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Phyllis Wakiaga - Business Monthly

2022 holds a lot of promise for KAM and local industries. It presents an opportunity to centre the discourse on manufacturing in the country’s economic development in an electioneering year against the backdrop of the COVID-19 Pandemic impact on the economy.


Phyllis Wakiaga


The story of Phyllis Wakiaga centres around the discourse of manufacturing in Kenya’s economic development.

In her own words, Phyllis opines, ‘I have always had the desire to be a change agent, to grow my country, our industries, and to promote youth empowerment. This has greatly shaped my career. The vision to see things being done differently has informed my career journey and continues to shape my role even to date. I am optimistic about the future, and it remains the reason why I am constantly advocating for better operating policies and environment for manufacturers.

At the heart of Kenya’s economic growth is the manufacturing sector. The sector has continued to create productive jobs and wealth for many citizens since and before independence, through the linkages it creates with the other sectors of the economy.

As the leading voice of manufacturing and value add industries since its establishment in 1959, Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has continued to advocate for better operating environment for manufacturers. Currently, after the promulgation of the new Constitution that brought in two levels of government, the Association engages both national and county governments and like-minded organizations towards ensuring that we build the capacity of local industries to be productive and competitive, locally with imports and globally among exports from other countries.

The Association, has in the last six months, decried the high cost of living amidst the economic challenges brought about on the social and economic environment by the adverse effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Key concern in the manufacturing industry has been the severity of additional taxes imposed on businesses and consumers through the Finance Act, 2021.

Additionally, the cost of basic commodities and important factors of production, including fuel, that has been on an upward trajectory, further eroding consumer’s spending power, making it impossible for more people to afford food and other basic necessities, thereby causing a dearth in the demand of manufactured goods.

KAM acknowledges that unpredictable fiscal and regulatory policies significantly threaten the Made in Kenya goal and give an upper hand to cheaper imports from other countries, mainly from Asia, where the costs of labour and raw materials remain low, by global averages. On this front, KAM has been engaging the government to remove tax measures included in the Finance Act, 2021, that are in contradiction of the ‘’Do No Harm’ approach to local businesses on the recovery path. Part of this has been engagement with local industries to submit their proposals for the national and EAC budget cycles for financial year 2022/2023. Their inputs play a crucial role in the budget making process.

Other value addition by KAM to Kenya manufacturers include improving access to alternative markets. For example, to enhance market access, KAM partnered with the Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) to host the Kenya – Tanzania Trade Mission in July 2021. The Trade Mission aimed at identifying export and import products, investment opportunities, and benchmark and learn on best business practices in the two markets. Manufacturers from Kenya and Tanzania also called for the expedited resolution of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and the review of the East African Community Common External Tariff (EAC-CET). The Trade Mission was a follow-up to Presidential commitments made by H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta and H.E. President Samia Suluhu Hassan before and during the subsequent bilateral negotiations on trade held between the two States.

To drive inclusivity in the sector, KAM kicked off its county-focused drive to increase the participation of women in industry, in September 2021, through its Women in Manufacturing (WIM) programme. The nation-wide series of events seek to provide practical solutions and gain tangible results on challenges hindering the participation of women in industry in the counties.

Additionally, it seeks to urge county governments to create an enabling environment for women in manufacturing, by doing away with challenges such as regulatory overreach, the unstable political climate and unfavourable tax policies, which hinder competitiveness and productivity. To date, KAM has held the forums in Uasin Gishu and Nakuru Counties. Upcoming forums shall take place in Kitui, Machakos, Nyeri and Mombasa Counties.

Phyllis Wakiaga - Business Monthly

KAM also hosted two MSME Boot Camps on regulatory compliance and market access aimed at unpacking the regulatory environment that MSMEs must operate in and the requirements needed to venture into local and regional markets, respectively. The bootcamps, held in July and September 2021, aimed at preparing, nurturing, and growing manufacturing MSMEs, as the future of industry, to take full advantage of the available markets. To promote market access, KAM engaged Manufacturing MSMEs on the opportunities that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) presents them and how they can take advantage of these opportunities.

In KAM’s commitment to manage post-consumer waste, the Association launched the Kenya Extended Producer Responsibility Organization (KEPRO) in June 2021, to address post-consumer waste in Kenya.  KEPRO brings together players in the value chain and aims to promote collaboration, seek commitment by waste value chain players and support the achievement of a circular economy in Kenya. The launch of KEPRO is in line with commitments made in the Kenya Plastic Action Plan, which seeks to enable a circular economy for the environmentally sustainable use and recycling of plastics in Kenya. It follows last year’s launch of a Strategic Business Plan for the establishment of a Plastic Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) in the country. The Business Plan sets out the direction of KAM’s priorities in the waste value chain and key actions in effecting the steps towards a clean Kenya.

KAM is committed to securing the socio-economic well-being of Kenyans, and consequently, alleviate poverty and inequality in the community. This, KAM expects to achieve through uKAMilifu, launched in September 2021, which integrates Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors into the Association’s role as the leading voice of manufacturing and value-add industries in Kenya. uKAMilifu is a Swahili word that means complete or wholeness. It speaks to the creation of holistic solutions together and seeks to demonstrate industry’s wider role in complementing Government’s initiatives towards driving development. KAM is thrilled to partner with its stakeholders to demonstrate and amplify industry’s role in alleviating poverty, bridging inequality, and promoting economic empowerment.

2022 holds a lot of promise for KAM and local industries. It presents an opportunity to centre the discourse on manufacturing in the country’s economic development in an electioneering year against the backdrop of the COVID-19 Pandemic impact on the economy.

As an Association, KAM remains at the forefront in the development of solutions and reimagining both the current and future manufacturing landscape in Kenya.

Now a PhD student in Leadership and Governance, Phyllis is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and holds a Masters in International Trade and Investment Law from the University of Nairobi, Masters in Business Administration from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Bachelor of Law Degree from the University of Nairobi, Diploma in Law from Kenya School of Law, and a Higher Diploma in Human Resource Management from the Institute of Human Resources Management Kenya.

She joined the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) in 2013, as the Head of Policy, Research and Advocacy, becoming Chief Executive Officer in 2015, taking over from the legendary Betty Maina, who joined the public service as the Principal Secretary for Trade and Industry and now the Cabinet Secretary (CS) in the same ministry.

Phyllis is an alumnus of the Swedish Institute Management Program on Sustainable Business Leadership and Corporate Social Responsibility and was part of the inaugural program for Africa in 2014.

She has been trained in the Role of the Private Sector in Government Policy by Strathmore Business School and John Hopkins University; Investment Treaty Law and Arbitration-Africa International Legal Awareness (AILA) UK London and High-Performance Boardrooms- Institute of Directors.

Born in 1982, Phyllis was recognized as one of the 2019 Most Influential People of African Descent, Global 100 Under 40. She was recognized in 2020 in the inaugural Top 25 CEOs setting the business agenda by BUSINESS MONTHLY magazine in its 25th Anniversary Celebration Awards issue.


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