The big four agenda has been criticized by many as a white elephant; an overly ambitious scheme that will bear exorbitant costs for the tax payer and whose actualization may never bear fruition, in the wake of the rampant corruption and power struggles that litters the power yielding offices of Kenya.
Launched on the 12th December 2017, the BIG 4; Manufacturing, Universal Healthcare, Affordable Housing and Food Security, focus on key basic needs that are critical in uplifting the standard of living of Kenyans, on the path to becoming an upper middle-income country by 2030. The BIG 4, will guide the development agenda of the country in the period 2018-2022. Prioritized is affordable and decent housing, affordable healthcare, food and nutritional security, and employment creation through manufacturing. These four areas are expected to bolster strong inclusive economic growth.
The target numbers are ambitious. In manufacturing, President Uhuru Kenyatta is looking at having at least five million square feet of industrial sheds established to improve cotton production, and raising the share of the manufacturing sector from nine per cent to 15 per cent of the GDP by 2022. On food security President Kenyatta wants to produce 2.76 million bags of maize by the end of this year alone. On healthcare, he is looking at increasing the number of people with health cover from 16 million to 25 million this year as well.
On housing, the plan is to have at least 500,000 affordable homes in all major cities by 2022 and 800,000 affordable units by 2023 at a cost of KES. 2.6 trillion. This will provide decent homes, create an additional 350,000 jobs, provide market for manufacturers and suppliers and raise the contribution of real estate and construction sector from 7% in 2017 to 14 % of GDP. To achieve this objective, the Government will implement policy and administrative reforms which are targeted at lowering the cost of construction and improving accessibility of affordable mortgages. The focus will be on raising low-cost funds from public and private sectors for investment in large-scale housing production
On average this puts the cost of each unit at KES. 2.6 million each, which will be constructed by private equity firms who will presumably charge a markup under a public-private partnership. This means that on average,a unit will be sold at over KES. 3 million despite the government offering free land to the investors, a cost that majority of Kenyans cannot afford. Moreover, there has been major concern on how exactly the government intends to supplement the heavy funding deficits that shake the promise behind the BIG 4, this as the tax payer’s burden continues to increase.
While the president’s agenda remains well intended, it remains to be seen on how much of the BIG 4 agenda will succeed in the face of rocks and hard places.