In Summary
  • The issue of conservation cannot be overlooked, particularly when the world is experiencing the effects of climate change as a result of environmental degradation.
  • A recent study by the IMF stated that countries no longer need to rely on manufacturing for productivity growth.

The recent loss of the case of the coal-powered plant that was to be set up in Lamu was a victory for environmental conservation. The issue of conservation cannot be overlooked, particularly when the world is experiencing the effects of climate change as a result of environmental degradation.

However, while we must continue protecting the environment, we cannot forget that the purpose of the Lamu plant was to provide cheaper means of energy to spur the manufacturing sector in Kenya.

Studies consistently show that one of the reasons for factory closures in Kenya and their subsequent relocation to other countries is that energy is expensive and unreliable. Consequently, in relation to its regional comparators, Kenya’s annual growth rate is at 0.8 per cent, compared to Ethiopia (6.4), Rwanda (4.4), Tanzania (4.7) and Uganda (1.6), according to 2018 Unido figures.

DEVELOPING COUNTRY

Kenya being the only developing country that hosts a UN office, namely Unep, there has been a push, and with good reasons, to ensure that it is a leader in environmental conservation through the use of clean and renewable energy.

However, even as Kenya continues in its efforts for environmental conservation, it must find a balancing act that does not compromise its manufacturing agenda. For many countries, promotion of manufacturing is at the expense of environmental conservation. For example, some of the biggest global polluters are China and the US but they are also the biggest manufacturers.

In fact, both China and, more recently, the US, have been reluctant to ratify environmental treaties. This is not to say Kenya should do that. But given that African countries are only beginning to explore industrialisation at a time when the threat of environmental degradation is imminent, they must innovatively strike the balance between environmental conservation while driving the manufacturing agenda.

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