Granted that there is an expectation that government run facilities and hospitals should be able to provide this care, the situation on the ground is dire. Could there be more opportunities for public private partnerships to ensure that some of the institutions are upgraded and able to meet the demands of the population?
Innovation and technology has been the fastest growing field in Kenya in the last couple of years. From money transfer options like Mpesa that offer convenience to mobile applications that allow online purchases, huge changes in distribution of goods and services have now become reality.
The Global Competitive Index Report highlights that there are many factors that negatively impact businesses in Kenya, including corruption, access to financing and high tax rates. Despite this, as the citizens of the country wait for government intervention and policies to change, it is time for each one of us to lead the change in our own small way. Together we can make an impact and allow Kenya to prosper and take its place on the global stage as a country that is flourishing and improving the lives of everyone within its borders. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Don’t wait for the right opportunity: Create it.”
Thrity Engineer-Mbuthia is part of the adjunct faculty at Strathmore University Business School. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org