Category: Economy

Subsistence farming is the cause of all our problems

If you watched Johannes, the World Bank Country head’s press conference on Friday, you should be worried. The Bank is worried that the declining food productivity especially maize will lead to severe food insecurity in the country. There are signs that we may not get sufficient rainfalls next year. This is no longer a surprise since the drought cycle in Kenya is four years.

Subsistence farming is the cause of all our problems. The solution is that we must reduce those we call farmers from 80% to less than 5% and increase manufacturing from its current contribution to GDP of 11% to more than 40%. We must move to large scale and mechanized farming in order to significantly improve on our productivity.

To achieve this, we must address land use in this country but we have decided to bury our heads in the sand on the issue of land. The problem is not in the distribution of it or the size one owns but in land use. It is far much easier to tax the Delameres for not utilizing the land than resettling 10,000 people on the land on the basis of ensuring equitable distribution of land. There is no country that has developed with majority of its people spread throughout the country in what they call Home Square.

There are more than 70 million people living in England which is the size of Nyanza. In Kenya, 20% of land is arable and can be used without reliance on irrigation. This is far bigger space than England but due to our primitive sub-division of the land, we are not able to use the land productively.

In Kisii, which is the most fertile land in Kenya, average land size has dropped to less than two acres. Some “farmers” grow less than 100 stalks of maize. Clearly we are creating problems as we see crime soaring.

As Johannes concluded, we must scale up our manufacturing. This will enable us to rapidly urbanize and hopefully leave land for farming. Manufacturing opportunities in Kenya are enormous with insatiable market around us. Can we for once wake up and try exploiting these opportunities? I shall be the first one to contribute Ksh. 100,000 as capital for those willing to mobilize resources and take the risk of venturing into manufacturing, either in light electronics or in value added services to our agricultural products.

There is a body of knowledge that will help us minimize the risk. I know for example, if we met the standards of potatoes we consume at KFC, we can begin to compete with Egypt and Brazil. This also provides us with the opportunity to develop standards apps and further expand job opportunities.

It is my prayer that this time round we go past palaver and do something not just for us, but for the country.

Image source: Sagarkatdare

It’s due time for our Industrial Revolution

A total of 81 million manufacturing jobs are to move out of China in the next few years.  Some jobs are moving back to the US and some are finding their way into emerging economies.

In the past few weeks since the ground breaking ceremony at Konza, I have met with six manufacturing outfits that are considering Africa as their new manufacturing destination. Two are well known chipset manufacturers. Read more

Developing a Knowledge Economy

Yes there are four different Transnational Operators wanting to be in Mombasa. It could be related to the interest in building mega data centers here. These are possibly trying to entice content aggregators to have their point of presence here. There will be some positive to this considering the fact that we get the opportunity to develop capacity (improved real employment opportunities), significantly develop our energy sector and possibly drastically reduce cost of connectivity.

My frustration has been how we get our people to begin working on local content. We do not need cloud for content like Sesame Street when we can create local edutainment from local resources. Remember the local content you develop here is good for any African Country. If we automated our Government records, we shall have the chance to replicate the processes in 50 other countries. We shall get to my bet subject of intra-Africa Trade.
Check this blog and know where the future lies:
After my trip to IGF in Baku, I passed through London at the invitation of the John D. and Catherine T. MacAthur Foundation to join a multidisciplinary Research Network of thinkers and doers on “Opening Government” to analyze and realize the potential impact of technology on democratic institutions, specifically how we can use technology to create more collaborative ways of governing to solve the world’s hardest problems.

There were about 40 Professors meeting at 10 Downing Street. They were mostly from top Universities in the World. Some of the MIT and Stanford researchers have research going on in Kenya or planning to be in Nairobi for collaboration. Most of them mentioned Kenya as an emerging IT destination and hoped we can sustain the innovative capacity.
I realized that we must create an ecosystem that brings together researchers, government and developers together if indeed we want to sustain this innovative capacity. Most of our Universities have become teaching institutions that must now move to research. The real-time data most developers have been wanting must be data from research activities and some from institutions.
For example, any hospital must have its capacity data out there. We need to know which hospitals have Neuro-Surgeons, Cardiologists, Oncologists etc. What equipment is available in these institutions, capability of the labs etc. This is all knowledge such that if I have a heart attack patient I know where to get help instead of trial and error, and as you know Kenyans do not volunteer to say they have no capacity. This is what a knowledge society looks like.
One of the Professors presented life data from a mobile phone gathering data in a Central American country. Simple analytic on the data shows that teachers go to their respective schools for less than two days a week. These are some of the worst performing schools. There was a high correlation of poor performance and affiliation to Unions. Does this resonate with Kenya? Thought so!
Change is in our hands but we must begin to exercise our responsibility to change our country for the better.

Image Source: Relativity Online

Making Sense of our Development Agenda

Page 19 of the Star of Thursday, October 11th, carried a story on Water Hyacinth titled “Water hyacinth project threatened by court order”. This is apparently a donor funded project in its phase two under Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project (LVEMP).

LVEMP II is an eight-year US$254 million (Ksh. 2.1 billion) old regional project being implemented in the five East African Community partner states says the article. Objectives of the project include: improving “collaborative management of trans-boundary natural resources of Lake Victoria basin” as well as “reduce environmental stress in the targeted pollution hot-spots and selected degraded sub-catchment areas as a way of improving the livelihoods of communities who depend on the lake basin’s resources”.

One will hope that the project is supposed to physically remove water hyacinth from the lake to enable the people access the resources from the lake. However, in the past eight years the spread of this water menace has more than tripled and this is what prompted me we to re-examine the objectives as stated. If these objectives were to be re-stated in simplified English, the real meaning could be to help citizens of East Africa understand how to collaborate and manage their resources as well as reduce their stress. The project therefore has nothing to do with water hyacinth and hence the reason why the people are fighting over it.

If the donor language were to be simpler, they would have thought about project sustainability in which case we did not need all the resources that is at the disposal of the fighting citizens. In my view we needed only US$50 (US$10 million for each country) to set up an organic fertilizer factory. Hyacinth has been found to be a good ingredient for organic fertilizer. Just recently I wrote a blog how soil nutrients have been depleted in densely populated districts with excessive land sub-divisions. Studies also show productivity levels dropping significantly that our food security and safety is at its worst threat.

Further, chemical fertilizer may be poisoning our ground water and may be likely the cause of increased cancer cases in the region. There is greater urgency than ever before that we exploit every opportunity for developing organic fertilizer like hyacinth that would improve on productivity, ensure sustainable development and reduce its impact on our water resources. Our problems would only be solved by us and as such foreign interventions will not always be a universal remedy to our predicament.

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