Empowering the Jua Kali sector can change the Course of the Economy.
A few months ago I went to Kariobangi Light Industries to look for a spare part as well as a fabricator for a certain item. As always, I moved from one corner of the place to another and before long I had found the perfect people to help. I found something that ended up working quite well and saved me the time of perhaps going for an import.
Let me go back history lane. About six years ago, I first heard of the name kariobangi from a friend. He was giving a few of us some horrifying stories about the place. In my mind, I was playing the Pharisaical part of wondering if anything good could come from this place that my friend kept referring to as dangerous.
All through, I knew that this place called Kariobangi is a den of con people. I could imagine it as little “Guangdong” of Kenya. After all I heard that in this place you could find all the counterfeits that you could imagine right from foods to machines. In fact at some point I thought I could go for a counterfeit of a big Boeing 767 at an affordable cost. I am yet to get one.
So this must be a place of geniuses only. And so I desired to be one. The only difference is that I desired not to associate with those guys because they were bad geniuses. I was brutally wrong. Okay I was not going to go to this place because I was told that you went there ‘with’ and left ‘without.’ In other words crime ruled this place and theft was at its best there.
But four years ago, I first set a proper foot in Kariobangi. We were looking where we could source parts to build a short kind of manual machine to help us churn out some stuff on a trial basis. Interestingly, we found all we wanted and I was back in town sound and having lost nothing of my valuables in the whole experience.
I have ended up going there again and again, in the process I have seen newer things, accessed remotest of the places and finally seen the place in brighter light. I have not been attacked to date and I always see those people first as guys eager on enterprising for economic growth as opposed to thieves or con people as many of us think.
I have come to realize that you can’t avoid this place as long as you are beginning and are in a critical segment that requires some sort of machine fabrication. It is here that you find every kind of machine that you can imagine. I don’t want to look like saying everything there is good, as well as completely perfect, nay. There must be a few misplaced individuals as is expected of places with many people but we appreciate the many who are good.
Like once we went there seeking a machine to help us do something. The contact person we were given promised to deliver whatever we wanted soonest possible. So we agreed that in 14 days everything was going to be ready. Unfortunately it took about 21 days. We can agree that we have once underestimated the load and later realized we were aptly wrong especially with things beyond our control.
Most recently I went to do some metal casting and after moving from corner to corner I came to the place where I had faith to get the help. In fact I decided to stand there and observe the whole process. I realized interesting local technologies that are used to melt brass, aluminum and the likes and we end up getting great items for our use.
I then took a moment to reflect the impact it could have if we empowered such a people with enough resources and machinery. We could be making a myriad of products right from high quality knives, spoons, forks to such sophisticated items like tyre rims and padlocks.
This could mean that we could level the ground in terms of export – import balance that seems to be very unhealthy and unbalanced. The issue of youth unemployment could be eased as this could mean empowering job creators to create more jobs. It is unfortunate that at the moment it is about job cuts.
As I realized, it is a place of skills as opposed to blue collar which keep getting diminished as days go by. In fact empowering the Jua kali sector means insuring the future now that we are moving towards the competence based curriculum that has skills as its core component. It is important to note that the future requires that we have extra skills if we are to be save.
Lack of tools for work seems to be the greatest barrier to the growth of these industries coupled with a massive influx of Chinese imports; sometime of bad quality. Yet still these guys keep waking up and churning out items to meet the demand of those of us who need the thing done to our taste. And this is where the opportunities lie especially in the fabrication part.
The future looks bright still as we hope someone will come to us and see what it means to be a Jua kali sector person and go back to enact and implement policies that will help us move forward as country in job creation and economic empowerment.
We’ve got the opportunities, let us grab them and push the government up the throat to help it help us. We have to create the environment ourselves now that the government seems to be relaxed about totally empowering the Jua kali sector.
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