Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Economic Underdevelopment in Nyanza.

Response to Onyango Oloo,

This is a "straightforward" yet "complicated" issue. It is straightforward on the question of underdevelopment of infrastructure, industry and educational opportunities.

It is complicated on the issue of "re-ivestment" and development of "micro-industries" and "small and medium" businesses.

The infrastructure question is simple and straight forward. Luo-Nyanza has been "punished" by successive Kenyan governments for the politicians being viewed
as "anti government" and "non-conformist". In this regard the question is why whole communities would be denied their right of the "National Cake" because of being viewed as rebelliuous. It may be true that there were "Sons of Luoland" that were pro-Moi or
pro-Kenyatta, but many of these did not survive long enough to translate their sycophancy into a following of the prevailing governments.

The irony of it is that Gusii-Nyanza a nd Western Province did not feature any better than Luo Nyanza on the infrastructure despite having many successive "pro-prevailing government" political heavyweights. Let me posit that if Gusii-Nyanza has made any headways in maendeleo it purely from the fact that the area had agricultural potential for TEA and COFFEE. This coupled with sheer hard work and enterprise has brought
Gusii Nyanza to where it is.

Examining the question of educational opportunities for example. In Luo Nyanza I will posit that apart from Kanga High School (built by the pro-Moi Oyugi) the school sending anybody to University are the same ones that were built by the missionaries, colonialists
and the efforts of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Tom Mboya after Uhuru. The list of secondary schools in 1965 having impact are the same ones having an impact today. Schools built by Harambee Spirit do exist but their impact is not significant.

Gusii-Nyanza experienced an explosion of the Harambee movement secondary schools to unbelievable levels. In the early times these secondary schools had little impact with massive failures and exam cheating at mega scales. But with time, crackdown on exam cheating and other factors in question, the schools in Kisii and Nyamira District had an impact. If I may add these schools have had an impact in sending Abagusii students to the US, well beyond the proportional representation of Absgusii to Kenya's population. We need to commend these efforts, rather than deride the community and "blame Nyanchae" or "attribute to Nyachae" efforts of a community achieved without government support.

On Agro-Industry, one of the major undoing of Luo Nyanza CAN NEITHER be blamed on the government NOR the LUO people. Yes, I am talking about the collapse of COTTON and TEXTILES industry ..ie KICOMI. Like Mumias Sugar Company KICOMI had an impact not just on factory workers, but also farmers, transporters
cotton ginneries. When Japanese designed synthetics took over textiles industry, this had an impact on cotton industry. The loser was NOT JUST LUO-NYANZA
but the whole of the United States Southern states were impacted. With cotton gone as an industry Luo Nyanza only had sugarcane left as the major cash crop.

Gusii land on the other hand benefited from the expansion of coffee industry in the district in the 1960's and 1970's, but better still from the expansion of TEA INDUSTRY in the 1970's and early 80's. The TEA BOOM is in my opinion the GOLDEN ECONOMIC ERA of Gusii Land. It is TEA and COFFEE returns that fuelled the expansion of educational opportunities in Gusii Land, particularly the Harambee movement, as well as the "export" of the "sons and daughters" of Omogusii to India and the US for further studies. The Abagusii responded well to the new Tea factories
but the prices of tea (unlike cotton) have been steady, while coffe also experienced TOTAL COLLAPSE, not because of MOI (100%) but because of the slump
in world prices (70%), and corruption in the cooperative societies movement, and government neglect (30%).

Let me now compare the performance of sugar-cane industries in Nyanza with say Western Province. Western Province's ONLY successful sugar industry is Mumias Sugar Company. Its success is mainly due to HIGH RAINFALL in the old Kakamega District
as well as the right investment policies from Day 1. The sugar industry built an infra structure that had an impact on small scale agricultural production, stimulating jobs in transportation, road infrastructure, small scale mechanics outfit, and later schools.

Western Province's other sugar industries (Nzoia for example) have only fuelled poverty (monoculture) reducing production of food crop and enriching select few politically connected corrupt mandarins (most related by marriages).

Of Luo Nyanza's sugar industries ONLY SONY had an impact on small scale farmers. Chemelil has done well, and Miwani and Muhoroni have obsolete machinery and minimal impact. If Muhoroni and Miwani had an impact, it the same impact they had
in the eearly 1960's. The Nyanza Sugar zone is bedevilled by low rainfall, large scale farming and dominance by the same people (Mehta Family and either the Manji or Madhvani families).

The sugar belt in Nyanza is also a series of large scale farms that may be owned by "early arrival" political heavyweights (the Odingas, the Omamos, the Aburas), and "post Uhuru Tycoon" families, who own the majority of the land. Others in the zone are farm workers who work at the behest of the few. The "heavy movers" who dominate e verything (including siasa) have very little initiatives (except maybe two mollasses factories, one in production and the other a political symbol).

If micro-industries have featured their impact is only in the Kisumu urban metropolis, and most of the micro-industries are owned by Kenyan Asians. Despite criticism we wtill have to commend this community for creating employment opportunities (Mhindi Mbaya
Kiatu Chake ni Dawa).

On this issue I completely differ with the Marxist- Leninist approach where wananchi would have to wait for Central Government and Central Planning to invest into infra-structural and industrial development. Central Planning and Central government will tend to favor whoever holds the political strings in the political center. Hence when a Moi is in power, that is the only chance to develop an "Eldoret International Airport", without a vision, prior studies etc etc.

Th e challenge to professionals in Kenya (not just Nyanza) is where, how and when should professionals in the community invest in infrastructure, capital development and micro-industry in their home areas. Ndugu Oloo, the question now is whether Luo
professionals and entrepreneurs should view themselves as Kenyans first, or Luo-Homeboys first. The question my brother is "If a Kamau or Ngige puts up a Nails
Factory in Limuru, is he a Kenyan first? or a Gikuyu first?". An even tougher question is, if a Wafula puts up a major bakery in Kitale, is he guilty of favoring his own?

Now unfortunately entrepreneurship is not one of the central pillars of Marxism (ask Deng Xiao Ping), but China has greatly benefited from opening up
its country to investment. For Nyanza, it biggest asset is water (not rainfall). How do we explain the failure of Kisumu Breweries (a water based industry?). OK the so called "Luo Kik uyu-phobes" will point fingers at Matiba and Co. as saboteurs. Suppose
we agree with them (that Kikuyus, Kalenjins and Luhyias do not have the welfare and interest of Luos at heart) who should take the "Steering wheel"? (In addition
to the already existing Wahindis, who are no doubt the biggest inestors in Nyanza).

Right now the next biggest entrepreneurs in Nyanza are the Abagusii. So succesful have the Abagusii been as capitalists that they are giving the Agikuyu a run for their money in the matatu industry in Nairobi, and giving the Kalenjins a run in Eldoret, Kitale, Kericho
etc. In Kisumu Town the Abagusii have taken over maize and vegetable trade, and created a transportation industry from "vacuum" (I mean without political

The question of entrepreneurship relates to personal values (mostly sometimnes reduced to stereotypes). Hence where would a priority be? Micro-business development IMHO will not wait anymore for Central Government rescue. Hence JB Orengo
's argument about it being the Central Government's duty to invest in infrastructure would only make sense if a government sense to development would be unbiased. But even in all countries government based maendeleo will ALWAYS BE BIASED. People cannot
afford to wait for the government any more!!!!!!!!!!!!

To me politicians are the biggest "misleaders" on this issue. Hence for example while Peter Okondo was Kenya's largest real estate heavyweight, his people of Budalang'i continued to languish in the poorest houses in the country. One would argue that Habenga had no "buyers" for his opulent houses. But today if you go to Budalang'i you will see "Red Tiled Loresho type" houses all along the lake shore, all built by individual efforts by "Sons of the Soil".

In the same vein Alego or Gem, with the highest number r of "PhD's per square km" continues to wallow in poverty (mainly Alego, I am not an authorty on Gem).

It is my humble opinion that our politicians have focused on the "blame and complain" style of politics and lost an opportunity to engage their own in efforts to invest in development. Nyanza has the wherewithal, potential, manpower and brains to develop and
extra-governmental development strategy. I contrast this with Kasai in DR Congo. The Kasai people, having been ignored by successive governments, and having been considered as the "wrong tribe" went ahead and developed their home area without government assistance. Through individual and community efforts
they have built excellent hospitals and even a university.

Nandis, not favorites during the Moi regime, still have the sencond highest number of secondary schools in the counytry. Bungoma, ignored by the colonial and post-colonial govern ments has the HIGHEST NUMBER of secondary schools in Kenya.

And in that regard I agree with you that the molasses factory in Kisumu is an excellent example (corruption claims aside) and symbol that ONLY the HOMEBOYS will
lead the initiative for development in a neglected area. In short who knows maybe corruption was involved in reviving the factory, but corruption was always
there and the factory rotted. Meanwhile Agro-Chemical Molasses Company in Muhoroni has faired VERY WELL. The future of sugar cane as a cash crop is in alternative products and NOT sugar. If handled well the molasses factory may be a step in the right
direction. In itself the factory will not have a a major impact, but as a phenomenon (of ONLY HOMEBOYS WILL LEAD THE RESCUE) it is a step in the right direction. But the questions of corruption will not "evaporate" and if criminal intrigue was involved those culpable may have to f ace the music.

My bottom line: Nyanza solutions will have to come from Nyanza, the enabling frame work will have to be Kenyan (not Nyanza alone), but without the right political will, and a development oriented political leadership. NO CENTRAL GOVERNMENT (whether it has 10 LUO cabinet ministers) will bail out Nyanza. The solution lies within the "Sons of the Soil" grabbing the revitalization initiative.


Papa F

The author is a distinguished Professor in a US university.

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