Weighing the benefits of Papal visit to Kenya

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Pope Francis. Image from http://www.vaticanjewelry.com/page/481227594

This year has been a good one for Brand Kenya, hosting two world figures who are respected all over the world. Earlier President Obama was in Kenya for the GES 2015 in July and at the end of November we get to host one of the world’s most revered men, His Holiness Pope Francis.

The Pope’s maiden tour of Africa is by all means very exciting news for Africa, especially for the Roman Catholic faithful and Christians at large. As Johnson Sakaja aptly put it, this will be an opportune moment to host the most supreme pontiff on earth, who symbolizes hope itself. His presence will bolster the ethical, moral, and inspiring traditions of faith in Africa, bringing peace, a new ray of hope and spiritual bliss. Pope ‘coming with message of peace’ according to the Daily Nation.

Pope Francis. Image from http://www.vaticanjewelry.com/page/481227594
Pope Francis. Image from http://www.vaticanjewelry.com/page/481227594

However, looking past the religious fervor, one wonders what exactly Kenya stands to gain or lose from this visit.
President Obama’s visit came with many perks to develop trade and investment, opportunities for entrepreneurs to learn, network and get funding from seasoned investors, and visitors who didn’t mind spending to enjoy the Kenyan experience. The Papal visit on the other hand may actually be more costly than gainful for the Kenyan economy.

Here are a few reasons why I think so;

1. Sanitation and beautification– The Kenyan Government (which is broke) has to spend more to ensure that garbage is cleared from every area the Pope and his entourage will visit, even the slum areas will have to get a bit of sprucing up. In addition, trees, grass and flowers will need to be planted to enhance the image so as to appeal to the visitors. Not forgetting hawkers and street urchins will also need to be relocated even if not for cleanliness purposes, but to ensure security.

2. Security– Just as it was with POTUS, the Pope’s security is very crucial and the Kenyan Government will once again need to dig into its dwindling resources to ensure our best guards are available to work well with the Vatican security protocol towards enhancing security around the country, not only for the Pope, but also for the many tourists who will visit our country to catch a glimpse of him.

3. Tourism – While and influx of religious tourists is expected, not much may be gained by the tourism industry. Based on what Americans have experienced, a majority of these visitors are pennywise and prayerful, they don’t mind pitching camp in local parks and eating street food. Check out Pope’s Philly visit was a flop for local businesses by the New York Post.  Thus we must realize that the ones who visit Kenya will be mainly focused on the Pope, most will not be keen on spending money in our exquisite destinations, malls or entertainment venues. If anything, our Government needs to prepare for crowd control and emergency services.

4. Transport, Communication and Catering– Perhaps these sectors will experience some considerable gains during the Pope’s visit because a lot of movement will need to be facilitated for visitations. Depending on the publicized logistics and with the consideration of tight security measures, transport and communication around the city will be open to both the local and visiting masses who want to catch a glimpse of His Holiness. And of course, all these people will need to eat a decent meal at some point.

5. Business – The Pope’s pastoral visit will enhance a national value system based on good principles. Perhaps this will encourage Kenyans to love and respect each other even in ethnic diversity and destroy the demons of corruption. However, businesses may not boom as such during this period because the masses may not be keen on spending, some may even have to close shop for security or faith purposes.

Alternatively, businesses may choose to boost their CSR during this time by donating supplies to the needy in the crowds for example by giving away drinking water, food and sanitary facilities. Creative designers can also make profits by producing and selling souvenirs such as Pope Francis figurines, crafts, t-shirts, amulets and even instant photos. This would also be a great time for businesses and Brand Kenya to strategically market itself to the many visitors.

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