Ban Ki-moon the former UN Secretary General once defined sustainable development as ‘the pathway to the future we want for all. It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship and strengthen governance.’
Special Economic Zones (SEZs) can accelerate Kenya’s walk along this pathway. SEZs operate under a different set of laws conducive to business. As such, they can turbo-charge sustainable development by boosting Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Exchange revenue.
In Thailand, the Government recently allowed foreigners to set up universities in Special Economic Zones in order to address certain skill deficits in the country. Thailand’s Education Minister explained why this step was necessary, “if we use normal rules of the Office of the Higher Education Commission, it will take too long for such universities to kick off. If we wait that long, Thailand may not be able to produce necessary human resources for the new trends in time.”
In China, SEZs have played a pivotal role in powering the country’s economic growth. One of China’s best-known SEZ success story is Shenzen. In the mid-seventies, Shenzen was just a village set-up of thirty thousand people. However, when 1980 came along, Deng Xiaoping the Communist Party leader at the time designate the small town as a Special Economic Zone. Because of this well-executed measure, Shenzen experience a phenomenal economic growth. Between 1978 and 2014, its GDP per capita grew at an incredible 24,569 percent. There are now 12 million people contributing to and reaping from this positive economic explosion in Shenzen.
It is therefore fitting that last week, China hosted a historic agreement that could see Eldoret become Kenya’s Shenzen. This agreementwas signed between Dr.David Langat the Founder of Africa Economic Zones Ltd and Prof. Zhu Layi The President of China’s Guangdong New South Groupand was witnessed by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Approximately Ksh 200 billion will be invested for the construction of this Special Economic Zone. The massive investment from Chinese investors and other future investors is expected to create thousands of jobs and generate $3 billion annually.
While this Special Economic Zone is at its early stages, it is quite telling and promising that it has attracted such a huge investment. This was not accidental, but has been the result of conducive government policies and concerted efforts from the Africa Economic Zones Ltd, Government officials, the County Government of UasinGishu and various other stakeholders.
This is the collaborative and visionary approach that we need in our country. All too often, politics clouds vision and renders it impotent. The focus of the private sector and the government should always be better life for the citizenry through an increasingly stronger economy. Special Economic Zones are indispensable vehicles that can ferry our continent to greatness. Through them, Shenzen became a global economic powerhouse. Eldoret is Thinking and acting green. What about you?
Yours in Green,
Dr. Isaac Kalua