By Prof. P. Anyang’ Nyong’o, MP, EGH,
Minister for Medical Services,
&ODM Secretary General
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me take this opportunity to welcome you to Tom Mboya Labour College in this city of Kisumu, known more widely by its nick name "United Kisumu". In other words when you land at the Kisumu International Airport, especially after the plane has flown over the Nyanza Gulf, you will realize that you have gone overseas and landed in the UK--United Kisumu!
That, of course, is both a joke and a serious desire that the people of this region have had for a long time: i.e. to take Kisumu to a level of development that would compare favourably with much better known cities on the banks of oceans like San Francisco, rivers, like London, or on the shores of lakes, like Chicago.
But on a more serious note, this college commemorates one of our most thoughtful and illustrious founding fathers of modern Kenya--the late T.J. Mboya--whose dream was to bring Kenya to the standards of San Francisco, London and Chicago. That dream, however, has eluded us since independence. But under the new constitution, we can reclaim it. Yes, we can!
Kisumu was founded as a railway terminal by the European settlers (who called it Port Florence) at the dawn of the last century as an entry port to the Pearl of Africa in Uganda, Kisumu saw the first plane land on its waters well before any other town experienced that phenomenon north or south of the Equator in the then British East Africa, when such technology was still in practice. Kisumu harbour in the colonial days, thrived on inter-state commerce, linking it to Lake Victoria ports in Uganda and Tanzania.
Kisumu has been first in other things too. After independence, Kisumu was the first town to have a woman elected Member of Parliament as well as a woman mayor, Madam Grace Onyango, "nyar Bungu" who still continues to grace this city with her services to many institutions (the New Nyanza Provincial Government Hospital being one of them) and her motherly presence in almost every important function in the city.
The people of Kisumu County, close to one million of us, are our greatest resource, especially the youth. Economies are driven by labour (and capital) and most productive age of labour is at its youth. We must, therefore, invest in them in all areas of development, especially through education, technical training, skills development, sports and culture.
Fortunately, we have done well in educating our youth: 64% of the Kisumu county population has attended primary school, which is about the national average (65%), while 13% have gone to high school just like 13% of all Kenyans. We need to plan our county economy that will generate jobs for this educated and young population. For that we need investment and job training that will match youths' skills to what the employers want.
To my mind, Lake Victoria should be an investment as an arena for new industrial activity: hotels and tourist resorts, water-sports all the way to the Olympics, ferry-borne trade with our neighbours, agricultural processing industries, fisheries, finance and many others. We must reclaim Kisumu and make it even better than it was in the 1960s.
Kisumu must now aim for another first. Yet today, the city now looks nostalgically to her past glory when neatness and splendour were synonymous with its name. When we held discussions on the "Kisumu We Want" in the early nineties, we made several proposals only some of which have been implemented.
A quick walk to Ondiek Estate through the bus stop, and leaving the Social Hall to the right, will remind you that this is no longer the city which saw His Worship Joel Omino became its first African Mayor in the early sixties.
The congestion, the squalour, a lack of discipline amidst a bubble of trade and commerce tells you that something needs to be done to make this city restore its glorious past as an attractive city to live in and a much better place to feel at home. His Worship the Mayor, Sam Okelo, and his team at City Hall, have made a wonderful contribution, and we must thank them. But more is yet to be done if we are all willing to work together.
Yet, as we move to devolved government next year--a great achievement in the Second Liberation of this country towards which the sons and daughters of this region contributed immensely, led by our ODM Party Leader, Rt. Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga, Prime Minister of our great Republic-- Kisumu City is all we have as the capital of our new County of Kisumu, and on it and from it we must build our future. We have the past to inspire us about the future we want.
When Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and other Luo patriots from Nyanza founded the Luo Thrift and Trading Corporation (LUTATCO) soon after the Second World War, their driving motto and battle cry was "KINDA E TEKO, SINANI E LWENY." Translated into English this simply means "determination is strength and resoluteness is the essence of struggle."
With that kind of inspiration, LUTATCO achieved a lot against odds: a construction company spearheaded by Ong'er wuon Obudo put up school buildings, shops, rental houses and posho mills which still stand in several places across this region.
What we learn from this is that collective action, with visionary leadership, is much more effective than scattered efforts at self-improvement. Of course, we do not mean to downplay the entrepreneurial prowess of individuals which quite often produces great business ventures. To develop our County we need both: inspired collective ventures and great ventures inspired by enterprising individuals.
As an illustration of such two-pronged success let me cite the tremendous achievements that small, medium and large scale enterprises have achieved in this region, from the small woman farmer in Awasi to the captains of industry at Specter International.
Let me recognize the tremendous efforts by our youth in the transport industry, the bode economy so central to daily life across our nation. Our county government will go all the way to guarantee safety, stop unnecessary harassment and ensure prosperity in this promising transport sector.
Our peasant farmers continue to produce the food that sustains the many families in the rural areas and urban centres, though this is done under conditions of low productivity and near fatal dependence on the fortunes of nature. To be competitive as a bread basket in Kenya--for which we have the potential--we shall need to put public resources to improve agricultural inputs and technology. Proper irrigation, the damming of rain water and the harnessing of floods is a must.
Value addition in agriculture and fishing, no doubt made easier now with the international airport to encourage exports, should likewise, improve productivity. In other words, we should learn a lesson or two from Dominion Farms at the delta of River Yala. It can be done; let us play our part.
In 1997, during the month of July, I did a rather quick study of the business turnover in the city of Kisumu using the Central Bank statistics. I found out that, in that one month, the money that exchanged hands through the buying and selling of goods and services was about 3 billion shillings. The money that was then ploughed back in terms of investments in Kisumu was only 67 million shillings. Which meant that a good part of business was business in transit; people were making money but investing it elsewhere.
But then how could one explain the booming construction that was then going on in Kondele? The answer could be found in the use of personal savings from the rural areas or from those working up country investing in the real estate market and the business enterprises in Kondele.
Contrary to some mistaken notion that our people lack the investment culture, our people can and do invest. There is a construction boom in housing in Kisumu that you are all familiar with. What we need is more user-friendly financial intermediation of the kind that one can now see happening robustly in the Kisumu real estate market.
In order for our County economy to grow much faster, however, we shall need more small scale and medium scale credit intermediation, in the rural as well as the urban sectors of our county. With more social development in education and health receiving investments from both the private and public sectors, knowing full well that the County will be responsible for basic education as well as primary health care, we shall give a firmer foundation for our youth and guarantee them a better future. We shall support the many women and mothers who take care of us at birth with improved health care, reducing both mother and child mortality drastically.
We must therefore stimulate and attract investments from our people in our county, and that will need a county government and leadership that will be inspirational in ideas, policies, action, determination, courage, resoluteness and confidence in our future. In other words another LUTATCO in a modern context is possible.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am requesting you today to give me the opportunity to be part of that leadership as the Senator for Kisumu County next year so that I can help push Kisumu County fast forward in this new era where the sky must be our limit.
We need to realize that having great potential for tourism and the hospitality and entertainment industry is not enough; we must turn this potential into jobs for our people and wealth we shall live on. The marshlands of Kano as the Nyando drains into Lake Victoria, has a great potential for eco tourism.
But that recognition alone is not enough; we must create the necessary infrastructure and marketing that will lead visitors to go and spend there. I am requesting to be given the opportunity to explore this further in our County government so as to turn a mere dream into lived reality. As the Senator of Kisumu County I will make this dream come true.
The potential tourism circuit in our County is huge; it will lead our visitors to the resting place of the legendary Luanda Magere in Kano, the leisure cruises on Lake Victoria only to emerge through Kaloka beach and behold the wonders of Kit Mikayi in Seme as one prepares to visit Kang'o ka Jaramogi and Obama's birth place in Kogelo. We have many opportunities for individual business persons to create tourist lodges on Ndere Island and quiet retreats along the shores of Lake Victoria.
For this to happen, the County government will need to work on the infrastructure and security to ensure a 24 hour economy for this proposal to be worth it. I am requesting you to give me the opportunity to be part of the leadership of the County that will make these aspirations see daylight. I am knocking at your door to open the way for me to be the Senator for Kisumu County in order to do this.
I do not want to cry too much regarding the misfortunes that have hit our three leading crops in the commercial agricultural sector: cotton, rice and sugar. Nor will I revisit the well known tragedy that hit the cotton industry some years ago. The stories are known, the miseries of the farmers over-narrated and the incompetence of the state corporations using inappropriate policies to address the problems have become worn out clichés. What we now need is effective government intervention to restructure the cotton, rice and sugar economies and give the farmer a chance to get profitable returns for his labour and investments.
For once we shall find a final solution to the problems bedeviling Miwani factory. The government for all these years has held the land in trust for the people. No transaction can overlook this fact or manipulate it against community interest. Let us settle this issue expeditiously and revive Miwani next year by bringing to a closure all the legal tussles and reviving production forthwith.
For once we should finally privatize Muhoroni and guarantee some shares to the farmers through government equity which will not jeopardize the interests of private investors. This arrangement is not rocket science; and nobody should be in a hurry to disband the receivership arrangement until we have an accepted formula that will expand production while assuring the farmers much better returns for their work and investments.
For once, we should adopt a similar approach to Chemelil and put a closure to the sufferings of the farmers. The economic degradation and underdevelopment of the Sugar Belt is a blot in the livelihood of the Kisumu County people that no visionary leadership can afford to live with. I am requesting you to give me the opportunity to be part of that team that will ensure we turn around the Sugar Belt economy so that farmers will once more live in a better place to feel at home.
I know it can be done. The constitution allows county governments to negotiate loans and form partnerships with the private sector to facilitate development. Julius Nyerere once said that "to plan is to choose". It will be our responsibility to plan and choose; we shall choose to put the County on the forward gear to revive the Sugar Belt economy. It can be done; let us all play our part to move Kisumu County fast forward.
In 1994/95, when I was the chairman of the Public Investments Committee, my Committee visited the Kano Irrigation Project at a time when the farmers were at odds with the National Irrigation Board. The farmers were being asked to repay some loans amounting to millions of shillings while the Board had packed up and taken the scheme as a dead project. We pushed the government to write off the loan and to revive the project by investing in the dykes and facilitating rice marketing. But that was not enough.
Given the soil and weather conditions, the variety of rice grown must constantly be improved through research and farming methods to improve productivity and yield better rewards to farmers. Kenya produces much less rice than we consume; the same is now sadly true with maize and wheat.
We would save this country tremendous foreign exchange by increasing rice production from the County of Kisumu three or four fold. We can do it; let us all move fast forward.
Of course there is also the great potential for coffee growing with the full knowledge that Nyanza provides the remaining bastion of expanding coffee production in Kenya. Our County government will explore this re-emerging frontier with the Coffee Board of Kenya and see how far we can travel with Southern Nyanza along this road.
While we decry the decaying condition of the Nyanza Gulf the cause of this is well known to us; it is the pollution of the lake by some factories depositing affluent waste products therein and the choking of the lake by the Mbita causeway. These are problems we can tackle so as to encourage aquaculture through cage farming to supplement the natural supply of fish in the lake.
We have two great public institutions of higher learning in our county: Maseno University and the Kisumu Polytechnic. Supplemented by Uzima College of Medicine and the Great Lakes University, Kisumu County has the potential to become another national academic hub.
With the lake as a major natural resource, we shall challenge Maseno University to establish a Fisheries and Marine Engineering Faculty to develop the potential of the lake economy.
Likewise, our primary health care facilities should not lack human resources if they are incorporated into the training programmes of our medical faculties at Maseno, Uzima and Great Lakes. We shall have to partner and work with these, and other, institutions to move fast forward together to achieve these noble goals.
I am delighted, I am excited, I am ready to move, fast forward into this new Kisumu County we all want. Having our faith in God, and believing that if He is for us nobody can be against us, I now call upon all of you to join me to realize these dreams. These dreams are my suggestions put before you to reflect upon, digest and decide if indeed they will be part of the architecture of the Kisumu County We Want. Moving fast forward we have no alternative but to succeed. Our party ODM must win the next elections with your support.
Our Party Leader, Raila Amolo Odinga has no alternative but to be at State House next year as the fourth President of Kenya as we rally all Kenyans to vote for him. You are all equal to the task. Rise up now and say with one voice YES WE SHALL! YES WE SHALL! LET US MOVE FAST FORWARD; FAST FORWARD! Thank you. Thank you a million.
God bless you.
TOM MBOYA LABOUR COLLEGE,
Friday August 17, 2012