Mining companies should feel part of Kenya’s Big Four Agenda

President Kenyatta recently announced his Big Four Agenda, outlining his government’s priorities for his second term and laying the foundation on which his legacy will be built. The four areas of focus are food and nutrition security, affordable housing, enhanced manufacturing and universal health coverage.

At first glance these priorities look very sector specific, potentially leading to stakeholders operating in other sectors feeling left out of the national development agenda. However, if we take a moment to analyse them, we see that, owing to their cross cutting nature, the Big Four are also relevant to other sectors. For example, it is difficult to have a conversation about universal healthcare without also including the insurance sector, or indeed agriculture without addressing the role of the banking sector in enabling sustainability.

Another angle worth exploring is the role other more nascent sectors can play in enabling quick realisation of the Big Four Agenda. Let us consider the mining sector; while currently it contributes just 1% to the country’s GDP, its potential to spur growth across multiple sectors is invaluable for the Kenya growth agenda.

A clear case in point is that of Kenya’s largest mining operation, Base Titanium’s Kwale Mine. The Kwale Mine was recently granted Vision 2030 flagship project status in recognition of the significant contribution it is making to the national economy and its transformative impact on the mining sector. The Kwale Mine accounts for nearly 60 per cent of Kenya’s total mineral output value; it is the largest source of exports by tonnage through the Port of Mombasa and the highest valued export to China. It offers a good example of how mining firms can align themselves with the Big Four Agenda for inclusive growth.

The mine consumes KES 3.7 billion worth of non-labour inputs annually, contributing significantly, not only to supply chain employment, but the economic output of the goods and services supply sector.

Base Titanium’s community investment strategy is built on four key pillars – providing social infrastructure, sustainable livelihood enhancement programmes, health and education programmes. Investment in these programmes has now collectively passed KES 1 billion and is having a significant impact on the socio-economic development of Kwale County.

Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture

Over 3,500 Kwale farmers are currently participating in Base Titanium’s agricultural programmes. These programmes are designed to enhance livelihood opportunities and many also act to address food and nutrition security. Crops being grown include cotton, potatoes, sorghum, cow peas, soy beans and green grams. A poultry and feedstock programme is also being implemented.

Food and nutrition security is addressed through the food crop programmes. Participating farmers are provided training, initial inputs and ongoing technical support. Following harvest, produce is consumed and excess production is sold to local markets, the proceeds of which are often spent on housing upgrades, education and health needs – further contributing to the Big Four Agenda.

Enhanced Manufacturing – Cotton and Sorghum

Base Titanium’s community development programmes are also contributing to the enhancement of Kenya’s manufacturing sector. The Cotton Programme, with 1,500 local farmers participating, aims to return Kwale County to a cotton growing hub like it was in the 1970s. The farmers have formed a cooperative and sell directly to Australian fashion company Cotton On. Plans are in place to expand the programme with more farmers and ultimately to establish a cooperative owned ginnery at the coast to improve value addition. The programme is now being examined by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives to determine if it can be used as a model for the rejuvenation of the national cotton industry.

The sorghum programme, currently with 550 participants, has seen farmers enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with East Africa Breweries, allowing them to sell their produce directly to the brewer, eliminating middlemen and helping to ensure the sustainability of the programme long after Base Titanium has ceased mining.

Universal Health – Partnering with Kwale County

Realising improved health outcomes is not only a Big Four Agenda objective, it is a core focus of the Kwale County Government. Base Titanium has repeatedly partnered with the county government to achieve these goals. This has involved the construction of infrastructure, including a number of dispensaries, the Magaoni Health Centre and more recently the Likoni Maternity Ward in Mombasa and the Msambweni Blood Bank, the first such blood bank outside a major urban centre.

Investment in social infrastructure is complemented further by partnering with Kwale health authorities to train Community Health Workers and deliver programmes, such as jigger eradication. Combined together, these activities are leading to improved health outcomes for the residents of Kwale County.

Youth Development

While not directly a Big Four Agenda item, training and development of Kenya’s youth to ensure a highly skilled and competent workforce feeds into the Big Four and is an extremely important supporting component. Base Titanium is playing a key role in this regard. The company has introduced a number of external training programmes that look to transfer skills to Kenyans and particularly to the people of Kwale. These include the graduate, apprentice and attachment programmes that give paid opportunities to youth to be trained and gain experience in an industrial workplace. An additional training programme sees participants selected from local communities and given training that allows them to achieve a certified trade qualification. Through these programmes Base Titanium is building a future mining sector workforce and imparting skills and valuable experience to the youth.

Mining and the Big Four Agenda

There is clearly potential for mining and many other industries across the economy to contribute to the government’s Big Four Agenda. By working with stakeholders in these sectors and facilitating further investment, the government can accelerate the accomplishment of its objectives while bringing about real and sustained economic development for all Kenyans.

John Ngumi is a director at Base Titanium

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