Ensure initiatives wipe off the tears of poor Kenyans

Kilifi Deputy Governor Flora Mbetsa with Shofco CEO Kennedy Odede

From right: Kilifi Deputy Governor Flora Mbetsa with Shofco CEO Kennedy Odede during the cheque presentation to sponsor smart agriculture in Kilifi North Sub-County.

Photo credit: Pool

Many will be surprised to learn that the poor pay more taxes than the rich in this country.

The cost of living has skyrocketed to unmanageable levels and those at the bottom, the “hustlers”, feel the pinch the most. They pay VAT on every product they buy, making a mockery of the so-called ‘Kadogo Economy’.

Take, for example, water, a precious commodity that should be easily available in every home. In Kibera, where I was born and raised, a 20-litre jerrycan is sold at Sh20 while the lowest rates paid to Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company are just over Sh1,200 for 10 cubic metres per month. That means they pay a shilling per litre while the rest part with Sh67 for 1,000 litres, a big burden to the slum dweller.

Residents of informal settlements, who live hand to mouth and have no stable income, are forced to dig deeper into their pockets at a time of unprecedented economic hardships. The ‘kadogo economy’ is a lie; it doesn’t help the poor but suffocates them.

The combined impact of high water charges and costly petrol, cooking oil and the staple, maize flour, piles pressure on an economy where households are forced to remove critical goods and services from their budget to navigate the turbulent times.

It is survival of the fittest. But the most vulnerable, who have to wash clothes, clean homes and do other menial jobs to make ends meet, cannot hack it. Some live on a meal a day—but it is not sustainable.

Something should be done. We risk a revolution—which is dangerous for the country when stability is critical as President William Ruto steadies the ship.

Hopeless and helpless, the youth have become a soft target for evildoers. A hungry youth is an angry youth. A nation’s stability rests on how it treats its youth; they’re the makers and shapers of the future.

It was a promising sign that President Ruto chose Kibera among the first areas to launch his affordable housing programme. That will give the youth and other residents opportunities and hope. His promise to ensure locals get the lion’s share of jobs on the project is laudable. He is on the right track.

The project managers should obey the President’s directive so that rogue people do not infiltrate the programme and deny residents opportunities.

Food production initiatives

I also look forward to the realisation of food production initiatives started by the Head of State, especially with the provision of affordable fertiliser and the Galana Kulalu irrigation project. These will go a long way in lowering food prices, ultimately bringing down the cost of living. The government ought to also ensure the poor have easy access to affordable water while also empowering women.

I believe that joint efforts between the government and the private sector are the only way to solve the country’s problems. We at Shofco have realised a certain level of success on this front and will always be willing to offer some relevant lessons.

Mr Odede is the founder and CEO of Shofco, a member of USAid Advisory Board, World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, multiple humanitarian award winner and best-selling author. [email protected].