State declaration on ‘Made in Kenya’ Fridays timely
Our clarion call as local manufacturers on the importance of promoting local content has received yet another boost when the government recently ordered all civil servants to be wearing “Made in Kenya” outfits on Fridays.
As the largest procurement entity in the economy, government has demonstrated leadership by implementing the local products policy with this move. This promotes not only textile and apparel manufacturers, but the entire fashion industry , including micro-businesses such as seamstresses and tailors.
The Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act 2015 requires that sustainable development and the promotion of citizen contractors should be the cardinal values and principles guiding the procurement of State organs, and the “Made In Kenya” directive on clothing espouses this spirit entirely.
This announcement elicited a heated discourse, with many asking what a “Kenyan look” is, or what kind of attire captures the Kenyan culture or spirit. Although the answer to these questions lie in a much deeper conversation, the fact that these questions came up, points to a dire need for self-realisation through our very own creations as a country. More importantly, it points to the fact that if we do not invest and take pride in our own creations and productions, the question of what represents our identity, as a nation, is one that we will always grapple with.
There exists instruments to support the production and consumption of locally produced goods in National Policies and Strategies. But as citizens, we must be deliberate about the consumption of our locally made products for the sake of our country’s present and future economic sustainability.
The thinking that a product is not of quality because it is made locally is simplistic, self-defeatist and obsolete. Kenya is not a master at making all things, but we are definitely outstanding in some products, and perfecting the making of these products is what will strengthen our position in the global markets.
It is not just in clothing that the Government has reinvigorated the procurement of local content, sectors such as pharmaceutical and automotives are also experiencing this positive wave. It is a great thing when a country believes in itself enough to create its own solutions and consume its own products. It not only triggers robust economic growth, but also ability to absorb and adopt technologies from other countries and use them to make our products even better.
This is one of the ways in which Singapore’s economy grew. The country, whose largest industry by far is the manufacturing sector, which contributes up to 25 per cent to the annual GDP, diversified their strategy of promoting local content.
According to a report on Innovation and Government intervention, Singapore developed policies to encourage foreign investment to facilitate technology transfer and diffusion to local enterprises, in the 1980s and 1990s.
Thereafter, the government started a series of plans to promote high-tech entrepreneurship, which boosted the innovation capabilities of local firms. Eventually, highly innovative and standardised goods were being produced by the local industries. This meant better access to larger markets, reduced imports and growth of exports.
Consuming our local products as a nation instills in us a sense of ownership in our economy. We become invested in seeing better raw materials grown so we enable our farmers to do so; we become invested in expanding local markets so we build infrastructure and develop regulation to support that; we become intentional about strengthening our value chains and new streams of income are formed while small businesses are made profitable.
The government has led the way in this journey and there is need for us as citizens, communities, private sector to follow suit. It is imperative, especially during these hard economic times that we look to our own strengths first to propel us forward into a stronger economic future.
—The Writer is the CEO, Kenya Association of Manufacturers. [email protected]