SFAE hosts former World Bank Director
At 2.15pm on 3rd July 2013, the outgoing World Bank lead Economist for Kenya, Eritrea and Rwanda, Dr. Wolfgang Fengler, gave a lecture to Strathmores School of Finance and Applied Economicsstudents themed, Realizing The Kenyan Dream. In his own words, this was his last work-related activity before he vacates office.
Having worked in Kenya for 12 years, Dr.Fengler has developed a passion for Kenya and Africa as a whole. He is the author of the book Realizing the Kenyan Dream, which contains all his published articles. The lecture comprised of two segments: A session on the major trends in the country currently, and five ideas to achieve the Kenyan dream.
Dr Fengler discussed the potential that Kenya possesses which if capitalised on, can be an asset in pursuit of prosperity:
- Demography: Kenya has a bulging youth population and future working class with a relatively smaller population of dependants.
- Geography: Kenya is suitably located at the East Coast of Africa making it an ideal centre for export and import into the greater East African region.
- Technology: Kenya is already ahead of the pack in terms of ICT development in the region, if fully embraced, Kenya can enjoy modernisation of its sectors leading to greater productivity.
- Economy: Kenya has relative macroeconomic stability which is necessary for growth and development.
Wolfgang’s 5 Ideas to Help Kenyans Realise Their Dream
1. Fix the Port – It is a paradox that the output of the very congested port of Mombasa per year is the output of a super-efficient port of like that of Singapore. Kenyas location along the East Coast of Africa is very strategic to become a hub if only the port could be more efficient. Wolfgang argues that while construction of a bigger port in Lamu is a good thing, the “soft side” of development -efficiency- is more important.
2. Liberalise agriculture – Dr Fengler noted that on average Kenyans, pay almost twice more for maize in the domestic market than Americans. He has noted that 2% of Kenyan maize farmers control up to 50% of the supply. If the agricultural sector was to be more liberalised, maize farmers in Tanzania could easily sell their maize in Kenya, boosting the supply of maize and lowering the cost of maize meal for the mwananchi. If liberalisation was done across the board, it is likely that the price of food and the cost of living would consequently come down.
3. Devolution without disruption – Dr Fengler lauded the current devolution initiative going on in the country, thanks to the 2010 constitution. He highlighted that if devolution goes on smoothly, there will be a significant increase in capital expenditure in the country. For instance, it will be possible for each county to engage in infrastructure projects this financial year, complementing the national government’s capital outlay and consequently increasing the amount of infrastructure projects countrywide. Devolution without disruption is likely to increase job creation to support the numerous projects going on in the counties.
4. Ensure teachers show up in class and teach – With the majority of Kenyans within the school going age bracket, it is likely that Kenya can reap a demographic dividend if actual learning takes place in schools countrywide. This will provide a large pool of educated men and women capable of steering the nation to Vision 2030 goals. With only 54% of teachers in public primary schools teaching when theyre supposed to, we should strive to increase this figure, so that students can fully benefit from academic institutions.
5. Modernise urban transport – Dr Fengler highlighted that the Kenyan population is currently growing at a rate of 1 million people per year. By the year 2045 forecasts indicate that there will be 80 million Kenyans, similar to his native country, Germany. Most of these people will live in urban areas. Dr Fengler lamented that if the transport system is not improved to create rail networks; traffic scenarios shall be mind-boggling. A rail network and smart systems for the roads shall ensure that the working population can commute with ease and speed.
Dr Fengler believes that if these and a few other factors are considered and implemented, Kenya can achieve double-digit growth and develop to be a middle income country by the year 2030 with Kenyans truly realising their dreams of prosperity.
By: Meshack M. Nyaribo and Brian G. Karanja