By Joab Apollo
Last week, a man was arrested in Homabay County, Western Kenya, for using metals and nails to make guns, which according to the police, he was selling to criminals. Agitated Kenyans took to social media to call for the government to fund him to manufacture Kenyan made guns, instead of being incarcerated.
But he is not the only Kenyan genius to have attempted technological or scientific breakthrough. Dozens of Kenyans have developed radio stations, medicine and apps. Some have come close to making complete aeroplanes and vehicles.
However, one thing has been missing: state support. Well, as the clock ticks to the 2022 general election, politicians are pulling all the stops to win the electorate. Some have proposed bottom-top economic model while others have pledged to send to jail corrupt government mandarins.
But it is Raila Odinga’s call for Kenyan made products that has ignited intensive debate in the East African country. The former Prime Minister, widely viewed as President Kenyatta’s heir apperent, thanks to the famous 2018 political ceasefire between them, has reiterated that a time has come for Kenya to make its own products and sell it to the world.
Giving example of the coconut plant at the Kenyan coast, Odinga charged, “Generations of the Digo and Duruma and all the other communities in Msambweni, Matuga and Lunga Lunga constituencies in Kwale have grown with coconut. Using pure home grown skills, these communities have produced coconut oil and coconut milk. Just enough for home consumption.”
He said that what the coconut producing communities need is just the sharpening of their traditional skills to compete with major coconut product making nations in the world like Thailand.
“Going forward, investment in skills and rural transformation for local industrialization is a must.” He added.
Kenya imports virtually all the products it uses, a development that has often put the government at loggerheads with the electorate. With the youth buldge and runway unemployment, Kenyans have always held that establishment of local industries would be the only solution to this scourge.
“In the informal sector where I have worked since I graduated in 2010, we weld some of the best chairs and beds in the world, but we find it irritating that our supermarkets are stocked with products from Asian countries.” Laments Jack Omunga, an economics graduate.