Kenya is indeed blessed with moneyed big wigs whose knack for seizing trade opportunities is second to very few.
You look at the agriculture industry and its big time traders making millions in the sugar and maize business, while farmers are struggling to make the most out of their produce. In fact, sugar farmers in my native Migori know this too well.
Gone are the days when sugarcane farmers were the elites whose hard work powered Sony Sugar as they smiled to the bank. Sadly, today, I can hardly find Sony Sugar or Mumias Sugar in our supermarkets, yet the variety of brands has increased exponentially. This trend is not unique to sugar and maize, but generally agriculture, and there have been impressive pro-farmers reforms initiated and
instituted by Agriculture CS Peter Munya. But that’s a story for another day.
Today, these traders want to take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic and make a kill out of a situation, that needs concerted public efforts. In fact, globally, efforts are made to provide an egalitarian approach that would ensure economic disparities don’t affect the the fight against Covid-19.
Curbing the pandemic and protecting the lives of Kenyans is a function of the government and the civic responsibility of the people, and there are no reasons why unscrupulous businessmen should be allowed to masquerade as concerned Kenyans, when all they want is to create a sense of fear and get Kenyans into paying expensively for a vaccine that the government is giving for free.
The government’s directive to stop private importation of the Sputnik vaccine is laudable. It shows the government has put itself on the spot as it expedites the vaccination of as many Kenyans as possible to vindicate the directive. In fact, the outcry has been whether the government has the capacity. Secondly, we live in a country where unscrupulous characters would have taken advantage to supply fake vaccines to unsuspecting public.
The danger of this cannot be over emphasised. The president, top government officials and most front-line workers, have got the vaccine, our elderly parents are getting vaccinated. In the next eight to 12 months, all Kenyans will probably be vaccinated. But because there are Kenyans out there who feel like they have money to plug somewhere, we can challenge them to channel their resources where it may matter.
You see, Africa is a recipient of the vaccines just like we are recipients of finished products made from raw materials, grown or mined in our own countries. What if these moneyed businessmen invested their money in research and modalities around local production of vaccines.
In fact, the logistical nightmare of getting these vaccines to different countries can be addressed if production by the four major producers is domiciled in an African country. Kenya has everything that would support that and the wealthy businessmen can channel their resources to such courses. The ripple effect today and going forward would massively contribute to our economy and enhance pharmaceutical remedies in our medical and health system.
Today, a New Delhi firm is partnering with an Israeli firm in Jerusalem to produce vaccines that can be taken as capsules and tablets. Once this vaccine goes through all the trials and we finally get tablets and capsules for inoculation, a massive leap will be made in getting as many people as possible vaccinated. The need for medical facilities with syringes, needles and dedicated health staff and stations for vaccinations will be less and the logistics will demand little to get the vaccine to other countries.
Kenya boast of an elite human resource and we are not short of scientist and experts who would do with the much needed support to venture into robust research within the established institutions or new ones in Kenya. If it is happening in other countries, we can borrow the experiences and channel private investments to ventures that would solve our problems going forward.