Everyone seems to be talking about Uhuru’s Big Four Pillars? Many who speak on this are confused about what they are and what they aim to achieve. Others are downright skeptical.
What Are These Big Four Pillars?
On Jamhuri day, 12th December of 2017, President Uhuru rolled out his plan for what he called the Big Four Agenda.
These are four major areas which the Jubilee Government decided to dedicate significant time and energy in an effort of revamping the economy and improving the ordinary mwananchi’s life.
The four areas/ pillars include:
- Affordable healthcare.
- Affordable housing.
- Food security
At first, these seem like impossible goals for Kenya. However, at a second glance, these pillars offer a promising glimmer of hope for some light at the end of Kenya’s dark economic tunnel.
Oscar Wilde once said, “The value of an idea has nothing whatsoever to do with the sincerity of the man who expresses it.”
So, for a moment, let us forget the history of our government and our politicians and let us look at these ideas, let us analyze their value.
“A jobless Kenyan is a desperate Kenyan.”
The goal of this pillar is basically to expand Kenya’s manufacturing industry. Utilization of the numerous natural resources available in the country, bringing about transparency in our industries, and to creating thousands of jobs.
During his speech, the president noted that it is not that we can’t; it is not that we do not have the raw materials; it is only that we do not believe in ourselves. “Lazima Tujiamini.” He emphasized.
Trust me, Kenyans, shifting our mentality as Kenyans to believe in our own is arguably the biggest challenge the manufacturing pillar will face. Here is an example; ladies reading this, I am going to pose a question.
How many of you who have natural hair use Marini Naturals?
I mean, this is a Kenyan product, locally made and reviews say it is good. But if someone was to ask for a recommendation, how many of you would instantly say Marini instead of some imported gel?
- i) Blue Economy.
The first sub-sector under the manufacturing pillar.
Statistics state that Kenya has 400km of coastline. Togo has only 56km of coastline. In 2015, Togo produced 16,266 tonnes of fish while Kenya produced just 9,299 tonnes.
Kenya has a share in the second largest freshwater lake in the world. Not Africa, the world. When you look at these statistics something crystallizes, the idea of the blue economy has a lot of potential!
The president gave some directives concerning the blue economy.
- The ministry of Defense and Agriculture should immediately begin intercepting illegal fishing vessels and punish them adequately.
- All foreign boats with the required licenses should land their catch in Kenya so that Kenyans can do the cleaning and packaging of the fish.
- Equipment for fishing along Kenya’s rich coastline should be made available to locals.
The goal of growing the blue economy is to expand fishing from the current 2500 metric tonnes to 18,000 metric tonnes.
The FAO indicates that there are approximately 80,000 fishermen in Kenya at the moment. That means that if the blue economy were to grow to the level expected, the number of fishermen required would not only double, it would probably triple. Tens of thousands of jobs created.
The sole beneficiary being the ordinary citizen. Citizens in coastal regions like Migingo, Mbita, Faza, Chale, and Vanga would reap the benefits.
In the world’s cattle population index, Kenya has the 17th largest herd in the world and fourth largest in Africa. But on a yearly basis, Kenya imports 30 million pairs of shoes.
You think about it and realize Kenya has enough leather and hide to make all these shoes and then some. Plus, Kenyan leather is legit! it is not China plastic that breaks down every few months, or even Turkey leather, it is better and more durable.
In 2017, the Standard newspaper ran a story of Jannes Otieno. An entrepreneur who started his shoe factory with a capital of only 40,000. The Bantu company he calls it. He sources leather from a factory in Thika, and currently, he has 7 employees and makes a profit of roughly 350,00 shillings per month.
I, for one, have purposed to get myself a pair of Bantu sneakers if available. However, I want to challenge you, Jannes created his business when the market was not yet conducive. But with the rollout of the big four, the president has just made the market conducive.
The president has just directed that all the boots for our discipline forces be procured from local manufacturers. There are more than 70,000 Kenyans in our disciplined forces. Realize that if you were to get even just a quarter of this tender, then being a millionaire would suddenly be very easy. The trick, be awesome, acquire the knowledge and produce quality shoes.
The president has laid a strong foundation when it comes to the textile industry. He has promised the following.
– Support of farmers who want to grow cotton.
– A guarantee that the government will buy cotton from the farmers who agree to grow cotton.
– The revival of Rivatex; Kenya’s premier textile manufacturer.
– Support to investors willing to build ginneries and textile manufacturing plants.
If the four promises above were to come to fruition, then that means cotton would be in abundance. If textile were in abundance, then more people would be willing to take the risk and start a business that makes locally produced clothes hence creating a very competitive and less expensive industry. A competitive industry grows, becomes prestigious and employs people.
I am going to pose a question to men this time around. What comes to mind when I say designer suit?
I am sure whatever your answer, it will include, Prada, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Armani, Dolce and Gabanna. Foreign brands.
Here is the funny thing, cotton is still cotton. Prada cotton or Ankara cotton, the difference is the same.
So why not Kay Chemu, Wabosha or Owiti, an African brand that will inspire just as much awe as Michael Kors?
Of the four subsectors, this one is the most straightforward. The goal is simple, adding value to our agricultural produce.
The processor of Arabica coffee somewhere in the United States makes 10 times more than the farmer who grew that coffee here in Kenya.
That should be a question on every farmers’ mind. The processing needs to take place here in Kenya. Tea, coffee, meat, fruits, and vegetables should be processed here in Kenya.
Now that the government has made its intention clear, it is up to farmers to push, push and push until this idea becomes a reality.
2. Affordable housing
“A homeless Kenyan is a Kenyan without hope.”
Under the big four, what is the president proposing?
That by the end of his term, for the price of the current rent in Kangemi or Kawangware (10,000-50,000 depending on the number of bedrooms), 500,000 Kenyans will own homes; decent sized houses built to modern standards.
-By reducing the cost of mortgages.
– By cutting the cost of construction by using new innovative technologies and materials.
– Raising funds from both the public and private sectors and reinvesting in large-scale housing.
– By reviewing laws on urban planning and zoning.
– Issuing more title deeds.
In return, not only will Kenyans own homes, but jobs will also be created. The construction of these homes will need masons, plumbers, carpenters, painters, and electricians. Manufacturers and suppliers will also be required to provide materials.
3. Affordable Healthcare for all
After graduation, one of my friends who landed a job immediately once commented that the best part about being employed was the insurance cover.
I didn’t quite get it then, but I did later.
Under this pillar, the goal is, within the next five years, to get medical insurance cover for each Kenyan, employed formally or not.
This is crucial because the majority of Kenyans are in the informal sector. The formal sector employs only a small percentage.
How will this happen?
– Medical Sector reforms and significant policy changes.
– A collaboration between NHIF and private insurers.
– Review laws that govern the private sector in a bid to bring the cost down so that more Kenyans can afford the services.
4. Food Security
“A hungry Kenyan is a negative Kenyan.”
Food is a basic need that no Kenyan should lack. The thing about food security is that it is complex with various factors that need to effectively work together.
For that reason, the president listed some factors that the responsible ministry ought to deal with.
-Encourage large scale farming by supporting farmers.
-Encourage diversification of staple foods.
-Protect water towers.
– Small-scale farmers will receive a better extension and market access.
-Deal with challenges of value addition that have continuously deteriorated the morale of farmers.
– New terms and conditions for leasing arable land.
Now that you have understood the four pillars in depth, what do you think?
Here is what I think. Although the president voiced the ideas, it is we the Kenyan citizens who can ensure that these ideas are actualized.
This is because the ideas are workable. However, the effort of each Kenyan in conjunction with the ministries in charge will determine success or failure.
Think about these…
- What if the ministry gets the cotton and textile industry running but Kenyans refuse to buy locally made clothes?
- What if the government lacks quality local manufacturers who can deliver boots for the troops?
- What if Kenyans refuse to farm cotton?
- What if there aren’t enough skilled plumbers, or masons or carpenters to fulfill the need for 500,000 homes?
The president said something exciting while concluding his speech, that we are partners with him. He could be the most powerful person in the country, but he cannot achieve the four goals without our help.
Challenges to the Success of the Four Pillars
- There needs to be a mental adjustment in how we look at and value local products.
- Local producers and manufacturers must as a necessity produce quality goods that can compete in the world market.
- We need to hold four critical people accountable.
It is crucial to note that it took only one CS—Fred Matiang’i to change the education system in Kenya. It also took just one Minister—the late Michuki—to improve the transport system in Kenya.
Aden Mohamed (Industrialization), James Macharia (Housing), Mwangi Kiunjuri (Food security), and Sicily Kariuki (Health). The four Cabinet Secretaries at the helm of the prominent four ministries. These are the individuals in charge of the four pillars. The four who can effect change and the four that each Kenyan should hold accountable.
Ultimately, the coming five years will judge the president, his government, and these four Cabinet Secretaries kindly or harshly depending on if they will deliver. If they can deliver just a half of these goals, particularly in the manufacturing sector, then the Kenya of 2022 will be a beautiful place to be.
A place with jobs and job opportunities for the common mwananchi. A place where being sick is not a death sentence. A place where citizens have dignity because they own homes. A place where whether it is a rainy season or dry season, no Kenyan goes hungry.
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