By Kennedy Manyala

The signing of the Kigali Declaration on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), in March 2018, by African Heads of State and Government, marked a significant shift in expectations by Africa’s business community, for Africa’s future economic growth and development.

The Declaration introduced enhanced intra-African trade, achievable through AfCFTA as a sure way of achieving elusive sustainable economic development, employment creation all over member states, and most importantly, reversing the declining economic growth and development trend in the continent.

Over the past fifteen or so years, most countries in Africa experienced sustained economic growth, with the rates often exceeding 5% a year. Between 2000 and 2010, the continent achieved average real annual GDP growth of 5.4%, adding US$78 billion annually to GDP. This growth inspired optimism around and about the continent’s socio-economic prospects and in its ability to deliver better socio-economic welfare gains to the people.

However, this was not the case. Between the years 2010-2015, Africa’s economic growth slowed down. Growth dropped to an average of 3.4% per year thus sending shockwaves through the leadership of Africa and the entire business community. Despite this decline in the performance of mentioned economies, the rest of Africa’s economies were able to maintain stable growth rates in general. Nonetheless, African economies amid many internal and external shocks have been resilient. According to the World Bank Review (2018), growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated at 2.3% for 2018, down from 2.5% in 2017. Economic growth remains below population growth for the fourth consecutive year. This trend created a shockwave among economic policy makers in Africa, the continents leadership, and the entire business community.

‘Africa cannot continue playing catch-up all the time’

Realizing that the time for economic growth and development ‘catch-up’ is over, and that spiritual, economic, and political history would judge them harshly, the African leadership moved swiftly and agreed to establish the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2017. In so doing, they endorsed a road map and architecture for fast-tracking the establishment of the CFTA and the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade by: fast-tracking the EAC, COMESA and SADC (Tripartite FTA), overseeing the completion of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and, Consolidating the Tripartite and other regional FTAs into a CFTA initiative. It is believed that a more open Africa through the CFTA will grow intra-Africa trade from its current levels. Under the present policy environment and physical conditions, intra-African trade remains low. In the trading period 2017-18, intra-Africa exports accounted for 16% of Africa’s total exports. The share of intra-African exports as a percentage of total African exports increased from about 10 % in 1995 to around 17% in 2017 with some slight improvement expected in 2018, but it remains low compared to levels in Europe (69%), Asia (59%), and North America (31%).

But isn’t the initiative ambitious?

No doubt, the AfCFTA among other commitments Africa’s leadership has made in the past such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), to name a few, is probably the most ambitious commitment we have ever seen in recent times.

Though it looks good on paper and in economic spirit, Africa’s economic development planning history shows us that the AfCFTA could be a public relations exercise. That is unless African governments through their respective Regional Economic Communities (RECs) act on trade barriers, physical infrastructure challenges and overall national competitiveness.

Africa must do the following:

Africa must make AfCFTA work. African governments through their respective RECs must have the courage to read and implement the Economic Textbook requirements. We understand that structure, nature and physical dynamics in Africa can be intimidating to intra-Africa trade and its CFTA policy component of free movement of goods. But Africa must have the courage to fix it.

First, Africa through the AfCFTA must try to remove trade barriers within and across all RECs and allow the free movement of goods, services, and people across Africa. The CFTA could help to increase combined consumer and business spending on the continent to $6.7 trillion by 2030. Second, Africa has poor road and rail network that has stood against intra-trade. Africa must put its road and rail infrastructure in place. All roads connecting countries and every RECs will be key in speeding up the movement of goods and reducing transport costs. For example, a road from Mombasa (Kenya) to Matadi via Kinshasa (DRC) or from Mombasa, Kampala to Kisangani and Bangui, would expose trade with the Central Africa Region. Third, Africa must engage, promote and participate in a massive private sector development agenda that would primarily start with national completeness programs that are cascaded down to the SMEs. Such a programme would make the AfCFTA work for the African consumer, as well as make African goods globally competitive.

Kennedy Manyala is an applied microeconomist with a deep understanding of issues worldwide ranging from the Americas, European Union, Asia, Middle East, and Africa to the East Africa Community (EAC) especially on strategic public and private investments in non-tourism sectors and tourism and socio-economic development issues 

Posted On Monday, 20 May 2019 12:03

By Ethel Makila

The World Health Organisation defines universal health coverage (UHC) as a healthcare system that ensures all people can use quality services that improve their health without putting them at risk of financial harm.

Countries cannot expect to achieve that without putting in place mechanisms that protect communities from disease and safeguard them from loss of income caused by epidemics such as HIV, TB and Ebola. Research and innovation for the development, deployment and affordability of critical medical treatments are indispensable in the quest for UHC.

DISEASE BURDEN

UHC conversations are largely centred around service delivery, access to drugs, diagnostics and provision of social health insurance. But under-researched or ‘neglected diseases’ continue to pose a disease burden and the constant presence of global health threats from disease outbreaks that transcend borders (such as Ebola, swine flu and avian influenza) remain.

The April 8-15 WHO weekly bulletin on outbreaks and other emergencies had an alert on an outbreak of the deadly dengue fever in Mombasa County.

According to WHO, dengue virus is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics with no vaccine or specific treatment. Exposure to such a disease puts affected communities beyond the universality of UHC.

The undertaking to achieve UHC should take a leaf from the global and national response to HIV. While progress in early diagnosis of HIV infection, advanced care and treatment for those infected, as well as strategies to reduce infection rates, are being celebrated, the miles to go in conquering the epidemic are still recognised as a basis to continue and even step up investment in research.

CLINICAL TRIALS

Millions of dollars continue to be invested in discovery research which aims to increase our understanding of HIV and ultimately lead to the development of a vaccine that will effectively, safely and affordably prevent new infections. Clinical trials of promising vaccine candidates are ongoing. They include two trials — one in South Africa and the other spanning five countries in southern African countries of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia — to evaluate the efficacy of the candidates in HIV prevention. Furthermore, numerous epidemiological studies and socio-behavioural research continues to inform policies and product design and development in the HIV response.

As this year’s Maisha HIV and Aids Conference, organised by the Kenya National Aids Control Council (NACC), seeks to learn lessons from the HIV response by public and private sector stakeholders, it would do well to take an in-depth look at the centrality of research and development in this response.

In the same way leaders in the HIV field have recognised that the current gains and available tools will not win the race against the epidemic, we would do well to realise that research to enhance disease surveillance, improve diagnostics and health systems, develop safer and more accessible prevention and treatment, and inform policy development will greatly contribute to accelerating the realisation of UHC in Kenya.

Ms Makila is the Associate Director - Advocacy Policy and Communications, International Aids Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Posted On Friday, 17 May 2019 12:39

By Marie Shabaya

The government has food security as a pillar in its Big Four Agenda.

If it is that serious about food security, then its Big Four implementing agencies must consider partnerships with local agricultural and development organisations that have already deeply invested in our farming communities.

In his State of the Nation address earlier this month (May 2019), President Uhuru Kenyatta made a crucial recognition.

He emphasised that ongoing agricultural reforms, in service of the agenda, were ‘farmer-centric’ and sought to “reduce the cost of food, increase agricultural value-addition and offer incentives for farming”.

Indubitably, Kenya’s smallholder farmers are the key in delivering food security, at any measure. And governments, donor organisations and development institutions are all in agreement of this fact.

In “Feed Africa”, a seminal roadmap for agricultural transformation and food security, the African Development Bank (AfDB) advises governments to place small-scale farmers at the forefront of reforms.

It calls for them to not only include but also collaborate with various stakeholders in national agricultural systems — such as development partners, the private sector, community organisations, and civil society.

Partnering with grassroots organisations gives policymakers a direct connection to farmers. As major food producers in the country, smallholders need support and resources at their disposal to become more efficient. For example, inputs, such as seed and fertiliser, are notoriously bulky and too expensive for farmers to acquire.

If the government worked with agricultural organisations in the villages to supply or distribute inputs, it could guarantee that smallholders receive them, with the associated costs of production lowering overall food prices as the reforms intend.

CONSULTATIONS

The Agricultural Sector Growth and Transformation Strategy (ASGTS), which is under review, is how the government intends to operationalise the food security mandate.

The ASGTS is aimed at increasing smallholder incomes, boosting agricultural production and improving food resilience in the nation’s homes. Implementing the strategy will, undoubtedly, be a major logistical exercise.

About 75 per cent of Kenya’s working population are small-scale farmers dispersed across the 47 counties. Interventions, even at the county level, need a tailored approach to succeed.

Working with organisations that have similar objectives and established relationships with farming communities would allow government agencies to seamlessly plug into the sectoral ecosystem, at the grassroots, encouraging outcomes.

If implementers of the ASGTS were to collaborate with such organisations, they could make these long-established relationships and knowledge available to encourage reforms.

PRODUCTIVITY

National programmes can then be tailored to suit local conditions, ensuring efficacy in the long run, while monitoring, in partnership with these groups, can confirm that outcomes are met, even at the grassroots.

Initiatives such as those by the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) in partnership with USAid in western Kenya prove that governments can get results when they join forces with local organisations.

The project trains groups of smallholders, who are members of 79 hyper-local organisations, on improved farming methods and minimising post-harvest losses.

They then guarantee a market for harvests with farmers combining their produce and selling on to the WFP and the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) in bulk.

Working with similar models, the government can ensure that farmers reach new markets and, at the same time, sell produce at a higher price.

PARTNERSHIPS

However, to organise farmers, officials need to work with bodies that are based in, or have established trust with, farming communities.

Conversations on realising food security in Kenya, beyond policy mandates, have already aligned on the importance of the public-private partnership nexus.

In his opening remarks at last year’s Future of Food Conference in Nairobi, Agriculture and Irrigation Chief Administrative Secretary Andrew Tuimur noted that “farming is privately driven and the government’s role is only to facilitate it”.

In accelerating the transformation of the national agriculture sector and, consequently, ensure food security for all Kenyans, Dr Tuimur’s words need to be top of the mind.

Enabling growth in farming means working with the wider ecosystem and its stakeholders, in partnership, to deliver on promises made.

Ms Shabaya is an editor and the lead writer at One Acre Fund. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Posted On Thursday, 16 May 2019 10:55

By Michael Arum

Public policy has the power to be transformative, which is why we invest in it. For the best of policies change economies, solving old and even persistent problems and creating new dawns: in frameworks constructed by some of our finest minds, political leaders, technocrats, and experts, all with the aim of changing our collective future.

This stands as an aim that is increasingly now enshrined into our law. For what we do not want for our policy-constructing tax spend are, for instance, new sugar regulations that deepen the decline of our sugar industry, increasing imports, driving away farmers, and felling sugar companies.

For which reason, in 2013, Kenya signed into law the Statutory Instruments Act, which obliged our law makers to carry out an analysis of the impact of any new statute.

Moving to regulatory impact assessments (RIAs) has required new skills, but it is now law, which makes it obligatory. Moreover, six years forwards from the SI Act, it is reasonable to hope that each ministry has developed the posts and modelling skills to deliver impact assessments with each new round of proposed statute.

Unfortunately, for us as sugar farmers, that has not been the case with the sugar regulations that the president’s office is now reviewing. The Ministry of Agriculture has never published a regulatory impact statement for its sugar industry proposals. The president ordered a task force, and the task force has also proceeded in examining the best possible policies for the future of our sugar industry without any impact statement.

We do not believe that either the ministry or the task force is meaning to disregard the law on the need for an impact assessment. Indeed, it is possible that the ministry of agriculture may have confused the need for a separate regulatory impact statement with the drawing up of the general explanatory memorandum, which is quite different, with different contents.

But the legal requirement of the regulatory impact statement is that it explains the effect of proposed regulation, and that has never been done for the sugar regulations.

Yet examining the effect of a regulation is extremely important, and even vital in creating a vibrant economy of the future.

That is why the Ministry is obliged by law to give an assessment of the costs and benefits of the proposed new rules, of any other means of achieving the same objectives, and of the reasons for not using those alternative means – all in the regulatory impact assessment.

However, with none of this information yet provided by the Ministry, the government’s moves to enhance public participation in legislation have also played out in allowing us to carry out our own regulatory impact assessment, which we have submitted to the Ministry.

Under the constitution, the public, communities and organisations affected by any policy decision must be involved in the decision-making process. The newly enacted Public Participation Act 2018 further enhances that public consultation.

In many ways, the need to reinvigorate our sugar industry has shown why these new laws on forming laws are so very important and where their value truly sits.

For at the heart of the currently proposed sugar regulations is a proposal that farmers be ‘zoned’. This would have meant they were obliged to sell their sugar cane to one, single designated buyer, in a policy that has proven so damaging elsewhere in the world that it has literally been abandoned and banned - in Australia, India, Pakistan, and elsewhere. It is not that these economies didn’t try zooming, they did, but found it so damaging as to subsequently outlaw it.

In our case, Kenya does not need further setbacks caused by a damaging policy. The effect of sugar cane zoning will be more mayhem and an accelerating exit by farmers from the growing of sugar.

Thus, the proposed regulations could have actually led to increasing sugar imports, - which may have been supported by prominent importers, but may not have been supported by the National Treasury in seeking to curb our nation’s ballooning trade deficit.

Indeed, the prospect of further driving downwards domestic sugar production, affecting thousands of farmers, and even seeking special waivers from our trading bloc COMESA to have such policies, really shows the value of assessing regulatory impact.

It is a must, and thus in the president’s office, we now trust in pursuing regulation designed to deliver more livelihoods from sugar growing, rather than fewer.

For where ministries do not observe the laws, it is only right and proper that our president’s office should demand compliance at this latter-day juncture, in order for everyone to be able to determine the best way forward in creating a future of better livelihoods and better economic growth.

Michael Arum is the  Coordinator of the Sugar Campaign for Kenyan farmers

Posted On Friday, 03 May 2019 12:28

By Kiprono Kittony

The push to boost intra-regional trade, cross-border investment and economic integration in Africa has reached a pivotal phase. This April, Gambia became the 22nd country in the continent (Kenya was among the first ones) to ratify the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, helping the historic trade deal gather the minimum required ratifications to come into full effect.

Signed last year in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, the AfCFTA presents Africa with a golden opportunity to unleash the power of its industries, create jobs for the masses of unemployed youth and fast-track development.

Most rich industrialised countries started the regional integration journey in the 1960s, meaning that their industries have enjoyed access to larger markets outside national borders for close to six decades. This head start in cross-border trade and investment explains why industries in these countries enjoy crucial competitive advantages such as economies of scale and specialisation.

When firms produce at scale, which is possible if they have easy access to markets outside their national borders, they not only manage costs better and hence get more profitable, but also find it easier to specialise in one area. Firms become better at making any product they specialise in, allowing them to build comparative advantages, price their products more competitively and create well-paying quality jobs.

For African countries to enjoy these benefits, individual countries need to open up their markets to firms domiciled in other countries within the continent—something that the AfCFTA and other agreements signed within free trade areas such as Comesa and the EAC will greatly aid with.

However, for the process of integration in Africa to be successful, governments must let the private sector lead the charge but provide the right set of policy incentives and political support needed to get things done.

African firms must be allowed to freely develop supply chains across the continent. Moreover, there shouldn’t be unjustified fears over ‘foreign’ companies taking over local jobs, as cross-border trade and investment usually help foreign firms build symbiotic commercial relationships with local firms in different supply chains. These relationships ultimately build the capacity of local firms, allowing them to produce at scale and as a result create more jobs.

In Kenya, the private sector is ready to champion the regional integration agenda. This is the message I have gotten from my numerous interactions with business persons across the country. Businesses in both the corporate world and SME sector are keen to capitalise on the benefits of integration, but encounter difficulties doing so. One key difficulty is increased trade disputes.

Trade disputes within the EAC continue to put entire industries at risk. For example, since March 2018, Kenya no longer enjoys duty-free entry into Tanzania for confectionery products such as sweets, chocolate and chewing gum, despite EAC regulations allowing for this. In place of duty-free access, Dar has slapped a 25 per cent import duty on Kenyan confectionery products, rendering them uncompetitive in the Tanzanian market.

Tanzania’s adamancy to remove punitive import duties and reintroduce duty-free access for Kenyan confectionery is based on claims that Kenyan manufacturers rely on imported duty-free industrial sugar for production, hence gaining an unfair advantage over local Tanzanian business.

This, however, should not be an issue as other confectionery players across the region – and not just Kenya – also rely on importation of duty-free industrial sugar under the same remission scheme, since none of the EAC member states produces industrial sugar.

By introducing healthy competition, regional trade usually puts pressure on local industries to improve competitiveness. For example, the recent case of Ugandan eggs being cheaper than those produced in Kenya is a wake-up call to Kenya to address the competitiveness of its agroindustry.

We also need to identify the comparative advantages we enjoy as a region – such as a young labour force, recent investments in transport infrastructure and access to over 80 ports worldwide via Mombasa, among others – and leverage on these to develop joint import substitution plans.

There are a lot of products we import as a region that we can produce by ourselves at a lower cost, helping us build regional capacity, reduce trade deficits and strengthen macroeconomic indicators.

Importantly, much broader reforms are needed at a political level. This is because regional integration is generally more successful where there is minimal political and ideological difference among participating countries.

Tanzania and Kenya therefore need to work on their issues; but so, do Rwanda and Uganda, whose ongoing diplomatic stand-off has resulted in disruptions at their borders, impacting trade and investment.

Kiprono Kittony is the Chairman, Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This piece appeared in The Star on 29th April 2019.

Posted On Friday, 03 May 2019 09:40

By Dr. Ferdinand Nyongesa

News has been awash in the media about transport challenges facing the City of Nairobi in the preceding weeks.

In the Daily Nation of May 15, 2017, I lauded the government on the prompt decision to form a body dedicated to issues of transport in Nairobi and the surrounding areas, the Nairobi Metropolitan Transport Authority (NMTA).

The expectation was that the body would hit the ground running and position itself to focus on the city’s transport woes. This was not to be as demonstrated by the events of November 12, 2018.

CONGESTION

The governor banned matatus from accessing the Central Business District in a campaign meant to ease congestion.

Traffic jams are a threat to economic development. Combined with traffic injuries, jams cost low- and middle-income countries between one and two per cent of their gross national product.

However, the pain and anguish felt by travelers because of the governor’s action is a demonstration of serious technical capacity deficiency in his backyard, which raises the question whether NMTA is alive.

More than a year after the inauguration of the authority, Kenyans expect at least a roadmap on how the chaos associated with transport in the city is to be tackled.

ACCIDENTS

Sadly, it is missing in action. The authority is expected to embrace emerging technologies to tackle problems of road accidents and traffic jams by applying state-of-the-art technologies embedded in wireless communication technologies such as Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and Internet of Things (IoT).

The US Department of Transport has been at the forefront of technology development based on wireless Dedicated Short Range Communication protocols and implemented as vehicular networks, which has since spread globally.

If appropriately adopted and domesticated by NMTA, vehicular technology as part of ITS can solve most of the traffic problems experienced in Nairobi and other urban centres.

In South Africa, the technology has been domesticated in the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research and deployed with tremendous success in easing transport in both intra-city and inter-city operations.

SUCCESS

The Rapid Bus Transport in both Johannesburg and Pretoria, integrated with the Gautrain, form a transport network that tells a success story on how technology can guarantee safe and convenient transport in densely populated urban areas.

In Bangok, a metropolitan authority has implemented an integrated urban transport system based on wireless communication technologies that exploits IoT to synchronise operations to guarantee safe and efficient transport involving railway lines (sky trains and subways), rapid transit road systems, public buses, airport express rail links and rickshaws (tuk-tuks).

RELEVANT SKILLS

NMTA’s launch must be followed up by relevant appointments for its full potential to be realised. A long-standing practice in this country has always viewed such developments as another opportunity to place homeboys without regard to qualification and experience, who end up sleeping on the job.

The appointing authority has not only a responsibility but also a duty to staff the Authority with relevant skills to tackle the problems at hand through deployment of cutting-edge technologies. This will enable it to deliver on the national agenda.

Dr Nyongesa is a lecturer at Masinde Muliro University. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This piece appeared in the Daily Nation on 29th April 2019.

Posted On Friday, 03 May 2019 09:10

By Phyllis Wakiaga

As far as trading blocs go, the European Union (EU) has been a global case study of turning a free market into a common market. Faced with notable challenges in the integration process such as the consecutive crises in the Exchange Rate Mechanism in the early 90s, the EU defied all odds and continued to expand in depth and geography in a historic feat.

However, only two years ago, this ideal trading bloc took a hit with the Brexit vote, which triggered a global conversation on regional trading, agreements and integration towards creating shared prosperity for the countries involved.

In our own context, a snapshot of intra-East African Community (EAC) trade in the past few years will reveal tension-filled and sometimes hectic trade-relations, as well as an overall cloud of uncertainty on the future of the EAC.

Yet with our geographical advantages, natural resources and global reputation, the EAC holds huge potential to set the pace for the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and lead the continent into a new age, trading with the world on an equal and mutually beneficial platform.

While there isn’t much comparison to be made with the EU, one indisputable thing is that their integration process was marred by political and social differences especially with bringing on board of Eastern European countries. This, many times, caused an uproar in member States with populations demanding that their nations’needs come first’. Through the chaos, nonetheless, members designed new institutions with a view to open markets and ideological alignments.

Our challenges in integration are also hampered by political and social differences, which manifest in seemingly endless Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) that threaten to weaken our overall contribution to global trade.

For instance, EAC global trade decreased in 2017 to a meagre 0.2 per cent from 0.3 per cent the previous year.

The trade deficit also increased by 63.1 per cent to $17.4 billion. Our exports to the world also decreased, and of these, only 29.2 per cent were destined for Comesa and other intra-regional markets.

The latter numbers can be boosted within the AfCFTA through increased collaboration and goodwill to make use of existing instruments and well-designed policies that will enhance trade and get rid of long-standing barriers.

We have witnessed some progressive steps that have made a significant contribution to the growth of EAC intra-regional merchandise trade. These include the elimination of restrictions for imports on sensitive products allowing for greater trade among partner States.

We have also had elimination of NTBs on certain products such as dairy products, as well as increased trading in intermediate products. Bilateral meetings continue to find solutions to rising problems and this addresses the fact that we all have the same vision of shared prosperity.

Going forward, it is important to give priority to collaboration that will see supply chains strengthened across borders and governments laying the groundworks for the ease of movement of goods and people.

This will help in realising the full potential of the intra-regional market. Additionally, we need to put into action a robust EAC export promotion strategy for products in other regions and minimise intra-regional rivalry.

It will, similarly, define the role of incentives in trading with future EAC trading partners.

Indeed, the EAC is uniquely poised to be a leading regional bloc in the next few years. We ought not to let what’s in store for us be derailed in the short-term.

Phyllis Wakiaga is the CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers. This piece was featured in the Business Daily on May 2nd 2019.

Posted On Friday, 03 May 2019 09:06

By Karin Boomsma

A couple of years ago, one of our partners invited me to their rather expansive farm to witness their work growing beans for the export market. I honoured the invitation almost immediately not because they were big in production and making money while at it; I did so because of what they were doing with the waste.

Mara Farms, an agricultural company that produces beans for export, redirects beans that do not make it through its export packaging process to produce high-quality soup for the bottom of the pyramid customers often without a profit markup. These are customers who in ordinary circumstances wouldn’t afford such kind of a meal as the price would be way out of reach.

This is the rationale: Why throw away the beans when it can make a huge difference elsewhere in another market? This is one way of making a product affordable while also reducing hunger and contributing to poverty reduction.

At Mara, there is simply no waste. Or rather, waste is converted to something useful. Nothing is thrown away. Little wonder and this is no exaggeration, the farm is so relaxing it feels as if no work is going on there.

This is what Mara Farms is good at and they can become even better at it. Certainly, other businesses, big and small, can do something along the same lines. At Mara, the management made a decision that any produce which doesn’t meet the specifications for the export market (the specifications tend to be very stringent, sometimes it is more about shape than quality) isn’t discarded.

Well, that should be obvious, you say? Actually, it is not always obvious. On these large-scale operations, there is usually little time, workforce or space to properly dispose of produce that does not accurately fit the market requirements. Often it is discarded as waste or given to somebody who can transport it. That is almost always another firm or a person of means, not the disadvantaged in the community who need it most.

The foregoing, in a way, describes what circular economy is all about. Circular economy, as the name suggests, means we more or less end up where we started, only better. To use the example given above, the bottom of the pyramid families which benefit from the soup project end up healthier because they get to consume healthy food, rich in some of the vital nutrients including micronutrients. But more than that, they get to save money on hospital bills and expensive food.

What is the significance of this? There are two aspects to this narrative. The farm contributes to a more sustainable environment and a more inclusive society by supporting a segment whose survival options are limited and may, through lack of alternatives, engage in activities that destroy the earth. This ‘saving the earth’ ends up benefiting the farm whose success depends a great deal on the balance of nature. It may not seem that obvious but it is a fact which almost every business appreciates.

The second aspect of this narrative is that the people who are very often forgotten by the system get to take their children to school, stay together as families and have a real chance of overcoming poverty without necessarily leaving their communities. Their contribution to the economy ends up benefiting everyone including the farm that started it all.

I will put it out there that Circular economy is not a new idea, much as it sounds like one of those crazy concepts which environmentalists often attempt to force down our throats. Everywhere, there are examples of communities innovating and going the extra mile to limit waste and ensure they live in harmony with nature. The Maasai community, for instance, has always co-existed with wildlife as they move with their livestock across the plains of Kenya and Tanzania. The Ogiek have been exceptional at protecting natural forests which have been their dwelling for centuries. Quite evidently, what is creating imbalance is unchecked capitalism and excessive greed.

There is little doubt that something must be done to protect the earth from human greed. We may not necessarily go back to traditional ways of survival. But we must innovate. We must be better. The Netherlands, for instance, is working on going fully circular by 2050. What this means is that its economy will run fully on reusable raw materials.  This is the antithesis of an unsustainable linear economy which is basically the take, make and waste economic model. Circular economy, on the other hand, is about Rethinking, Redesigning, Reusing (Repairing, refurbishing, Remanufacturing) and Recycling.

The ultimate goal is to not have waste. Everything which is no longer needed is not disposed of but they or their parts are turned into something of value.

I can’t conclude this piece without saying something about my pet subject: plastic bags and bottles and their impact on terrestrial and aquatic life. It is true that plastics, by virtue of their basic composition, present one of the biggest challenges to our efforts to manage waste sustainably. The thin plastic carrier bags may have been banned but PET bottles are very much a part of our lives. With proper legislative framework and cooperation by all Kenyans, PET is a goldmine, not something to stress over. When I think about it, I think about recycling, incubating business solutions, designing alternatives and collaborating with existing good practices and proven business models. More importantly, I think about resource value, local manufacturing, job creation and value addition.

Before you go away, I want to let you in on another goldmine, the electronic waste or simply, e-waste. But that’s a story for another day.

Karin Boomsma is Director, Sustainable Inclusive Business

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Posted On Wednesday, 24 April 2019 11:23

By Nickson Onyango

Every year, farmers lose a third of their produce through post-harvest losses, while consumers waste food by buying more than they need.

Post-harvest losses negate farmers’ efforts to get their crops ready for the market. The fundamental factors that lead to this situation include poor management, storage, and conveyance of the crop from the farm to the market.

LOW PRICES

As much as food spoilage is a global problem, it’s most prevalent in Africa due to poor physical infrastructure as well as technological mishaps. Lack of proper facilities after harvesting means that 40 per cent of food is wasted before consumption.

Farmers and consumers have been taken hostage by middlemen because dissemination of information is controlled by a few players in the agricultural value chain. This is estimated to cost the Kenyan economy Sh150 billion, which calls for a multi-sectoral approach to counter.

Although infrastructural developments such as good road networks will ensure farm produce reaches the market on time, it needs a huge capital outlay. In this regard, we cannot but underscore the importance of technology in bridging agricultural food distribution gaps because it has a latent potential of bringing on board all the players seamlessly and cost-effectively. Notably, it will help in marketing and avoiding intermediaries who buy farmers’ produce at low prices, yet it spoils en route to the market or while at the market.

The rationale for embracing technology in agriculture is to ensure farmers find markets within and without the known localities. For example, a carrot farmer from Londiani does not necessarily have to rely on a middleman to inspect his carrot crop and propose a day for harvesting if all he needs is to sign up to a mobile application to sell his crop.

SOURCE MARKETS

For a sustainable agricultural ecosystem, players should be encouraged to develop platforms that provide a market place for both buyers and sellers, which will infuse e-commerce in the food supply chain. This can be achieved because Kenya’s mobile penetration has hit 100 per cent, according to data released by the Communications Authority of Kenya for the quarter ending September 2018. The critical perspective is that vendors will only procure the produce that they need, which will annihilate all the losses that farmers make perennially.

With technological advancements, farmers can enhance their bargaining power through mobile money payments because they will not have to worry about their produce going to waste, forcing them to sell at throwaway prices. They can source and secure a market well in advance before produce is ready for sale, thereby negotiating for a good price that will sustainably enable them to grow subsequent crops and improve their livelihoods.

Farmers and consumers need to be part of this digital revolution because they are key players in minimising food wastage. The optimistic perspective is that there are plans to lessen these losses to 15 per cent by 2022 as part of the government’s Big Four Agenda. Therefore, scientific methods of determining post-harvest loss will make it easier for authorities to take sanguine action with key deliverables in mind.

Nickson Onyango is an agricultural economist. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Posted On Wednesday, 24 April 2019 11:09

By Samuel Kahariri

The livestock sector contributes over 12 per cent to the gross domestic product and half of the agricultural GDP with 10 million Kenyans in the arid and semi-arid lands (Asals) derive their livelihood largely from livestock.

The multi-billion-shilling sector has the potential to provide an adequate supply of all animal products and by-products for domestic use and export. It is, therefore, strategic in reducing poverty levels, aiding in the attainment of food security and contributing to economic growth, leading to the achievement of Kenya Vision 2030 and the ‘Big Four Agenda’.

FOOD SECURITY

As we focus on the Big Four, particularly its agriculture pillar, it is critical to note that the livestock sector holds the potential of becoming the single-largest contributor to the GDP and the ultimate achievement of food security.

But that would require the government to establish reliable market infrastructure for livestock and livestock products and create an enabling environment to unlock the sector’s economic potential.

Kenya’s livestock and livestock products are largely uncompetitive for reasons such as prohibitive cost of production, high prevalence of transboundary animal diseases, and low quality of the produce owing to underutilisation of modern technologies and genetic advancements.

They also suffer unfair competition from the neighbouring countries due to illegal entry of animals and smuggling of animal products such as eggs, milk and meat through the porous borders. The main culprits are the Uganda and Tanzania borders.

Due to over-reliance on maize as the national staple, the cost of the cereal is higher in Kenya than elsewhere in the region. And since the grain is a key component in most animal feeds, their prices shoot up, rendering the cost of production for animals and animal products uncompetitively high.

That threatens the enterprises in the entire value chain and may eventually lead to closure and lack of incentives for producers and investors. The net effect is Kenya remaining a net importer of all animal products and lack of realisation of food and nutritional security.

GENETIC IMPROVEMENT

To reverse the trend and avert the impending crisis, the government should consider all possible measures to significantly lower production costs, make the environment conducive for livestock value chain enterprises, devise an incentive system for the local livestock producers.

Over-reliance on maize should be avoided by supporting pastoral communities to expand and modernise their meat and milk storage technologies as well as use other traditional foods to cushion them from the impact of drought in the Asals.

Interventions include zero-rating animal feeds and other inputs, animal genetic improvement, investment in livestock disease control to improve access to the international markets and guaranteeing the safety of the food of animal origin.

Required is a master plan on revival and transformation of the sector to safeguard the millions of jobs and encourage producers to increase the quality and amount of produce.

Dr Kahariri is the national chairman, Kenya Veterinary Association. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Posted On Wednesday, 17 April 2019 08:40

By Rosemary Okello-Orlale 

Solid waste management is a subject that is rarely discussed, especially in policy forums.  Further, when it is done, on many occasions either policy makers or the government receives the brunt of the blame for poor management of the environment. People hardly talk about what their individual role is in solid waste management.

Yet proper waste management can provide an opportunity to generate value from the waste and reduce the quantities ending up in landfills, while at the same time creating employment opportunities as in the case of Netherlands and Austria which have the best waste management programmes in Europe.

This came out clearly during a  recent media policy breakfast, at the Stanley Hotel, on the challenges, barriers and opportunities associated with improving waste management in the transition to a green economy. The event was held by the Africa Media Hub based in Strathmore University Business School, in partnership with Business Advocacy Fund.

Karin Boomsma, the Director at Sustainable Inclusive Business (SIB) while demonstrating a scenario on ‘Beyond Waste’, talked of how we have cultivated a certain view of solid waste in our minds, in our economy and in our country.  According to her, this has made a majority of the Kenyan population to make the Kenyan economy a one-way track of consuming and disposing of.  “We need to change this whole concept by adopting a new concept of take-make and dispose of. And start asking ourselves, how can our waste help us re-build our economy rather than reducing it,” says Boomsma.

In countries where waste management has been given priority, the majority of the challenges they present, including health problems, poverty, unemployment and food shortage, have been addressed. According to her, such countries have developed policies to ensure that no resources are wasted.

Currently, as people the world over are linking sustainable development and business success to form a perfect exchange, three types of economies which are linked to waste management have emerged. These are (i) Linear Economy, (ii) Recycling Economy, and (ii) Circular Economy.

While a majority of countries have shifted their economy to a circular economy, whereby they have transformed their waste into materials, products and set up policies and ecosystems for re-use and recycling, Kenya is still stuck on a linear economy. “This has made our economy to depend on cheap materials and we have resorted to dumpsite which is not a solution,” explains Boomsma.

While the country has in place relevant policies and laws to help address the problem of waste management, little attention is being paid on the many opportunities the country can derive and benefit from the solid waste management.

Kenya made commitments on the environment. Article 42 in the Constitution of Kenya (COK 2010) acknowledges that every person has the right to a clean and healthy environment, while Vision 2030 has accorded some recognition to waste management systems. At the county level, Nairobi, Eldoret, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu and Thika have enacted an Environment Management and Coordination Act.

According to Faith Ngige of KEPSA, this move should be used to redefine waste management, “especially how do we rethink of waste as a nation,” stated Faith. 

“Going by the success registered in the management of plastics in Kenya when the country stopped the manufacturing plastics,” Ms Ngige said, “Having an enabling environment both at the national and county levels can harness the expertise of environmental professionals with the need to deliver improved waste management systems for a green economy.”

Talking on Zero Waste, Ms Ngige challenged every stakeholder that they have every responsibility. “We can change the whole narrative on waste management including how we value the workforce in the sector”.

For the Kibra community, the narrative on waste management has already changed. According to Hamida Malasen of Kibra Green Group, her team is transforming Kibra Constituency through solid waste management because it is helping them address a majority of the challenges faced by the community, including health problems, poverty, unemployment, and food shortages. Through this, they are directly contributing to a number of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as ending poverty, good health and wellbeing, clean water and sanitation. “We demystify the feeling that someone else is supposed to come to Kibera to clean our environment when we ourselves are the ones disposing of the waste,” says Hamida.

Kibra Green sells a variety of products including engraved recycled glass gifts, water and wine glasses, bowls, decoration bottles and glass utensils, packaging bags made from carton, shopping bags from recycled clothing, and, decorative glass bottles and plastics. They also supply plastic and tin as raw materials for recycling to manufacturers. However, its core business focuses on composting organic waste to fertilizer for urban agriculture.  “The remaining products from waste will be mentioned as complements during the sale of organic fertilizer generated from composting organic waste,” says Hamida.

What came out clearly is that the feeling that someone else is supposed to be in charge of waste management is a thing of the past. All of us must be involved in making our environment clean and turning our waste into a resource for the economic growth of our country.

Rosemary Okello-Orlale is the Director of the Africa Media Hub- Strathmore University Business School.

 

Posted On Tuesday, 09 April 2019 13:55
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