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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Kenya will remain King of the East African jungle

I came across this little tidbit in The East African... Museveni backs First Lady for the presidency

This is not unique to Uganda.
  • USA - Bill Clinton who backed his wife, Hillary Clinton, for the top job in 2008 though this was 8 years AFTER he retired as the president.
  • Argentina - Cristina Elisabet Fern√°ndez de Kirchner succeeded her husband as the president in 2007
  • India - Rajiv Gandhi succeeded his mother, Indira Gandhi, as PM after she was assassinated in 1984
Unfortunately for Uganda, the tension & potential instability over the Yoweri Museveni succession will allow Kenya to steal a march over Uganda in the following areas:
  • Infrastructure - Railway, Roads & Air. It's simple. Kenya plans to build a railway from Mombasa/Lamu to South Sudan. The earlier plan was to extend the Mombasa-Nairobi-Kampala line to Hoima-Juba but now it  is likely Kenya might just go Lamu-Juba (with a spur to Ethiopia). The loss to Uganda will be substantial. Add roads by-passing Uganda heading to South Sudan. As for Air Travel, Kenya is far ahead already & a new/expanded airport will only help extend the lead.
  • Oil Refinery - Uganda is slightly ahead on this matter since it found viable oil finds 3 years prior to Kenya (2012). The good news for Kenya is that South Sudan (as well as potential oil finds in Kenya) makes for a better case for a new refinery planned for Lamu.
Kenya's only competitor for good governance (not that the bar is high) is Rwanda which plans to build a new airport in Kigali to compete as an East African hub. Rwanda has been in the forefront of integration & plans to sue other EAC countries to reduce non-tariff barriers.

It is unfortunate that Kenya will benefit at the expense of the regional neighbours but this is not Kenya's doing. Ideally, there should be a concerted effort to increase regional trade by reducing barriers but investing in unstable situations is pricier & not every investor is comfortable.

Kenya screwed up in 2007-8. It is easy to blame the politicians but they did not go out with machetes to hack their neighbours but idiots/sadists among us did. Kenya is an African country & I (sadly) expect at a few election related deaths. Not unique to Kenya or Africa. This happens regularly in Pakistan, Middle East (Bahrain, Iraq, etc), India, etc.
*Yes, I am being (slightly) pessimistic but very few regime changes or elections in Africa over the past 10 years have been violence free. Perhaps these were not at the scale of the Kenyan debacle but somewhat violent*

Tanzania (generally peaceful political transitions) with it's misguided "We are Southern Africans" has held it back from usurping Kenya's clout. I expect the economy of Northern Tanzania to remain reliant on Kenya - a net consumer of fruits, vegetables & grains. If Kenya expands the Port of Mombasa before the Tanzanians smell the roses, then the supply of many goods into Tanzania will be dominated by supply chains via Kenya.

*** As an aside, thumbs up  to Kiran Jain (born in Kibos, Kisumu & whose parents still live here) who heads Dehli Airport's "airline marketing & route development". Hopefully, she returns to Kenya at some point & revamps JKIA!!!


Anonymous said...

I fail to see the point in this post but mere gloating (I am Kenyan, so make no mistake about my standpoint). Kenya was already positioned advantageously way back from the colonial setup. We are supposed to be in a leadership position, so saying Kenya will remain the King of the East African Jungle is pretty much an obvious statement.But unfortunately I do not believe we have fully exploited the potential we have, or even worse we have been sleeping (which we have).Secondly, I do not think it is advisable to compare ourselves with our immediate neighbours (this creates a false illusion), how about raising the bar a little....let's say South Africa. We have enjoyed relative stability since independence,whilst countries like Rwanda & Uganda came out of prolonged instability periods fairly recently - yet, if you were to look closely, have made major strides in economic developments (some aspects which took us 30+ years took them a 5+ years).

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coldtusker said...

Kenya should compare herself to those 'higher' on the economic/ladder ladder. The point is that Kenya, despite the mediocrity that runs through many institutions, is 'lucky' to have neighbors who are even more mediocre!

Uganda could have stolen a march over Kenya by exploiting the oil sooner by starting to build a refinery as well as a railway spur to S. Sudan (which would have an export outlet) for its oil.

Uganda has been 'peaceful' for 25 years but Museveni sold out on his vision. He could have been the quintessential benevolent dictator (see Lee Kuan Yew or even Paul Kagame) to propel Uganda much higher.