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Kenyan president:

Agriculture has massive potential to improve economy

When President Uhuru Kenyatta is sworn in next Tuesday for his second and final term in the office, the focus will be on his agenda for the next five years.

His promises to Kenyans and the international community will underpin the policies his Jubilee government will implement to deal with the challenges and opportunities that characterise Kenya’s politics, economy and social integration.

The President’s legacy will be defined by how he steers the country from the recurrent crises that have scuttled prospects for economic and social prosperity.

He will need to navigate through critical reforms to deal with the power struggles that have persisted between powerful political interests. Deeper economic and social transformation will be key to a brighter future.

Reforming the political architecture and key governance institutions will reduce the burden of the disconnect in public service.

The governance structure at the national and county levels needs to be more focused on service to the people.

The justice, law and order institutions has a big agenda to deepen the foundations of economic growth and long-term prosperity. Even though the government has invested heavily in infrastructure, there’s an urgent need to prop up the growth potential of the areas lagging in development — because of their peculiar factors such as aridity or distance from the markets.

Such policy interventions are critical to areas such as northeastern, western and the coastal belt, which have large, untapped potential for transforming the lives of the local communities.

Irrigation schemes need to be expanded to tap the rich agricultural potential of the region.

The fortunes of the region will also be driven by the development of the petroleum resources discovered recently in several counties, including Turkana, Marsabit and Mandera. Strong wind power potential will increase green energy development, which is critical to the stability of electricity supply to the productive sectors of the economy.

The coastal region has potential for tourism, but continues to lag behind because of poor development of the value chain and insecurity. The government needs to accelerate investments in infrastructure to encourage direct charter flights to Mombasa, the South and North Coast.

The new airports at Ukunda on the South Coast and Manda in Lamu are already stimulating tourism.

The agricultural potential is massive and is being supported by the development of irrigation water sources such as Mwache Dam in Kwale to millions of consumers in Kwale and Mombasa counties and irrigate 2,600 hectares. Coordinated development will increase the output of main cash crops, including sugar, cashew nuts, fruits and vegetables.

For western Kenya, President Kenyatta’s challenge will be to facilitate the revival of the sugar and cotton industries to increase output and create jobs for youth.

The revival of the sugar industry will help to bridge the perennial national sugar deficit of 200,000 tonnes, reducing a heavy import cost. Cotton also has unmet potential for supporting the export processing textile and garments industry.

The lessons of the past four years will inform the President’s strategic vision for 2022 and beyond.


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