By Steve O. Akoth, Labour Awareness and Resource Centre
When reports appeared in the media two years ago detailing failure in mortgage repayments in the United States, the government of Kenya alongside many others in Africa, claimed that that was a US affair. The treasury bureaucrats and politicians were quick to reassure Kenyans that our economy was safe. In fact, new projections of 2% annual growth were given. But this was nothing more than the usual political talk show and regular political performance that is not uncommon in Kenya.
Our government, rather than deceive us, should appreciate that Kenyan workers know that they are part of a huge interconnected web. When a small scale farmer in Tigoni plants runner beans to sell to Homegrown for instance, she knows that the beans shall end up in the supermarket of Mars and Spencer in the United Kingdom. For that reason, the farmer is interested and is affected by the purchasing power of a consumer in the UK. Similarly, a worker on the stitching line in an Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in Ruaraka, knows that the garment shall be sold off through Wal-Mart's shelves. The workers are therefore invested in the purchasing power of the average American who wants to buy a "cheap" designer garment from Wal-Mart. So the shrinking global market and the resulting economic nationalism in the northern countries in the name of bailout is an important subject for the worker in Kenya and trade unions engaged in Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) discussions in Kenya. In the long run, it is the working poor who experience the recession most, it does not matter whether it starts in China or the US.