Kenya plans to expand its manufacturing sector in order to boost exports, a senior government official said on Thursday.

Trade and Industralisation Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed told a manufacturing forum in Nairobi that Kenya’s exports have remained low due to a narrow manufacturing base.

“We are therefore going to put in place interventions that will expand manufacturing sector so that Kenya can improve its exports,” Mohamed said during the Second Kenya Manufacturing Summit and Expo.

The event, which started on Thursday, will run through Saturday.

Under the theme “Driving Local Competitiveness to Make Kenya a Manufacturing Hub for Africa,” it aims to promote business partnerships and identify binding constraints impeding the sector’s growth.

The annual event seeks to improve the global competitiveness of locally manufactured products and increase employment opportunities.

Mohamed said currently 75% of all global trade is in manufactured goods, and that the government’s strategic aim of growing Kenya’s manufacturing base can only be implemented through collaboration and knowledge transfer from industry.

“That is the critical role that manufacturing plays in a country. The government is therefore keen on improving the business environment for competitiveness,” he said.

United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) Representative to Kenya Emmanuel Kalenzi said industrial development through a strong manufacturing sector will bring a new stream of opportunities in terms of job creation and knowledge transfer.

“There is need to address challenges affecting industrial growth in Kenya and Africa in order to set these economies on a path to inclusive and sustainable industrial development, and economic sustainability,” Kalenzi added.

The event, that has no entry fee, will provide an avenue for Kenyans to view, sample and buy locally manufactured products that have achieved global standards. The event will culminate with a sale on all exhibited products.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) chairlady Flora Mutahi noted that the manufacturing sector is key to Kenya’s economic growth due to its potential to grow productive jobs and increase the purchasing power of consumers.

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“Every five years our economy takes a hit as everyone adopts a wait-and-see attitude and consequently, returning to business afterward is usually made much harder,” Mutahi said.

“Our civic engagement needs to be a continued, progressive process that ends at the ballot, other than an event that commands a standstill once every five years. But because it is not this way, we are all left to start from a disadvantaged position once the election is over,” she added.

Mutahi said the manufacturing sector’s share of gross domestic product (GDP) dropped to 9.2%, and this was brought on by issues such as the prolonged drought, double taxation, delayed payments, multiple levies and fees and recently the plastic bag ban, among others, which have all affected the overall competitiveness of the sector in the region.

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