Industrialization Strategy and Trade Possibilities for Bungoma County
I was opposed to the likes of Aden being made the cabinet secretary for industrialization in Kenya. My argument was very simple; many of the so called professionals are not street smart. They are driven by pipe dreams; they think quantitatively and use models based on principles that are not informed by the reality on the ground. When appointing a leader, it is not about ‘professionalism’ i.e. one who has not engaged in politics but about leadership i.e. one who believes in the people and understands their needs. This is where we went wrong as a country; we cried for professionals (blue eyed whiter collar boys and girls) rather than leaders who had the interests of their people at heart. Martha Karua is a politician but she has the interests of the people at heart; I tend to think. This is why when she was minister of water; she instituted water reforms that revolutionalized the water sector. Charity Ngilu is a politician but she is a leader who cares about the people. When she was minister for health, she instituted measures that made health services more accessible to common folk. In light of the foregoing, I have been wondering whether governor Lusaka the professional was the right choice for Bungoma!
Does My Governor Lusaka have a clear vision in terms of where he wants to get Bungoma County in the remaining 4 years of his tenure as governor? The county budget gaffes proved that Bungoma residents probably made a mistake. The appointment of county executives also revealed that Lusaka may not be that professional after all. The ongoing short listing and likely appointments of Chief Officers and other County workers have only confirmed that Lusaka may not be the professional. Allegations of Nepotism and Political machination, as expected, in the hiring of officer at the county not withstanding, there are fundamental flaws that any professional manager does his best to avoid. Any good manager does not hire any individual whose contribution to the objectives of the organization is null or probably minimal. Strategic hiring requires the alignment of recruitment processes to the strategic goals of the organization. I keep wondering, is there a strategic vision or goal that informs the activities of the Bungoma County Public Service Board? Well, I hear the county strategic plan is still being prepared at the cost of sixteen million shillings. If the county strategic plan is still being prepared, what fundamentals are guiding the hiring process in the county? I believe a Lusaka sympathizer would ask me to consider his manifesto!
The little I know about Lusaka’s Vision for Bungoma is that he is keen to improve the livelihoods of common folk. However, such a vision is an amorphous dream to the extent we are not clear what the nature of improved livelihoods is. To achieve his dream, Lusaka seems to be keen on industrial endeavors in Bungoma. However, I wonder what industrialization strategy has been adopted for Bungoma. Many countries across the world have struggled with these two issues; how to promote trade and how to industrialize. Consequently, there is enough literature and cases to guide Bungoma County as it sets out to become an industrialized county in the country.
Bungoma is a county that is very rich in two resources i.e. agricultural potential and human capital. The experience of the Asian tigers shows that industrialization based on structural transformation in the agricultural sector bears fruits. The Korean experience shows that large scale agricultural production works. Taiwan is a success story due to investment in human capital, import substitution and proper marketing of produce. Are there signs that we have a clear industrialization strategy for Bungoma? Or are we just doing anything and everything as long as we imagine it can be done?
One of the commonly used industrialization strategy is import substitution. If this is our strategy as a county, it would mean that we make it our policy not to buy anything produced elsewhere that we could easily produce. There are arguments against this kind of policy pegged on benefits of a free market economy. However, guided by the comparative advantage theory, we can encourage local manufacturing and consumption. The key guiding principle here is working around our comparative advantage. There are basic commodities like Milk Products, Toiletries, Household Equipment, Match Boxes, bottled water among many others that entrepreneurs in Bungoma can manufacture easily. The County should not invest its meager resources in setting up industries for such but facilitating the setting up of such industries.
Secondly, Bungoma County has a number of industries; key among them Webuye Pan Paper, Kitinda Dairy, Malakisi ginnery and Nzoia Sugar Factory. While the said are national government responsibility, the county government personnel have to work with locals to ensure maximization of value from the operations of the industries. The county government has to work on modalities of ensuring maximum benefits for farmers who sell raw materials to such factories or industries.
The second important industrialization strategy for Bungoma would be the Green revolution approach. Bungoma is endowed agriculturally, thus there is a great need to create linkages between agricultural production and industrialization. However, this does not mean starting all sorts of industries before enhancing agricultural production. The 1st concern of the County should be enhancing productivity in agricultural sectors where really gains are envisaged. Creation of surplus on our farms is critical because it automatically necessitates value addition. Once efforts for enhancing agricultural productivity are combined with efforts to equip farmers with agro-processing technologies, the farmers can easily engage in agro-processing or value addition. To ensure this process is driven by economies of scale, the cooperatives movement has to be stimulated and sustained to ensure farmers form cooperatives that run farms and processing plants.
Industrialization is only possible when there is a ready market for manufactured products. This is the reason why the industries promoted should be those whose products are needed locally and nationally or internationally. Industrialization is Europe was highly promoted by merchants who took products beyond the European market. Rather than spend the little revenue on running industries, let the county government focus on building a market for locally manufactured goods. Let the government leverage willing foreign direct investors and those from the county in the Diaspora to manufacture products that our people need.
To enhance demand for manufactured goods, people need disposable incomes. Working closely with stakeholders, the county government has to promote value addition and entrepreneurship to enhance individual’s disposable incomes. The county government has to roll out training for local entrepreneurs on how to create local demand and how to access foreign markets. Luckily, there are many organizations and national government agencies ready to partner in proactive County Government ventures.