Friday, March 27, 2009

Kenya: An Island of...

We Kenyans like to think that we are the most developed and sophisticated people in our corner of the planet. We consider other countries in the neighbourhood to be backwater shagsmodos. I must confess that till recently I broadly shared these sentiments. However, such smugness is sadly misplaced.

Take Malawi as an example. The last four years have witnessed an average annual economic growth rate of 7%. Over the period, the tiny landlocked country has doubled it's agricultural production every year. According to Wikipaedia,
in 2006, in response to disastrously low agricultural harvests, Malawi began a program of fertilizer subsidies that were designed to re-energize the land and boost crop production. It has been reported that this program, championed by the country's president, is radically improving Malawi's agriculture, and causing Malawi to become a net exporter of food to nearby countries.
While Kenya starves and produces a paltry 1.4 tonnes per hectare, Malawi is now producing 5 tonnes per hectare. Our production at independence was 1.2 tonnes per hectare, which goes to illustrate just how little we have improved in 45 years.

(Staying on matters agricultural, I was shocked to learn that Kenya produces nearly 1.5 times more milk than South Africa but earns 5 times less from that production. In 2006, according to the EA Report On Manufacturers & Commercial News, Kenya earned Kshs 64 billion from 3.5 billion litres of milk compared with SA's Kshs 220 billion from 2.6 billion litres which translates to revenue per litre of just Kshs 29 for Kenya and a whopping Kshs 96 for SA. With a dairy herd six times as small, the average SA dairy farmer produces ten times as much milk as his Kenyan counterpart.)

Back to Malawi. While our own fight against corruption continues to be mired in the morass that is our politics, Malawi last month re-arrested (note the re-) former president Bakili Muluzi on charges of stealing millions of dollars given to the country by international donors. And as we struggle with the aftermath of the 2008 post-election violence, it is instructive to note that Malawi has had two peaceful transfers of power.

Who's the backwater now?


Unknown said...

Yikes! I feel like you just threw mud on me. The way I go around telling people that Kenya is the spot to be in Africa. Kumbe we are the new gishagi

Anonymous said...

i recently came from Brussels, where phd african scholars were miffed that an EU official had just stated that "africa was not important". "we have we are important"...was all they nauseum. i was very saddened....coz we parted after a week of seminars...where my buddies still thought africa was that important, globally. until we wake up and smell the coffee....IT IS ALL GOING PAST US as we complain about slavery and colonialism!!!!!!