The ability for industry to create an inclusive society is often obscured by narratives that center profits and markets or languages of 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 industrialization in a more profound way. Meaning, 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.
Industrialization is synonymous with building human capabilities in this manner; on a broader level, a well industrialized country is able to catalyze the development of technology and equipment that will advance crucial sectors such as agriculture, health and housing. Raising the level of agricultural production (including quality of inputs, machinery for farming, techniques in harvesting) is only possible through industrialization; and seeing as agriculture remains the number one sector in our country – determining food security and water provision for citizens – then it is critical for our country to invest heavily in industrializing.
Secondly, the ability of a country to enhance its capacity to provide affordable healthcare also rests on industrialization. Thirdly, a thriving industry is able to produce quality material for the construction of quality and affordable housing.
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.
However, a continued decline of living standards for majority of citizens, coupled with an increase in inequality are great contributors to the political polarization we witness in our country, which manifests as violence/tension every five years. 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.
Having a thriving industry will power the equipment and infrastructure necessary for good sanitation systems to function, and will also elevate overall living conditions of all citizens.
The writer is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers