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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mr. President – Please Industrialize Kenya!

Mr. President, with due respect sir, you cannot create 6 million jobs, but you can create an industrial revolution that will supply Kenyans with jobs for a generation. We already have the basic infrastructure in place to ensure that Kenyans can be gainfully employed into the foreseeable future. All we need is a strategy.

Mr. President you are a politician and you need votes to stay in office and so naturally, you make job creation your first priority. I can understand that. But Sir is giving people jobs sustainable? In your letter (The STAR on Monday), you quoted job creation figures that hardly surpassed several thousand. However, as a nation we need millions of Jobs. One version of a Chinese fishing proverb says, "give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, however, if you teach a man to fish and you will feed a family for a lifetime". Give Kenyans jobs and you will feed them for your term in office. However, should you train them to create jobs, they will feed themselves for a generation.

Your Excellency, the government has done a great deal to educate, train and prepare youth for employment. The middle level colleges that used to train youth for enterprise have been turned into universities. Perhaps it is time to review the strategy of preparing the youth for non-existent employment by taking a fresh angle to the challenge. We need a strategy that will embed industrialization into the DNA of the Kenyan economy.  Please allow me to share with you just three strategies that will help create an industrialized nation in just one generation. As you wrote we can learn from others, but our strategy must be unique to our circumstances.

County strategy

We have been gifted with 47 governance zones under a new constitution. These counties can form the basis of industry creation by spreading industries right across the nation. With a "One County, One Product" strategy each county can identify one product they will produce in the county and develop expertise to deliver to the nation and the globe. A national coordination team can be set up to coordinate this initiative so that counties do not engage in destructive competition. Alongside the major county product, each county can select a secondary product with which they can collaborate with another county to develop and market regionally. These industrial zones can reflect kibbutz in Israel. The beauty with this strategy is that each county has a unique profile. In addition industrialization will immediately spread across the whole country and need not be centered in the "industrial areas" of cities. The national office can attach industrial advisors to each county to help steer industrialization initiatives and facilitate global marketing campaigns. The country will have an automatic product portfolio of 47 products.

Turn universities into industries!

There are over 60 universities in our country. Despite the production of high end education graduates, they send out personnel into a non-existent labor market. Instead of sending out unemployable graduates let us turn these universities into industries. Allow me to illustrate my point. The story is told of a chicken thief who did not steal for money or to get rich. He stole because of a craving he had for eating chicken. He engaged in this practice every weekend. On one occasion a friend of his found him eating a chicken and advised the thief to raise his own chicken. The thief told his friend that he had no time to raise chicken, but before his friend let he asked his friend if he knew what the farmers did with those "brown and white" balls that the chicken were always sitting on.

Universities produce employees, but are sitting on huge capacity to produce entrepreneurs. Realizing that potential will require a little creativity, but first we must make sense of the university graduate output. We need to match graduate production to national needs otherwise, we literally aggravate the unemployment situation with every graduation ceremony. Again the national industrialization coordination team can conduct continuous research to advise universities and professional sector graduate production quotas that will drive industrialization.

While universities have proved their competence to produce potential employees, they have been somehow unable to produce research and enterprise value. By attaching each university to a county to aid in productive research for county development and engage both private and public companies to develop products, services, innovations, and provide specialized labor for specific industries universities can become production houses. Unless universities engage with industries, they will remain white elephants. Unfortunately, we have closed down our middle level colleges that used to provide this engagement with industry. Let universities create, invent register and sell patents. Let universities engage industries and actively participate in the  development of this country from developing sidewalks to creating industry software to developing solar panels for energy generation. Nevertheless, to do these things universities may need CEOs who can make money from the knowledge the institutions produce. Just as doctors no longer make the best hospital CEOs.

Kenya School of Industrialization & Enterprise  

The final strategy is a tried and tested approach Kenya has used with to great effect. Open the Kenya Industrialization & Enterprise College. It is no secret that Kenya's achievements in Tourism has been successfully served for a long time by Utalii College. Utalii has provided hands on skills to a generation of hotel industry employees and entrepreneurs.  Graduates leave complete with hotel experience! By opening a college dedicated to Industrialization, we will harness the strategy used by Demming to create an industrial quality revolution in Japan after the second world war that is still serving that country well to date. The school of industrialization will have one mandate - to produce entrepreneurs and  industrialists who will not look for jobs but create jobs! Banks can latch onto this development by developing and availing venture capital products to fund graduating entrepreneurs and found industries.

Allan Bukusi





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