Why buying Kenyan is building Kenya

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BY BENARD AYIEKO

Globalization has played a key role in the growth of international trade, investments, information technology and outsourced manufacturing by weaving the economies of diverse countries together. This has led to socio-cultural and economic integration of global markets among different nations. International trade has flourished over the years due to the benefits it has offered to different countries across the globe and it accounts for a large share of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is also one of important sources of revenue for a developing country.

Through globalization, countries have witnessed increased trade between each other aided majorly by the use of modern production techniques, highly advanced transportation systems, transnational corporations, outsourcing of manufacturing, rapid industrialization, among others. In international trade, countries exchange goods and services that they produce in surplus while they import goods and services that they either don’t produce or those that they produce locally but which do not meet domestic demand.

Economists argue that nations with strong international trade practices have become prosperous and have the power to control the world economy. Global trade emphasizes on the outward markets for locally produced goods than the domestic markets. Progressive economies are focusing on producing local goods for domestic consumption so as to reap the maximum benefits that come with buying local goods. For instance, in Africa, Kenya and Ghana are notable countries that have embarked on an aggressive policy of promoting the consumption of locally produced goods.

The Ghanaian Minister for Trade and Industry Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah recently unveiled a Made-in-Ghana logo to underscore the need for Ghanaians to manufacture their own goods for both domestic consumption and exports in order to increase the country’s revenue and create more jobs for the youth and women. This is meant to fend-off pressure on the Ghanaian currency – Cedi and the trade imbalance caused by the increase in demand for imports – some of which are or can be produced locally. The logo will be used as a tool in the transformation of the nation as most of the locally manufactured goods would be branded with the Made-in-Ghana logo to communicate the spirit of purchasing local products and create recognition towards this cause for all generations.

Kenya has been on the forefront of promoting “Brand Kenya” products. The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Co-operatives has developed a policy that will promote local industry through procurement of locally-made products. In March 2008, a state corporation named Brand Kenya Board (BKB) was incorporated through the State Corporations Act (Cap. 446) to promote local products and services to encourage economic transformation.

In order to entrench the culture of “Buy Kenyan, Build Kenya”, the Ministry has developed a ‘’Buy Kenya-Build Kenya Strategy” to improve on the total factor productivity, quality and standards and more importantly raise the competitiveness of locally produced goods and services. According to the Cabinet Secretary for Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, Mr. Adan Mohammed, the Buy Kenya-Build Kenya Strategy will help in raising standards for the locally produced goods making them to be accorded preferential local market access by creating synergy that contributes to building a strong integrated agricultural, industrial and service base – which is necessary for wealth and job creation in the economy.

Therefore, buying local products means that Kenyans are essentially supporting local businesses to grow especially the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which accounts for 45% of our GDP and employ up to 80 per cent of the work force. In accessing markets locally and abroad, it is SMEs who more often than not, suffer from persistent influx of imports. In some cases, such businesses close shop due to inability to compete with imports. Buying local goods is one way of conserving the environment since it minimizes the environmental hazards such as pollution that comes with the transportation of goods out of the domestic market. Buying local products also supports job creation and retention by offering employment to the youth and women who are involved in the production process. Lastly, buying local goods helps to lift the local economy by promoting velocity of money, savings and investments and also offers consumers access to more options for the locally produced goods which are more responsive to customer needs and wants.

Buy Kenya–Build Kenya initiative should not be seen as a bottleneck to promoting international trade and its benefits but as a way of inculcating in every Kenyan, the spirit of patriotism and preference for the locally produced goods as a means of supporting the domestic economy.

The writer is an economist, consultant and commentator on trade and investment