By Alfred Nyakinda

Despite the African Union’s member states having decided to stop the exportation of pure raw materials without any processing, only Rwanda and Ethiopia are implementing this decision.

Experts at a forum in Nairobi organized by the Institute of Economic Affairs in conjunction with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) noted that ignoring the agreement was not only depleting Kenya of its resources but depriving it of opportunities for skilled workers.

Participants at the IEA-FES forum

“We’re still exporting at the level of raw materials, which means the welder is never going to get a job because we are exporting all our raw materials, the carpenter is not going to get a job because he won’t find wood here,” said Professor Attiya Waris of the University of Nairobi.

According to a 2018 economic survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, growth in the manufacturing sector declined to 0.2 percent in 2017 down from 2.7 percent in 2016. The shortfall in manufacturing jobs has led to a lack of employment opportunities for more than 600,000 young people entering the job market every year.

“If we can really add value and adopt the technology that is needed, we’ll create more jobs and through the value chain, have many people in employment,” said Jackson Wambua of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), ‘’the manufacturing sector, according to the American Association of Manufacturers has the highest multiplier rate. One manufacturing job creates five jobs outside the manufacturing sector.”

The panel highlighted the need to ensure that those best equipped to perform skilled labour are given the opportunity to find employment in the country, citing the example of the absence of skilled Kenyans working on major infrastructural projects in the country.

Professor Attiya stated that corruption is a major hindrance in retaining skilled labour because in many instances it prevents the most qualified for a job from getting it. This results in young people moving abroad to seek employment and has the ripple effect of causing the production of substandard goods in the country by unqualified workers.

The experts also stressed the need to support the informal sector and help its members to increase their profit margins and build the country’s manufacturing capacity.

Wambua said that KAM is working with the Micro and Small Enterprises Association (MSEA) on a subcontracting policy to provide a platform for small businesses in dealing with large institutions. This is aimed at guiding entrepreneurs on how to handle complex situations, such as using legal means seeking delayed payment for goods or services delivered to a large organization.