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President outlines plan to spur manufacturing

Bernard Gitau @benagitau

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday identified four sub-sectors that will boost output of the manufacturing sector in his last term. Speaking during the 54th Jamhuri Day celebrations at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, Uhuru said his administration will focus on expanding the leather; textile; blue economy and agro-processing as they are pillars of the sector.

On leather industry, the President said Kenyans buy more than 30 million pairs of shoes annually yet they only manufacture a tiny fraction despite the country boasting of having the third largest cattle herd in Africa.

“We must change this and make leather products locally to transform the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of families in our pastoralist communities.” To boost local leather industry, Kenyatta promised to ensure that all hides and skins are fully processed locally.

“I direct that all boots, leather products and textiles for our disciplined forces be procured from local manufacturers,” he said. The President, however, cautioned local manufacturers of meeting high standard citing disciplined forces are among the best in the world hence they deserve first-class goods and services.

In the textiles sector, Uhuru lamented that Kenya only earns Sh30 billion from cotton instead of more than Sh 200 billion. “If we process all cotton locally, we would raise revenues from the current Sh 30 billion to Sh200 billion.”

He guaranteed farmers the government would buy their cotton. “We have revived Rivatex, our premier textile manufacturer and we will now give incentives to investors to build more modern ginneries and textile manufacturing plants,” he said. On the blue economy, Uhuru promised that his administration would exploit the more than 400 kilometres of rich coastline.

“It is shameful that we exploit only a small fraction of these God-given resources. Our coastal and marine ecosystems, if properly exploited, would create tens of thousands of jobs for our people,” he said. He directed foreign trawlers to return to their countries.

“I direct the Ministries of Defence and Agriculture to immediately intercept all illegal fishing vessels, and to suspend the fishing licences of all international trawlers operating in Kenya’s territorial waters until they comply with our requirements,” he directed. On agro-processing, he said his government will support value addition for agricultural produce.

“We receive only 30 per cent of the real value of our products, in addition to losing out on jobs,” he said. He directed tea, coffee, meat, fruits, and vegetables be processed locally.

The President also noted the critical role small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play in an economy saying the focus is on creation of an additional 1,000 SMEs focused on manufacturing. To encourage manufacturing locally,he said his administration has substantially cut the cost of off-peak power to heavy industries by half.

On the fight against counterfeits, President Kenyatta directed that the Kenya Revenue Authority, and the Kenya Anti-Counterfeit Authority, destroy counterfeits on the seizure.

“Any public officers found colluding to frustrate this process will be summarily dismissed and prosecuted,” he warned. On housing, President Uhuru said by the end of his term, 500,000 more Kenyans will own their homes.

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