DISABILITY BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS BEST PLACED TO PROTECT ECONOMIC INTERESTS OF PWDs.

It is no secret that business and politics (power) are joined at the hip. In the modern world, business interests determine the direction of politics and the chart a nation takes in general. Businessmen have become politicians primarily because of their track record in their enterprises and the opposite also happens. A politician may start a business while in power due to the access to resources and sometimes their popularity in politics makes a good launchpad for a product or service. Other times businessmen try their hand in politics to create a better business environment for others, if their word during campaign season is anything to go by.

Recently, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) invited presidential contenders in the upcoming elections to outline their economic plans for the country should they get to power. They also wanted to know how the presidential candidates will address the challenges that private business actors face in Kenya so as to improve the business environment in the country. KEPSA also runs a civic campaign initiative called Mkenya Daima that calls for peaceful elections and patriotism, crucial ingredients for an economic powerhouse that seems to slow down on the year of elections.

In the political arena, PWDs have been playing second fiddle to other stakeholders in politics and the fact that they are bungled together with women and youth complicates matters. Women representatives in Parliament brand themselves as champions for PWDs in the counties yet PWDs have their own representatives in both the National Assembly and the Senate. The fact that they are nominated means the party loyalty comes first before the needs of those you represent. This not only compromises their effectiveness on the job, but also means that their voice can be overshadowed by other noises that do not speak for the needs and aspirations of PWDs. 

With the attention shifting to economic empowerment of PWDs through inclusion in the workplace and entrepreneurship programmes for PWDs, it is important that PWDs look into having disability economic associations that can represent the interests of PWDs in the business world to the powers that be. For example, when the Government implemented the interest capping rule, the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA), the umbrella body for all banks in Kenya made their case against the rule and it was repealed. When media freedom seems to be on shaky grounds, the Media Council of Kenya steps up to defend those in the media industry. 

The need for economic associations for PWDs is seen in the fact that most of disability provisions and requirements in Kenya are only implemented with a lackluster attitude which make them seem unimportant because ‘they do not affect many people’. Associations will give strength for PWDs to demand what they need without being victimized. They will also give a clout to PWDs for political players to take them seriously unlike now with the special interest group tag. There can also be more resources in terms of capital and expertise in long term planning and research of disability and economic matters such as large-scale manufacture of wearables which are also assistive technologies.

Rome was never built in a day. Let’s build our version of Rome with disability economic associations. After all, Caesar was Roman and we must give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar.