NAIROBI, KENYA, DECEMBER 13 — President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ambitious Big Four agenda for the people of Kenya has started taking shape as the head of state moves to launch a number of pilot projects.
The President on December 13 was in Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city, to launch the Universal Health Care pilot programme, which is a key milestone in the country’s journey towards universal health Coverage.
Speaking during this year’s Jamhuri Day celebrations in Nairobi,President Kenyatta said residents of Kisumu, Isiolo, Nyeri, and Machakos counties will receive free health care services in all health facilities from their local health centres all the way to the referral facilities.
“We will use the lessons learnt from this pilot to refine and scale up the programme to the rest of the country over the next 18 months,” the President affirmed.
The Big Four agenda covers universal healthcare, food security, affordable housing and growing of the manufacturing sector.
“Big Four Agenda is in response to what I heard Kenyans wanted their Government to do for them. You expressed very clearly during the election season, and in the previous years,the growing frustrations of joblessness amongst our youth, the high cost of basic foods, scarcity of affordable housing and limited access to affordable healthcare,” the President noted.
The “Big Four” Agenda responds to these needs, Kenyatta affirmed,noting that it is an accelerated development agenda designed to help the country achieve the social and economic pillars of its Vision 2030 and the 2010 Constitution.
On manufacturing as a pillar, the President is keen to grow the sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 15 per cent from the current single digit.
“Our aim is to sharply raise the contribution of manufacturing to our national income as a means to achieve shared prosperity,” the President said.
He has called for continued support of the “Buy Kenya, Build Kenya” philosophy which he expects all Kenyans to support.
To attract local and foreign investors, the government has been heavily investing in power generation, modern roads and railway, education and health.
It has also been pushing for reforms to make it easier for business to be conducted in Kenya.
The latest World Bank Ease of Doing Business index ranks Kenya at position 61 globally, from a rank of 80th last year, making it one of the most improved countries in the world.
This has been achieved as a result of key reforms undertaken in the past year to improve the business climate for small and medium-sized businesses.
“This is still not good enough, especially with regard to small and medium size businesses, which still have to contend with far too much redtape and corruption,” the President noted.
With the deepening of Huduma Mashinani, the government is optimistic to see better progress in cutting the red tape and corruption, retaliating his call for support of SMEs in the country.
The President has called on those in regulatory agencies, at both national and county levels, to shed their gate-keeping mentality and instead embrace the role of being facilitators for business and trade.
“For those who continue to treat their public offices as toll-stations to harass wananchi, the broom that is sweeping across the nation, will soon find its way to your door steps,” the President warned.
He said the government remains committed to do more for the micro- sized manufacturers in the “Jua kali” sector, as it is a major employer of the people.
The government is currently working with the banking sector on redesigning the Micro & Small Enterprises Authority Fund so that it can unlock much needed affordable credit for small businesses.
According to the President, the move will strengthen legislation that enables, rather than hinders, their efforts; and offer access to affordable technology that will help them improve their productivity and competitiveness.
“Our efforts are translating to foreign and domestic investors realizing, with every passing day, that Kenya is one of the best destinations in which to build their enterprises,” Kenyatta said, “My Administration will keep its foot on the pedal in making Kenya more and more open to good and honest entrepreneurs.”
Turning to the housing pillar, this initiative is anchored under the Affordable Housing Programme that will, among other benefits, deliver 500,000 affordable homes.
In the last 12 months, the government has laid an appropriate legal and policy foundation that provides the platform to transform the housing sector for the better. This is the first time that private public partnerships will be so instrumental in the provision of affordable homes.
As promised one year ago when he announced his ambitious plan,President Kenyatta’s administration has established the Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company, whose sole remit will be to work with the banking sector and the cooperative movement through SACCO’s, to make available affordable mortgage finance for those wishing to own a home.
The Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company is tasked with helping extend the tenure of housing loans from the current average of seven (7) years to at least twenty (20) years. It will also assist in driving interest rates on mortgages to single digits.
Further, after extensive debate, the government has finally received approval by the National Assembly to establish the Kenya Housing Development Fund.
“I thank you, our Members of Parliament, the trade unions and the Kenya Federation of Employers for your support to this Fund,” the President said during the address to the nation.
The Housing Fund is the anchor of the Public Private Partnership led housing model; it is the fund that will be the primary off-taker of approved building developments designed and implemented under this programme.
The President is expected to launch the first of the many housing developments in a week’s time.
In parallel to these efforts, the private sector shall, by subscribing to the new housing development framework guidelines, be able to develop housing projects for the off take by the Housing Fund.
The benefits of this programme will extend beyond the home owners and will benefit thousands of households by creating jobs for workers in the construction industry and associated sectors.
To guarantee affordability and promote domestic industries, the government has further encouraged construction companies to use locally produced building materials. Inputs such as doors, windows, hinges, sand,and cement should be sourced domestically, he has directed.
President Kenyatta believes there is no reason that Kenya cannot feed itself and make food affordable to all.
His administration is taking every step to ensure that farming goes beyond subsistence, and that every farmer is running a profitable business.
The government is keen to reform its approach to input subsidies by introducing greater transparency in their funding and ensuring that subsidies benefit the farmers and not unscrupulous middlemen and brokers.
It is also taking measures to reduce post-harvest losses, and promoting crop and livestock insurance.
Through the accelerated construction of water pans and there habilitating of old dams, the government seeks to sharply raise the total land under irrigation and begin to overcome the unpredictability of rain-fed agriculture.
The President has challenged the youth to take up farming as an investment.
“I want to say to our youth today: far too many of you have learnt to regard farming negatively. But it does not have to be the case. You have acquired knowledge and have access to much useful information that can help transform the farms of your parents. In this regard, I urge our youth to seek support from various commercial banks such as the Kenya Commercial Bank Foundation programme, named, 2Jiajiri,” he said.
During the graduation ceremony that President Kenyatta graced last week, the Foundation committed to set aside annually Ksh10 billion for the next five years to support youth micro businesses in agriculture, manufacturing and services.