Eliud Owalo, the Cabinet Secretary nominee for Information Communications and Digital Economy docket, coaxed players wallowing on the edges of the telecommunications industry to brave up and make their own luck, asserting that the government will not slam the brakes on market leaders for them to catch up.
Fielding questions to the House Committee on Appointments Friday, Mr Owalo maintained that it’s not for the administration to meddle in the market economy and take the wind out of the sails of strong performers under the guise of taming monopolies.
“The role of government is to provide an enabling regulatory environment so that there is a level playing field. Each player should organise itself to achieve a competitive advantage. We should not curtail strongly performing organisations, they have to be creative to survive. It is incumbent upon the player to cut your niche,” Mr Owalo, a strategic management specialist, said.
The CS nominee was responding to a question from Saboti MP Caleb Amisi on the threat posed by telecom monopolies in the near to medium term in the country.
“Touching on monopolies that have controlled the markets here in Kenya, most citizens become suspicious of the monopolies that exist because they basically cause inequalities and wield a lot of economic power. They exploit factors of production, labour, and capital to the disadvantage of other new entrants.
“Do you think they are a common threat to telecommunication in the near future and even in the medium [future]?” posed Hon. Amisi.
Further, Mr Owalo pledged to preserve and spread out the Ajira Digital Program—initiated by his predecessor Joe Mucheru in 2021—to all parts of the country, leveraging the country’s digital platforms and ICT infrastructure to accelerate creating jobs for the youth.
“The Ajira digital program is fundamental and in my view a very feasible proposition. Yes, we will continue with it because it is actually a mechanism of leveraging our digital platforms to create jobs for the youth,” he said.
Challenged on his vision about regulating Kenya’s media industry, Mr Owalo called for self-regulation. “The role of the Ministry would be limited to the provision of a policy framework that facilitates an enabling environment. I would rather the media fraternity regulate itself.”
Further, the nominee said the national broadcaster, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), is a candidate for reforms. It is punching below its weight. If I am approved, I intend to rebrand it. I don’t understand why the name was changed from VOK to KBC, explained Mr Owalo.
Regarding one of Kenya’s Vision 2030 flagship project Konza techno city, the ICT nominee said that once approved by the House, his ministry would put in place the appropriate measures and means of revamping the operations of Konza, enabling it to operate at an optimal level.