The relationship between the government, its people, and business fraternity hasn’t been exactly great over the years. For starters, the government isn’t keeping its promises and those kept are not delivered effectively or efficiently. The strained relations, depending on one’s perspective, has been occasioned by the failure by the government to nature and stabilize a conducive business environment. Enterprises more so the SMEs complain of harassment by regulatory agencies and sustained chokehold by a hostile tax regime. While some businesses may be at fault in terms of business strategy, it is undeniably the government’s prerogative to establish a smooth operating environment in the country.
However, in the realization of virtually intangible growth impact for the past six years, the government is now revisiting its delivery of development initiative through the now popular buzzword; Big Four Agenda. The phrase is today part and parcel of government lexicography and buzzed through all its orifices to whom may bother to listen. Given the heightened publicity over the programme, one can assume that it’s understood by all and sundry. Conversely, it’s not obvious as it seems especially at the grassroots level in far-flung rural areas and a quick street survey would confirm this supposition. So, what is it?
Understanding the Big Four Agenda
The Big Four Agenda is a rapid national transformational development initiative that prioritizes focus on manufacturing, food security, universal health coverage, and housing to be implemented over the next five years. It was launched in 2017 immediately after the inauguration of President Kenyatta for his second and final term. Many have touted it as the president's legacy for the people of Kenya. However, when one goes beyond the chatter, its realization by the government that these four items are the severe pain points for most Kenyans and rightly so. Still, some of the big four related projects are not new and will require critical focus as they were already experiencing implementation challenges. The magnitude of the big four plan’s impact on economic growth and social development will depend on how effectively and efficiently the projects are implemented. Additionally, success will rely on a successful partnership between the National government, county governments and the private sector. So what are the treasures lying within the much publicized big four agenda? Opportunities for Marketers
Pillar I: Manufacturing
Manufacturing is the first pillar of the big four agenda. The sector is crucial for the achievement of Vision 2030 and is arguably the most important for marketers because of its strong forward and backward linkages with other sectors in the economy and thus creating a myriad of opportunities for businesses. According to the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), the Kenyan manufacturing sector mainly produces agro-processing products, textiles, leather, construction materials and machinery. It is largely dominated by Micro and Small Enterprises (MSE) that are characterized by low skilled jobs. The sector's contribution to GDP over the last five years has been on a downward trend. In 2013, the sector contributed 10.7 per cent of GDP but this has declined progressively to 8.4 per cent as of 2017. This sector has mainly been affected by the proliferation of cheap substitutes from China which has brought about illicit trade. Another hurdle is market access to manufactured goods and also the unpredictable nature of the business environment. The lack of competitiveness in the manufacturing industry locally which is attributed to cost of energy, delay in payments, multiple fees and charges, logistics and transport, SME access to credit. Indeed, the government needs to improve market access of manufactured product by improving access to the local market, global market and regional market. The opportunities available in the manufacturing sector will involve sustaining the existing manufacturing business and encouraging the organic growth of cottage local industries, value addition, and scaling mechanism of such to encourage growth and consistent production. The manufacturing sectors with the greatest potential include textile, leather, and the automotive industry. Another way of encouraging the growth of the manufacturing sector will be by guaranteed access to government projects by local manufacturers.
Pillar 2: Food Security
The importance of the agricultural sector to the economy cannot be overlooked. Food production in the country has been declining in the last five years. A sneak preview of Kenya’s food balance sheet shows that Kenya imports most of the basic food commodities including wheat, Maize, Rice, Beans, Potatoes, sugar and Milk. Opportunities for marketers in this pillar lie in the provision of storage facilities, supply of farm inputs, distribution of farm produce, and agribusiness marketing consultancy. Through incentives such as tax rebates, the government must encourage the private sector to develop commodities exchanges to help with the logistics of food to reach those who need it throughout the country.
Pillar 3: Universal Health Coverage
For a nation to be prosperous, its people must be in good health and productive. However, of late healthcare costs have been skyrocketing with out of the pocket expenses pushing many to abject poverty. The Universal Health Coverage, the third pillar, ensures that all people and communities can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to the financial burden. While health is largely a social service, marketers can partner with non-governmental organizations as well as other actors involved in healthcare promotion/marketing.
Pillar 4: Housing
Kenya is facing a shortage of affordable housing which directly and indirectly contributes to the development of slums and poorly serviced informal settlements near the urban areas. This has contributed to ill health especially among the poor and also contributes to insecurity in the country. This pillar addresses the increasing housing problem in major urban centres across the country.
The entire building construction value chain need to position themselves for this direct boom in business from building materials manufacturers, distributors, and real estate sales & marketing agencies that do branding as well as the promotion of the housing schemes. The secondary beneficiaries such as bank need to come up with palatable mortgage solutions for the various segments of clients for these houses. Landowners near this site also need to position themselves with amenities for the upcoming new communities who will need retail stores, schools, health centres etc.
An Opportunity or a Fad?
The Big Four Agenda is indeed a good plan that would provide a lot of opportunities not only for marketers but for other professionals. If successfully implemented within set time frames, it will be the biggest milestone in the country since independence. The government must encourage public-private partnerships where the private sector takes the lead. Out of the big four agenda, the biggest opportunities perhaps lies in the first pillar, manufacturing. However, it is worth noting that we have witnessed so many hyped development drives that died soon after they were launched. Grand development plans like Vision 2030 and Konza Technopolis are some of the puffed up ideas that have little to show despite being launched several years ago. All we can do is to remain hopeful and that Big Four Agenda won’t be another popular fad in Kenya’s development politics.