The long anticipated announcement by Nasa of the boycott of the products and services offered by certain companies has finally been made. Nasa has asked its supporters to boycott products from Bidco Africa, Brookside Dairies and Safaricom.
Their crime — they have been aiding and abetting Jubilee to “steal” elections. These type of utterances are as irresponsible as they are reckless. It seems that Nasa is desperate to do anything to get traction for their ongoing narrative that the country is in crisis, and requires the intervention of the international community. This latest move is supposed to stir economic turmoil in the country and bring the economy to its knees. Unfortunately, those who will be hardest hit by this reckless action will be Nasa supporters themselves.
First, it is highly unlikely that the Nasa bigwigs will take part in this boycott. The media has reliably reported that many of the top brass of that party are still having their Safaricom lines operational. A case of preaching water and drinking wine. And who will go into their palatial homes to verify they are not buying their children yorghurt from Brookside, or cooking using Bidco oil?
So, the only people whose lives will be disrupted will be those ignorant Nasa followers who will blindly follow these leaders.
Indeed, many Nasa supporters think that the boycott idea is at best, wacky, and will simply ignore it. The boycott is even being touted as “economic emancipation,”as if those who follow it will be receiving some economic benefit of some kind like a bonus.
The second question is whether the networks that have been built by these providers over the years, whether that is in wholesale, retail, transport, production, can effectively be replaced by their competitors. These companies are faraway leaders in their markets and have invested heavily in these networks over the years. These networks simply cannot be replaced overnight.
How, for instance, will residents of Kisumu be sending and receiving money if they boycott M-pesa as no other provider has the network to service that region?
What will that wholesaler of Brookside and Bidco products in Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay do to replace that lost business if he boycotts the two companies? Will he have to raise a fresh deposit to start being supplied by the competitors to these companies? Will Nasa compensate them for loss of business?
Can those competitors manage to immediately mobilise the logistics to supply say, the counties of Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay and Migori starting from next week with milk and edible oils? If Nasa followers adhere to the boycott, they will have a choice between no products and services, or very poor service.
Third, the question must be asked of how badly can Nasa hurt these companies? What is likely to happen is that these companies will simply shrug off any temporary effects of a boycott, adjust and march on unperturbed. This means that this whole masquerade will collapse in a heap.
Nyanza is staring at a monumental self-inflicted crisis. And that is without the targeted companies deciding that their staff countrywide who are residents of those areas supporting the boycott bear the brunt of any business they lose. Yet Nasa governors are quiet, meekly acquiescing to these foolhardy ventures which threaten to destroy economies of their counties.
Brookside and Bidco have also invested substantially in distribution and marketing networks countrywide. They will have to close these down, resulting in more job losses.
For the counties, millions of shillings collected in revenue from the business networks that service these companies will be lost.
It is understood that the list announced so far was only a preliminary list, and more companies will be added. Which begs the question — is this a gambit so that Nasa can then extort other companies so as not to enter them in the negative list as claimed by Deputy President, William Ruto?
Equally, is it possible that deals have been struck with certain companies to blacklist their competitors? The truth will come out very soon. But as this charade plays itself out, there is a deafening silence from the business community, churches and NGOs. Just as there was no condemnation from these selfsame groups when journalists were beaten up by goons in the Nasa offices in the full glare of cameras.
To its credit, the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) has had the courage to condemn the boycott call, noting that it was conceived for the wrong reasons, and being pushed by a politically partisan player. It is time these other organisations raised their voices and started challenging some of the more outrageous things being done by Nasa in the name of “fighting dictatorship.”