Every year I look forward to attending the World Economic Forum because I think that it presents tremendous opportunities for learning and networking.
This year was no different. Cape Town was a bee-hive of activity focusing on economic matters. Kenya was poorly represented by our policy makers, making me wonder where we have placed our priorities.
Like other citizens, I question what value we created by sending a retinue of senior government officials to Geneva for a five minute presentation while we could have used the same funds to do something more worthwhile; perhaps they would have added more value by attending such a forum?
Unfortunately, we are known as a country of great minds but with no ability to actually implement our proposals. I fear that this same attitude might translate to Uhuru’s budgetary proposals. Can we sacrifice some of what we have for the greater good of Kenyans?
Better yet, do we have the capability to put aside selfish differences and promote workable proposals? My fear is that if no one takes the reins of implementation, Uhuru’s budget will be just another document that collects dust on our shelves without actually making an impact in the lives of Kenyans.
But back to South Africa… football seems to be the biggest business driver currently. They seem to have done such a great job marketing their country for the World cup that it is the song on everyone’s mouth. From taxi drivers to restaurateurs, the focus is on selling their great country and the services they will be able to offer during the World Cup. Other countries around us have caught on this fever and are taking advantage of this opportunity.
Where is Kenya? How sad will it be if travellers bypass our country opting to reside in Mauritius for that period of time. This is the reality on the ground. I know that we have launched a visit Kenya Campaign on CNN, but are we too late to take advantage of the World Cup? I sincerely hope not. Maybe we can still salvage the situation.
The other overriding theme at the conference was that where challenges abound, opportunity also thrives. As a country and continent, we must not be discouraged by the challenges of the economic crisis. It has become evident that there is a large population at the base of the pyramid (BOP) whose needs are not being met, more so in this recession. This is where opportunity thrives.
According to a report by the World Economic Forum, this population at the BOP has the lowest income levels in the world. More importantly, they represent a large group of consumers, producers and perhaps even entrepreneurs who can be engaged profitably with new innovative approaches to business.
Kenya is at a unique position. We have previously suffered the ravages of food and fuel crisis and are now hit hard by the economic crunch. This means that this particular target population has grown in leaps and bounds. How will we take advantage of the undersea cable to engage these consumers profitably?
Shall we be able to use this competitive advantage and create value chains that serve the entire COMESA region? Is there an existing opportunity for online commerce that Kenya could enhance and tap aggressively? Can we engage the East Africa Community members more to use our broadband before they can build their own? I see tremendous opportunities for economic enhancement through this undersea cable. I hope that the eyes of those in the ICT sector are open to tap the opportunities that exist.
In the end, the greatest lesson that I took away from the conference is that Patriotism must resonate in us all. If we cannot sing our song, do we expect our neighbouring countries to do it for us? I did what I needed to, and I am honoured to have represented my beloved country favorably. Today, I still say that I am proud to be Kenyan.