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  • It is pretty obvious many Kenyans are getting employed or employing themselves in the hustler (informal) economy. Indications are that most of the school leavers and graduates of universities and colleges are finding themselves willingly or unwillingly in this type of economy. This is also the case of the numerous retrenchees and retirees. This is a signal that this is increasing becoming a bigger segment of our economy. It is already common knowledge that the formal economy of government, non-governmental and major private sector employment has been quite sluggish for a while. The private sector which should be the biggest employer in any decent, growing or developed economy has been a bit slow in Kenya for various reasons or factors for that matter. But since human beings are rational animals we cannot just sit till conditions improve. There is always the need to keep providing immediate, midterm and long term solutions especially matters economy. The hustler economy thus needs to be re-invented.
    By reinventing the hustler economy I don’t mean pushing more people into it nor should we be confortable that we are increasingly having people in it.We actually need to be very alarmed. But as a short term to midterm measure we should find ways to make the many operating in this type of economy develop to a better or higher level of operation. We obviously have to take cognizance that this type of economy will be the employer of so many people at least to midterm till we are able to have many well developed and organized profitable businesses across several sectors and industries that absorb many people. It will be so until that happens and also creates an environment that enables many people can comfortably establish many formal businesses especially of service in nature.
    All that said we need to create an environment that sustains most of these small businesses in that type of economy profitably and upscale them to a level that they can contribute immensely to the economy. One of the challenges of these businesses which are christened Jua Kali is lack of standardization and market. In terms of standardization for instance you will find say those who make doors for houses (metal or wood)  having to  produce  in numerous measurements  for different customers that impedes  production in a reasonable scale or level that they would easily be ready for marketing and  selling . Each customer comes with his/her own standards of  sizes. Supposing if we had a consensus that say for certain level of houses the doors should be certain measurements won’t that allow these guys to industrialize across the country?
    In addition another big challenge is marketing and structures thereof. Their exposure to improving technology is also limited. Yet if you go to China most of the industries that export a lot of stuff to us were organized in almost similar fashion to our Jua Kali sector but upscaled to a proper industrial level that enables them gain international exposure.  We too can do it and do better as we don’t have to take the route of some exploitative labour. All we need to do as part of the measures is to make sure some factors of production such as unit cost of power is low as well as streamline this economy by establishing better systems of engagement which include robust marketing structures. There is need to create incentives for them to grow into serious industries even if it means starting them off as serious cottage industries.
    Bottom-line is we are unable to create adequate jobs for our growing population and this is not tenable as it is bound to bring problems. Many of our people are heading into the informal sector and the way it is structured many of the enterprises there end closing down. However, we can set mechanisms to help upscale and structure them better to even gain export foothold which makes it even better. Some of the systems that exist in informal sector are cartel in nature which also makes sure entry is difficult making it crime prone and exploitative in nature. To sustain them profitably and productive enough there is need to have policies that are well implemented to make sure there is order and there is market within Kenya and outside. This then calls for standardization and making costs of operations reasonable.
    Harrison  Mwirigi  Ikunda
    The Writer is a Researcher and Consultant.

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