What people get wrong regarding the NASA economic boycott

There is something I am not sure about, whether the NASA economic boycott was an afterthought or was something pre-planned – that is, whether it was the route NASA was to take in case Supreme Court upheld Uhuru’s election or it something that was concocted days after NASA realized they won’t be participating in the repeat poll. If the NASA economic boycott was one of the things that NASA intended to do in case Supreme Court ruled in favor of IEBC and Uhuru Kenyatta, then rest assured they have put in place a rigid mechanisms to ensure the boycott effects maximum intended impact.

Let us assume that NASA has put in place appropriate strategies for the maximum impact to be felt following the NASA economic boycott, the question is, what are the intended impacts? There two schools of thought: the first thought reason that NASA economic boycott is intended to hurt the overall economy such that the country comes to a stand still. On the other hand, there are those like Mohamed Wehliye, Advisor to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, who hold to the opinion that the economic boycott will only hurt individual targeted companies but not the economy, hence it is a zero sum game.

Actually, that tweet by Mohamed Wehliye reveal that he believes NASA economic boycott is meant to hurt the economy but in reality it will hurt individual companies. Mohamed Wehliye like many other Kenyans, fail to realise that NASA economic boycott was foremost meant to hurt individual companies. If the boycott hurts the economy, then that would be a bonus.

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In a press statement where NASA issued word that it will be calling on supporters to boycott particular services and products, the coalition was categorical that in instances where it issued word to boycott product A, the coalition will provide alternatives that supporters would opt for.

Secondly, it has been clear from the onset that the intention of the boycott is that individual companies who either colluded with Jubilee or supported Jubilee in any meaningful way in order to win both the August 8th and October 26th Presidential elections are individually punished. This means therefore that if a company like Safaricom helped Jubilee win, then punishing Safaricom and rewarding Airtel while at the same time ensuring the economy remains steady will achieve the objective NASA intends to achieve.

On the other side, there are those who think that NASA is punishing Safaricom, Brookside, and Bidco unfairly. Ephraim Njega has elaborately explained this position and it would be fair if I quote him verbatim. The original post that I have quoted can be found on his Facebook timeline here.

I had in an earlier post expressed my reservations with the NASA boycott on various companies. Now that the boycott has been called I still insist that this approach is doomed to fail. The process used lacks transparency and no serious thought has gone into it.

As I had stated there must be a clear-cut criteria on the basis for calling such a boycott. There is no way people can just sit in a boardroom and issue a boycott without a solid charge sheet with incontrovertible evidence.

Such an arbitrary approach for calling a boycott is subject to abuse. What would prevent a corporate from bribing the politicians to call a boycott against its competitors?

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Until now I cannot find any reason on the boycott against Bidco for example. What is their crime? The allegations against Brookside that it oppresses poor farmers have no basis since what they pay is also what New KCC pays farmers and there is little difference in their shelf prices. If there was a huge difference no one would tell consumers to move.

The practicality of the boycotts still raises many questions. How will people know what milk or oil is in the food they eat in restaurants? How many NASA M-Pesa operators will close shop or resign from their work at Safaricom? What happens when you travel to work in an area with poor Airtel Internet connectivity and work has to be done?

What happens when you need to pay a service provider who only accepts M-Pesa like with certain government agencies? What of situations where you need to send someone money and they only have M-Pesa line? Isn’t this M-Pesa the one NASA used for fundraising just the other day?

In terms of the economy the boycott will have little impact since it is just like moving money from the left hand to the right hand assuming the boycott is adopted by a significant number. This certainly cannot pressurize the government into doing anything.

Furthermore I doubt any thought has gone into reactions that can frustrate the boycott. if the government wants the boycott to fail they are so many things they can do to frustrate it. Brookside can even sell their raw milk to New KCC. They can even package their milk in New KCC packages. Mind you all their milk brands including Brookside, Tuzo, Ilara, Molo Milk, Delamere are processed in the Ruiru with the machine packaging one brand for a few hours and the other one for the next few hours etc.

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Right now Airtel is operating without licence as it fights in court to prevent Communication Authority from demanding KShs 2 billion frequency renewal fee. The firm is operating purely on the mercy of the Communications Authority. It being a foreign company if they are frustrated they will just pull out of the country which will leave us with two government operators to choose from?

In other words, these boycotts are pitting the supposed beneficiaries against government. A dirty war can break out. Their joy could be short lived.

In addition, I cannot accept a situation whereby we take money from a company like Safaricom that retains most of its profits in Kenya and give it to a company that repatriates all its profits to India. This makes no sense at all.

In a nutshell, the economy does not belong to government, Jubilee or NASA. The economy belongs to Kenyans. To claim to sabotage the economy is to sabotage Kenyans.

I wouldn’t be taking part in any boycott unless there is sufficient grounds to do so and the process is transparent and not open to abuse or malice.

What Ephraim Njega’s post makes clear is that the process with which NASA came up with the names of companies to be boycotted is not transparent. It is the same lack of transparency that made NASA boycott the repeat elections in the first place

Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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