If you have been in Kenya — or reading about Kenya — for the last four months you have most probably heard about the ‘Big Four’ agenda.
These are President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy projects that he has committed to have in place by the time he exits office in 2022. During the last Jamhuri Day celebrations, he made it very clear that “… during the next five years, I will dedicate the energy, time and resources of my administration to the Big Four.” They are manufacturing, universal healthcare, affordable housing and food security.
The target numbers are impressive. Just to sample a few in each sector, on manufacturing, President Uhuru is looking at having at least five million square feet of industrial sheds established to improve cotton production, and raising the share of the manufacturing sector from nine per cent to 15 per cent of the GDP by 2022.
On food security Uhuru wants to produce 2.76 million bags of maize by the end of this year alone. On healthcare, he is looking at increasing the number of people with health cover from 16 million to 25 million this year as well. On housing, the plan is to have at least 500,000 affordable homes in all major cities by 2022. This is just a sample of what is happening under each pillar.
However, the reality is that under each area there are other secondary benefits. For example, while targeting to build the 500,000 housing units, 350,000 people will get jobs. In improving the cotton industry, 500,000 jobs will be created directly, and at least another 100,000 in clothing manufacturing. Under agro-processing 1,000 SMEs will be established and at least 200,000 jobs created.
As the President said, “The Big Four will create jobs which will enable our people to meet their basic needs and transform the lives of our people from that of hardship and want, to greater comfort and well-being.”
What I do not know is how many of us have taken this wide-angle view of development projects and personalised them into direct benefits at the individual level. How many of us understand that by the time he leaves office Uhuru wants the ordinary Kenyan to wake up in his own home, start his day with a good meal for himself and his family and then go to a satisfying job — preferably in an industry or manufacturing complex. Uhuru is also saying that in the unfortunate circumstances that such a Kenyan should need medical care for himself or his loved ones, he can walk into a well-equipped public hospital and access treatment without using his own finances.
Uhuru’s vision for 2022 is an environment where every single Kenyan is productive and thus able to put food on his table, put their children through school and live in their own home. Such an environment means our youth have hope and their lives have meaning, direction and a future. Our middle-aged people will be busy and productive. And our elderly will be content.
Socially, Kenyans will be cohesive because when we focus on ‘baking the cake’, we will discover we need all hands on deck to bake a cake large enough for everyone. Then these silly divisions we fall into of tribe, gender or ethnicity will disappear. Politically, Kenya will be peaceful because politicians cannot manipulate a well-educated, contented and productive citizenry: They will have to compete on policies, not personalities.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what a middle-income economy feels like.
I wish to pass my condolences and those of the people of Nyeri Town Constituency to the Hon Kenneth Stanley Njindo Matiba’s family. Matiba is one of Kenya’s greatest; a founder of the nation, having been the person who crafted the education system of our young nation as PS Education, at age 28. Later he played a critical role in opening up our political space. But we have not been fair to him. Kenya must learn how to treat her heroes, or it will not be worth it being one.