Ethiopia: Africa’s new economic powerhouse

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By Florence Gichoya

Ethiopia is a country of many contrasts. Africa’s most populous land locked country, is a rising economic powerhouse, recording the highest economic growth rate in the continent. But then again, Ethiopia performs dismally in the area of democracy and press freedom. The country’s parliament is deficient of opposition MPs. The ruling party, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), and its allied parties, won all the 546 parliamentary seats, in last year’s May elections.

Still, the state driven economy is upbeat and trounces many African countries, which are either grappled with conflict, corruption or hostile political environment that is unfavorable for investors.

There is an unstoppable construction boom. In 2013, Africa’s biggest wind farm was built in the south of Addis Ababa. The 324 MW wind power will address the growing energy demand for domestic and industrial use. Another mega project is the construction of the 6, 000 MW Grand Renaissance dam. It will cost $4.8 billion, making it the seventh biggest hydropower plant in the world.

By increasing and diversifying the source of energy, Ethiopia has paved way for local and foreign investors. In April last year, an American owned company General Electric Transportation announced that it would set up an electric cars factory in Ethiopia, it will be the first in the continent. The plant is expected to make 4,000 cars per month, and will offer employment to thousands.

In November last year, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Transport launched the country’s first manufacturing and assembly plant. The Bushoftu Automative Industry located in a military base, is expected to manufacture 10,000 to 20,000 vehicles per year. The Transport Ministry indicated that in 2014, there were only 587,400 vehicles for 94 million people in the country. That translates to two vehicles for every 1,000 people.

“This is a light duty manufacturing plant. In this factory we can manufacture and assemble pickups, station wagons, single and double cabins and mini-trucks. We can manufacture or assemble more than 20 units per day. If there is more demand we can increase this production,” said Major Metafer Beshawhwured, the factory’s Assistant General Manager.

Ethiopia has an ambition to not only manufacture automobiles to cater for domestic demands, but also to export to neighbouring countries including Kenya.

Transport and infrastructure boom

In November last year, Ethiopia made history when it launched the first light rail system in Sub-Saharan Africa. The 32 km rail is essential in decongesting the city that has a population of more than 4 million people. Another 800 km railway line connecting Addis Ababa and Djibouti’s Port City was completed. The train ferries 1,500 trucks of goods daily to land locked Ethiopia.

An elaborate road network to increase the economic growth is under construction. The World Bank Group is partly financing the construction of Modjo-Hawassa 203km road, to the tune of $370 million. The expressway will connect the southern region to central area, and northern Ethiopia will be linked to the Djibouti Port. The road will reduce duration of travel, from four hours to two hours, and accommodate 4,000 vehicles per day. The road is part of the transcontinental 10,000 km Cape Town to Cairo highway.

Unlike other African airlines that are making loses, year in year out, Ethiopia Airlines has maintained a sturdy profit making record. In the 2014 to 2015 financial year, the government owned airline recorded $175 profit. Last month, the carrier signed a pact with Rwanda’s RwandAir, to rid the fifth freedom rights. This partnership now allows both carriers to operate without restrictions in Ethiopia and Rwanda airspace.

Sustaining traditional exports

Coffee is Ethiopia’s leading foreign exchange earner and the country is Africa’s leading exporter of Arabica coffee. According to National Geographic Magazine, 12 million Ethiopians depend on coffee as a source of income. Kenya has a lot to learn from Ethiopia’s coffee industry.

In January this year, Ethiopia projected a 45 per cent increase in coffee exports. “Coffee exports will increase 45 per cent to over 260,000 tons this year. Incentives will help achieve this goal, and they will include marketing linkage, loans for coffee exporters and processors, and the promotion of the Arabica coffee that the country exports at trade shows abroad,” Shimelis Arega, Ethiopia’s Trade Ministry spokesperson pronounced.

In 2014, the World Bank indicated that Ethiopia’s coffee contributed to 84 per cent of the country’s total exports and 80 per cent of the country’s total employment. The country’s Ministry of Trade has embarked on training small scale farmers on value addition, in order to increase sales.

The country has also diversified into horticulture business, which has grown tremendously over the years. According to World Bank Economist, Lars Christian Moller, who authored Strengthening Export Performance through Improved Competitiveness (July 2014). He evaluated Ethiopia’s flower industry had grown, “from one single firm 14 years ago to about 100 firms today, earning $200 million per year from exports and employing an estimated 50,000 people.”

When it comes to livestock industry, Ethiopia takes the lead. The livestock contributes to 17 per cent of the country’s GDP. According to Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Every year, the country produces about 2.7 million hides, 8.1 million sheepskins and 7.5 million goat skins.” The government attributes the high volume of animal hides and skins to the large population of 54 million cattle, 25.5 million sheep, 24 million goats, 7 million donkeys, two million horses and one million camels in the country. As a result, the leather industry has continued to thrive. Over 30 tanneries and numerous factories are used to process leather into shoes, bags, purses, industrial gloves, and other assorted items.

The end-products are exported to Asia, Europe and American markets. Foreign investors are encouraged to invest in the leather industry, where they enjoy a wide range of incentives, including more relief from income tax for a period of five years.

Ethiopia is an emerging power house that is on the rise. There is divided opinion on the ruling regime’s track record on human rights abuses, and its punitive methods of combating dissent. Nevertheless, Ethiopia continues to achieve great economic strides, making it an envy of Africa’s leading democracies


Burning Ivory to Conserve Africa’s Elephants

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President Uhuru Kenyatta sets fire on the ivory stockpile at Nairobi National Park. Photo/PSCU

By Florence Gichoya

For a third time, Kenya has made international headlines by burning a stockpile of ivory. On April 30th 105 tonnes of ivory were burnt at the Nairobi National Park. It is the largest hoard of ivory to be destroyed globally. On July 19 1989, former President Daniel Arap Moi burnt 12 tonnes of ivory tusks at the Nairobi National Park. The action was a bold statement against ivory poaching and trade in the world.

“To stop the poacher, the trader must also be stopped and to stop the trader, the final buyer must be convinced not to buy ivory. I appeal to people all over the world.” President Moi said during the historic event. The destruction of the seized ivory was influenced by the drastic drop of elephant population in the country, from 167,000 in 1973 to 16,000.

The action greatly influenced the global ban of ivory trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in October 1989. The resolution was supported by 76 states with 11 countries voting against. Interestingly, among the opponents of the ban were African countries that wanted to carry on trading ivory with Asian countries. Burundi, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe did not support the ban on ivory trade that was a source of revenue for their countries.

Similarly, other countries followed suit in burning ivory stockpile as a public statement against poaching and ivory trade. Zambia burned 9.5 tonnes of seized ivory in 1992.

Richard Leakey, chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service, told Scientific American Magazine that following the 1989 burning of ivory, there was a drastic drop in poaching incidences in Kenya. “The number of elephants being killed in Kenya went down from thousands a year to maybe 100 by the end of 1990, and it remained at that low level for at least a decade.”

On July 20 2011, President Mwai Kibaki, burnt five tonnes of ivory at the Tsavo National Park. “We cannot afford to sit back and allow criminal networks to destroy our common future. Through the burning of contraband ivory, we are sending a clear message to poachers and illegal traders in wildlife about our collective resolve to fight this crime in our region and beyond.” Kibaki said.

He echoed Kenya’s resolve to conserve elephants and fight ivory trade. “Through the disposal of contraband ivory, we seek to formally demonstrate to the world our determination to eliminate all forms of illegal trade in ivory.” He said.

The burning of ivory on April 30th sent a strong message to the world to stand against ivory trade. Richard Leakey believes it’s the best way to change perceptions and attitudes of Asian consumers. “My feeling is that many people who are buying this ivory in China and elsewhere simply don’t know what it is doing to elephants. May be they think that it is coming off elephants that have died of natural causes. When Kenya burns $100 million worth of ivory, they’ll say, ‘What the hell was that about?’ It will help open their eyes to what is actually happening.” Richard Leakey told Scientific American.

According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), 14 countries have destroyed over 130 tonnes of ivory since 1989. Countries have chosen to either burn or crush their seized ivory, including; Gabon, Chad, Congo, Ethiopia, France, China, Philippines, USA, China and Hong Kong

Still other countries have opted to sell their ivory, with clearance from CITES. In 1999, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe sold 49.4 tonnes of ivory to Japan. The sale precipitated high demand of ivory in Asia, which led to increased incidences of poaching of rhinos and elephants in Africa.

In 2008, CITES permitted Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe to sell 102 tonnes of ivory to China and Japan. Again, the deal saw a surge in elephant poaching.

Kitili Mbathi, the Director General of Kenya Wildlife Service, stated why Kenya was burning the largest stockpile of ivory in the world. “Kenya has decided to burn ivory because the moment you burn it, you are making it beyond economic use. Trophy disposal is left for countries to decide, some opt to crush it.” He said.

Mbathi emphasized that “Ivory is only valuable to Elephants,” and should not be used for other adornments.

According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, 96 elephants are killed every day in Africa, due to the high demand of ivory in Asia.



Demand drives supply

Other endangered species include the Rhinos, which are an easy target for poachers due to the value of their horns. In some Asian countries, the Rhino horn is perceived to have medicinal value. The rhino horn is more valuable than gold, a kilogram sells at more than Ksh 1 million in the black market.

Kenya is home to the third largest Rhino population in the world. According to African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), the poaching of Africa’s rhinos increased by 9,200 per cent between 2007 and 2014, with South Africa losing 1,215 rhinos in 2014.

The biggest challenge is in replenishing the population of elephants and rhinos that have long duration gestation periods. The tragic reality is that high rate of poaching means; there are more rhinos and elephants being killed than those that are being born. A rhino’s gestation period is about 16 months while elephants have a gestation period of almost two years.

Parliament enacted the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, the law has boosted efforts of wildlife conservation and conviction of poachers. Though the number of arrests has increased, there should be more convictions of poachers, ivory traffickers and their masterminds. Last year, Feisal Mohamed Ali, an ivory smuggler suspect was released from custody yet he is accused of smuggling ivory worth 2 tonnes.

Poaching of African Elephants and Rhinos thrives because of a complex network of cartels, which corrupt law enforcers, custom and immigration officials. The well-organized syndicates are elusive to justice and continue to carry out their crime across borders. Kenya’s cases of poaching have reduced. However, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Mombasa port continue to be transit points for ivory from Tanzania and Central Africa.

Why EAC Ranked Top in Regional Integration

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eac image

By Florence Gichoya

The inaugural Africa’s Regional Integration Index, ranked East Africa Community (EAC) as the top regional body in Africa. The report was compiled by African Development Bank (AfDB), African Union Commission (AUC) and Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and was released on April 2 2016, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Index, showed the progress and impact of regional integration in the continent. It looked at 28 indicators among them regional infrastructure, trade integration, productive integration, free movement of people and goods, and financial integration.

Africa has 8 regional intergovernmental organizations under the African Union. East Africa Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Arab Maghreb Union (UMA).

Overall, EAC was ranked the most integrated region, followed by SADC and ECOWAS came third. CEN-SAD was ranked the least integrated region. IGAD, which Kenya is a member, was ranked the best performer in the area of infrastructure.

Free movement across borders

On January 1 2014, the tripartite partnership of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda launched the use of national identity cards to travel across the three countries. “Time has come for us to remove colonial boundary barriers that have kept us apart and also isolated the people from interacting and doing business freely.” President Uhuru Kenyatta said.

The initiative’s aim was to encourage more integration, free movement of goods and services in the region that would boost the economy. “This is what we have agreed as leaders so that our people can interact by visiting each other’s country to do business and develop domestic tourism.” Uhuru said. So far the project has had considerable success, evidenced by the favorable ranking in the Africa’s Regional Integration Index.

EAC has also been commended for implementing easy travel for tourists intending to visit the region. On February 20 2014, the East Africa single tourist visa for Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda was launched by Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta, Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame. Tourists need not apply for visas from the three visas, the 90 days visa allows multiple entries in the three countries. Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda also embarked on marketing the region in international tourism fairs.

However, research has shown the project is still unpopular in the region. Kenya Tourism Federation announced in June 25 last year that 58 per cent of tourists had not used the single tourist visa, due to lack of awareness.

The Africa’s Regional Integration Index reported that, “When visa or work permit restrictions are cut, gains in time and resources open up, which supports more competitive businesses and economies.”

Africa Union Passports

Just like the European Union (EU) issues EU passports to citizens of its member states. The African Union (AU) will soon launch African passports to all Africans. The AU plans to issue the 53 Head of states, with the passports in efforts to popularize the travel document to their citizens.

EU passport holders don’t need visas to travel across Europe; likewise, AU passport holders will freely access all African countries without restrictions. “A few of us at the AU are already using that passport within Africa, and it is very useful, but we want the heads of states to carry it when they are visiting African countries to make it official and known to others as well.” Dr.  Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission said.

African continent is still beset by restrictions of free movement of goods and services. During the African Leadership Forum held in Dar es Salam in July 2015. Olesugun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former president called for the abolition of visas by African governments. “What we need to do in order to speed the integration process is to abolish visas in Africa. West African countries have done it and it is working.” He said.

According to AfDB’s Africa Visa Openness Index (2016), 55 per cent of African countries still issue visas to African travellers intending to visit their countries. Only 20 per cent of African countries, allow visitors without visas. Seychelles has the best visa openness policy. “Visa openness promotes talent mobility and business opportunities. Africa’s leader’s and policymakers have a key role to play in helping Africans to move freely in support of  (AU) Agenda 2063’s call, to abolish visa requirements for all Africans by 2018.” Moono Mupotola, AfDB’s Director of Regional Integration and Trade said.

European Union

The European Union has succeeded in economic and political integration, compared to other regional bodies in the world. It has a membership of 28 countries and has existed for more than 55 years.

Within the EU, there’s free movement of people and goods. In 1999, it successfully launched the Euro, replacing the member countries’ currencies, with the exception of Britain and Denmark.

The regional body was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, for contributing, ‘to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.’

Although Europe is a leading regional body, it is currently facing the threat of terrorism from Islamic State. It also has to cope with unprecedented immigration crisis, which has deeply divided EU’s membership on its policy on open borders for asylum seekers.

Terrorists attacks in EU’s capital Brussels, Belgium, on March 22 2016 that killed 31 people. And the deadly Paris terror attacks in 2015 have caused proponents of EU to be apprehensive on regional cohesion. Countries like Britain and France are now calling for tougher measures on EU’s immigration policy.

Another challenge for EU is the looming exit of Britain, the exit dubbed ‘Brexit’ will be determined by a referendum in 2017. Britain, a leading economy in Europe, has maintained its national currency, sterling pound, and declined to adapt the Euro currency. It has also restricted free flow of immigrants from Syria and other Middle East countries. If the referendum sails through, Britain will join Switzerland and Norway, which are the only European countries that are non-members of the EU.

Has Kenya turned to be a haven for terror?

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By Florence Gichoya

On Saturday as Kenya joined the rest of the world in celebrating Press Freedom Day, another terror attack happened in Mombasa and 3 people lost their lives and 13 were injured. Within 24 hours there was another terror attack on buses on Thika road and 3 died and 82 were injured.  Maybe it’s my instincts but I have observed that the recent 2014 terror attacks have happened a day before President Uhuru Kenyatta travels abroad or on the day he arrives from foreign visits. Below are few examples.

1. The Likoni church attack happened on March 23rd and Uhuru’s road trip to Tanzania was on March 24th.

2. Eastleigh blast was on March 31st and Uhuru was scheduled to travel to Belgium/Turkey on 1st April.

3. The Pangani police station attack happened the day Uhuru came back from Qatar. (April 23rd)

4. #MombasaBlast happened today (May 3rd) and Uhuru is set to travel to Nigeria tomorrow (March 4th) for a 3 day state visit.

5. Two buses on Thika Road were attacked on May 5th the day president Uhuru was leaving the country for Nigeria.

One of the bus that was attacked on Thika Road
One of the bus that was attacked on Thika Road

I may not be a security expert but as a concerned citizen, the frequency and coincidence of terror attacks is disturbing. So far government officials have assured Kenyans on the need to be vigilant and report suspects to the police, but we need more action than rhetoric. The terrorists live among us and know how to circumvent the security forces though corruption and absconding bail when arrested. Maybe it’s time we amended some of our laws, for instance why do we treat terrorism like a normal crime? We also need to give the National Intelligence Service powers to arrest terror suspects otherwise the blame game between Kenya police and NIS will continue.

Our coveted wildlife is declining at an alarming rate

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By Florence Gichoya



Kenya is losing wildlife at an alarming rate and if something is not done soon we might lose our heritage. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the institution mandated to protect our wildlife, has not been up to the task in effectively fighting poaching. Recently the Director General William Kiprono dismissed wildlife conservationists’ call on the President to declare poaching a national disaster.

The question is: When will poaching be, at least, declared a crisis? When we no longer have elephants and rhinos in our parks? KWS is showing laxity and not reigning on the poachers as expected.

The most affected animals are rhinos and elephants and this year, we have so far lost 18 rhinos and 51 elephants. Last year, we lost 59 rhinos and 302 elephants and if the trend continues, in a few years to come, we will not have these animals. Technically, simple calculations dictate that the rate at which rhinos are massacred far out numbers the calves born. A rhino’s gestation period is about 16 months while elephants have the longest gestation period of almost two years.

We pride ourselves in being a home of the Big Five, yet experts have warned us that if something is not done, then we might lose our heritage and our wildlife may one day be a subject in history books. Conservationists have alleged that there has been increased poaching in Africa because of the high demand of ivory in Asian countries especially Vietnam and China. The rhino horn is perceived to have medicinal value in some Asian communities, a kilogram of rhino sells at more than Sh1 million.

Kenya is not the only country facing the brunt of poaching. Last year, South Africa lost more than 1,004 rhinos through poaching, an activity that thrives in a complex network of cartels taking advantage of our porous borders and corrupt law enforcers.

Organised cartels

The culprits seem to be well organized syndicates that use superior weapons and have a network of funders, traffickers and traders who remain elusive to authorities. Although Parliament can be commended for enacting the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act which became operational this year, more needs to be done to end the vice. The security forces must be proactive and make arrests before the killings take place. They also need to conduct thorough investigations so that we can see more convictions from the courts. If poaching is not stopped, it will have a negative ripple effect on the economy.

Tourism is a major foreign exchange earner that heavily depends on our wildlife. The revenue could drastically drop if there are no interventions. For Kenya to retain its position as the world’s ideal safari destination, tougher measures should be adopted to deal with poaching. Right now, the poachers seem to be one step ahead.

Deliberate awareness

New technology need to be adopted to reduce the number of animals killed. The fight against poaching should also involve communities and the private sector. Just like the ‘Nyumba Kumi initiative’, deliberate awareness should be made to communities living in the environs of our national parks and conservancies. Community conservation policy should be encouraged so that people will be on the lookout of suspects and report incidences to the authority. President Uhuru Kenyatta recently said he is disgusted on the rising cases of poaching. He also said he will decisively deal with the matter. Moving forward, the long term solution includes a global ban against ivory and rhino horns trade. The Kenyan government through the African Union should aggressively lobby for the ban, especially in Asian countries. As Kenyans, it is our collective responsibility to speak up and safeguard our wildlife which is our national treasure and pride.

What it will take to rid Kenya of corruption

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By Florence Gichoya

Since independence, Kenya has seen different changes in regimes but if there is one thing that has remained constant it is – corruption. This week the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) launched its strategic plan for the next five years. During the launch, President Kenyatta likened the vice to what cancer is to the body. However many Kenyans remain skeptical on the government’s commitment to fight the vice. It’s a fact that corruption stunts the country’s development agenda while enriching a corrupt few. It is a fact that in the 1960’s Kenya was at par economically with countries like South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore.  Corruption became our down fall.Interestingly, we have the best laws in the world but the more things have changed the more they have remained the same.

Every year Kenya loses billions through corruption and the culprits are hardly prosecuted.There needs to be a change of tact in the fight against the vice. First all Kenyans should be involved in the preventative measures. Compulsory radical campaigns should be introduced in schools on the values of integrity. The campaigns should be on similar frequency like the ones on HIV/AIDS. While this would be a long term objective, we need to use other means to achieve the short term objectives for instance; corrupt officials should be made to pay back the money they acquired through corruption.

But even as we aspire to catch up with Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea from where they left us in the 1960’s there are lessons that we can learn from them in their commitment to fight corruption. According to corruption perception index by transparency international done last year, Singapore was ranked the fifth least corrupt country in the world with Denmark and New Zealand taking the first position.

Nevertheless, the fight against corruption has to start from the top. President Uhuru has demonstrated this by speech but we are waiting for action. Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, leads in the fight against corruption head on and Singapore has tough inflexible laws where corrupt officials are prosecuted and face a 5 years jail term or hefty fines of up to 7 milllion Kenya shillings. When president Xi Jinping of China took over in March last year,he accelerated his fight against corruption by vowing to catch the ‘tigers’ and ‘flies’; what in Kenya we would refer to ‘big fish’ and ‘small fish’.

Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta
Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta

Last year, Kenya was ranked 136 out of 175 countries in the corruption perception index that was carried out by Transparency International.A big challenge lies ahead for EACC and the government in order to curb the vice. But the citizenry also needs to be actively involved in the fight, it is easier to accuse the police and other public servants for being corrupt but those give bribes are equally guilty.

A new approach is needed especially on recovering public funds and assets that were acquired fraudulently.We need more stringent laws on how we can recover money from the architects of anglo leasing and Goldenberg scandals which can be used to build hospitals and roads in every county. We also need to set up an education policy where integrity and values are integrated in the teaching of compulsory subjects in our schools.This will eventually influence future generations to be in-tolerant to corruption, Hong Kong successfully implemented this program and it is one of the least corrupt places in the world.

While Kenyans welcomed the idea of the president setting up a reporting system in his website, they will believe the president’s commitment in fighting corruption when the culprits finally face the axe. Kenya has the potential of being a first world country if we all decisively get rid of corruption.

Kenya can set the standard and avoid the ‘oil and minerals curse’

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By Florence Gichoya

Many African countries that are rich in minerals and oil have had a symbiotic relationship with conflict. Where oil, gold and diamond thrive in plenty, conflict has not been far from these countries.

Kenya recently exported the first batch of base titanium to China and we could soon become an oil exporter. But when we strike the ‘black gold’ and it becomes viable, will it boost our GDP or do we have to worry about the ‘oil curse’?  For a long time Kenya has been the biggest non-mineral economy in Sub-Sahara Africa.

Already, there have been numerous cases of demonstrations by people in Turkana County who demanded for more employment opportunities from the exploration company Tullow Oil. The local leaders have also been agitating for a bigger share of the oil revenue should benefit the locals. The county had been marginalized consistently by previous regimes and with the recent discovery of oil and water aquifers shows that God has finally smiled on the region.

But even as we celebrate our new found wealth, we need to be deliberately cautious so that we don’t become another statistic. The worldwide demand of oil and other minerals supersedes the supply and that’s why pundits have always said that oil revenues tend to increase corruption, incidences of anarchy and dictatorship.

Oil spill in Niger Delta, Nigeria Photo by EPA
Oil spill in Niger Delta, Nigeria Photo by EPA

Africa has many bad examples of the trend, for instance the conflict in Niger Delta region in Nigeria between oil companies and local communities. South Sudan has now been plunged into violence and there is the narrative in media reports that the conflict is due to power struggles between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar. However, one can’t ignore the hidden agenda of controlling the country’s vast oil resource. Central African Republic (CAR) has also recently fallen to anarchy with violence between different factions. The country has seen a lot of instability over the years because of coups and counter coups. CAR has large deposits of gold and diamonds. In fact, 80% of the CAR’s diamonds are gems which are of higher value than industry diamonds and their quality is ranked fifth best in the world.

DRC is a another gloomy statistic of how minerals have been exploited by vested interests at the expense of conflict, human rights violation and high levels of poverty among the people. The illegal mining of cassiterite, coltan, gold and tungsten is managed by rebels and illegal cartels that fan conflict so that they can support the supply chain to multinationals that manufacture computers and mobile phones. These companies’ silence on use of conflict minerals is proof of their culpability. So far only one multinational company, Intel, has stated that it’s no longer using conflict minerals in making their products.

All the same oil and minerals are our heritage and can be a blessing if managed well. Kenya can learn a lot from Norway and Canada. The countries have observed democracy over the years and managed to use their oil revenue responsibly. They have invested in education, health, infrastructure and their citizens reap directly from their resources. Here in Africa, Botswana has managed to avoid conflict as it is a major diamond exporter.

We have to do things differently on how we manage our oil and minerals. Transparency and accountability by the government and stakeholders is key. The public should be aware of the flow of minerals from the source, export and process to the final product. Most of the conflicts arise from inequitable sharing of revenue and corruption by government officials.