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By Phyllis Wakiaga
The ability for industry to create an inclusive society is often obscured by narratives that centre profits and markets or languages of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth and trade statistics.
Yet, the single most important function of a well-established manufacturing base for any country, is to create social equity, reduce inequality and alleviate poverty.
The focus when it comes to this very function, rests on the capacity of industry to create productive jobs and whilst that is indeed a crucial pillar, a holistic perspective connects the intricacies of human development and industrialisation in a more profound way.
It is not just about creating the means of income generation for citizens, it is also about providing them the basic capabilities to function in a society.
These range from being able to participate in civic activities to gaining a strong sense of belonging to community and society at large.
Industrialisation is synonymous with building human capabilities in this manner; on a broader level, a well industrialised country is able to catalyse the development of technology and equipment, that will advance crucial sectors such as agriculture, health and housing.
Raising the level of agricultural production is only possible through industrialisation; and because Agriculture remains the number one sector in our country – determining food security and water provision for citizens – it is critical to invest heavily in industrialising it.
Secondly, the ability of a country to enhance its capacity to provide affordable healthcare, also rests on industrialisation.
A country that is able to supply critical medical equipment as well as strengthen and boost its pharmaceutical sector, enables access to affordable medication, reduces the rate of infant mortality and generally results in a healthy population, whose vitality enables individuals to actively take part in shaping the future of the nation.
Thirdly, a thriving industry is able to produce quality material for the construction of quality and affordable housing.
Shelter provision guarantees security and privacy of individuals, which affirms their right to exist, participate and belong.
Food security, water, housing and health are at the heart of building an equal society. They boost individual morale and vitality to engage in the political, economic and social life of society.
None of these basics can exist without a strong manufacturing base which produces, innovates and sustains the infrastructure and systems that make them accessible, affordable and good quality.
Subsequently, individuals demonstrate increased productivity and drive, to take part in economic activities, which lead to greater economic growth for the country.
A booming economy avails quality education, health, transportation as well as sustainable jobs to all citizens.
However, a continued decline of living standards for majority of citizens, coupled with an increase in inequality, are great contributors to the political polarisation we witness in our country, which manifests as violence/tension.
It also results in the erosion of social cohesion, especially since poverty strips away individual’s humanity, and their lack of access to basics is a violation of their human rights.
The current situation on accessibility to basic infrastructure is bleak. For instance, only 29 per cent of the overall population, both rural and urban, have access to improved sanitation facilities.
When it comes to access to basic medical facilities, there are, for example, 1.4 hospital beds per every 1,000 people.
All the while the population continues to grow at an average of 2.15 per cent per year according to the CIA World Fact Book.
Having a thriving industry will power the equipment and infrastructure, necessary for good sanitation systems to function and will also elevate living conditions of all citizens.
—The writer is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers— [email protected]