We need to build post-Covid resilient industries

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021 00:00 |
An elderly man undergoes a COVID-19 nasal swab test. Photo/Courtesy

Rajul Malde 

Manufacturing continues to play a critical role in post-Covid economic recovery strategies of many countries.

In a post-pandemic world, focus will increasingly shift to creating competitive, resilient, inclusive and sustainable industries. 

This shift is crucial to unlocking the true economic value of manufacturing, namely; creating jobs, fostering innovation and enhancing the quality of life for consumers. 

The new year, is therefore an opportune moment for local manufacturers to reflect on the lessons from the pandemic but more importantly, focus on ways to build industries that are capable of withstanding future disruptions. This requires industrial re-invention on unprecedented scale. 

First, competitive manufacturing will be increasingly anchored on new technologies. Covid-19 has amplified the importance of smart manufacturing.

This involves the use of intelligent digital systems that use data to enhance industrial efficiency and productivity. 

Industry 4.0 involving the transformation of traditional manufacturing using modern, smart technology is already underway globally.

Kenya can borrow a leaf from countries like Malaysia that are investing heavily in smart manufacturing as a vehicle for achieving and sustaining industrial growth. 

However, adoption of technology does not necessarily mean loss of jobs. There is an opportunity to equip existing employees with new skills for digital manufacturing and for youth to play a greater role in industrial innovation. 

Second, resilient manufacturing requires re-booting of value chains to make them adaptable to unexpected shocks.

The pandemic has exposed weaknesses in supply chains with manufacturers unable to access crucial inputs.

Most affected were those that rely on complex global supply chains due to lockdown measures to contain the virus. 

Domestic supply

Strengthening domestic supply chains will not only create jobs and business opportunities but also boost backward linkages to key sectors like agriculture that provide raw materials for factories. 

Third, an inclusive industrial sector should focus on supporting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMES) which constitute the majority of manufacturing enterprises in Kenya.

To promote the growth of SMEs, the government should enact friendlier policies and regulation that make it easier to establish small industries, while improving access to finance and markets.   

Fortunately, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers is working with government to develop the Manufacturing SME Hub, whose main goal is to address challenges facing small industries.

Such public-private partnerships are key to ensuring SMEs can play their rightful role in transforming Kenya into a competitive, industrial economy. 

Fourth, sustainable manufacturing recognises the need to protect the planet from harmful industrial practices, like pollution and wasteful consumption of scare resources.

Sustainable manufacturing is defined as creation of goods through environmentally-sound practices that minimise negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources.

Green manufacturing is growing in significance as consumers and investors increasingly choose to engage only with businesses that are environmentally-conscious.

Local manufacturers should invest in processes that reduce impact of their operations on the planet. 

In a nutshell, for Kenya to develop a competitive, resilient, inclusive and sustainable manufacturing sector, the interventions outlined above require more than just short-term interventions aimed at recovery and survival of industries.

The sector needs to focus more on long-term growth and capacity to withstand future shocks. —The writer is commercial director, Pwani Oil Products Limited —[email protected]

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