In Summary
  • A boycott of English goods by the American populace in the 18th century resulted in independence.
  • Thus, while the boycott might be on one item, the anti-consumption attitude tends to spread wider.

The year was 1956. Martin Luther King Jr was leading a year-long bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, in the struggle for racial equality.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga was an 11-year-old boy closely observing his father’s political moves.

Sixty-one years later, Dr King is a national symbol of civil rights in his country.

Mr Odinga starts the Montgomery-style struggle with the hope of achieving similar results in independent Kenya. What if he succeeds?

About a week ago, the National Super Alliance (Nasa) announced a boycott of Safaricom, Brookside Dairy and Bidco products. It is not clear how long the boycott will last.

Economic boycotts tend to succeed against the odds.

A boycott of English goods by the American populace in the 18th century resulted in independence.

Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent boycott of commercial salt and a march to the sea led to significant losses and, ultimately, India’s independence.

The American civil movement, led by Dr King, made great strides in equal rights for all races in the United States.

Boycotts succeed because they hit at the heart of capitalism — free trade.


In its 2017 annual report, Safaricom announced a profit of Sh48.4 billion, being 22.75 per cent of total revenue.

In essence, if you take away a quarter of the firm’s income, it will undoubtedly plunge into the loss-making territory.

Safaricom is one of the unique economic entities this side of the Sahara that delivers super profits.

The rest deliver profits that are way below 20 per cent of income.

If the election boycott by Nasa is an indicator of the coalition’s following, then chances of failure are slim.


Assuming they control half the population, even if only 80 per cent of their followers oblige, there will be catastrophic economic results.

Workers will be laid off for these firms to remain afloat.

The firms are likely to default on bank loans and workers’ morale will go down.

The economic doom is cyclical and, once in motion, can bring down even the biggest firm in east and central Africa.

More importantly, the boycott spirit is contagious.


Page 1 of 2