Increased trade among countries in Africa will leapfrog the continent to high levels of economic growth and multiply opportunities for millions of people, Kenya’s Vice President William Ruto has said.
Ruto gave the example of Uganda which he said has in the last four months “overtaken Kenya on exports.”
The Kenyan government official, who is in Kampala on a three-day state visit, said there are “Now more exports to Kenya from Uganda which demonstrates that doing business together is beneficial to everyone.”
Kenya’s monthly import bill from Uganda recently jumped more than two-fold to Sh7.59 billion compared with Sh2.93 billion in October last year.
This was the highest ever recorded monthly imports value from the land-locked country.
Kenya largely buys foodstuffs, especially cereals, and electricity from Uganda, which Ruto said was his country’s biggest trading partner.
“We must continue on this trajectory because it benefits people, businesses and governments,” said Ruto, emphasizing, “There is evidence that working together brings benefits to everyone.”
He was speaking during a business breakfast dialogue on east African regional integration, its prospects and perspectives at Kampala Serena Hotel today Sunday.
Ruto said East African Community’s intra trade stands at 18 percent compared to Africa’s 8-10 percent.
This, he said, makes EAC the “Most progressive trade bloc in the Southern Hemisphere” despite several challenges especially non-tariff barriers.
Ruto blasted what he described as a “new wave of protectionism,” saying, “we are better off sharing wealth obtained together than protecting poverty in our countries.”
He said protectionism is “more reason we must look at blocs that will enable us negotiate for a better share of trade.”
Several countries including Kenya have since signed the Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, paving way for a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments hence accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union.
Ruto said the open market would bring together 54 African countries with a combined population of more than one billion people and a combined gross domestic product of more than US $3.4 trillion.
“Any serious business person knows business in the 21st century is based not on margins but volumes,” said Ruto, adding, “Every entrepreneur must be pushing to where the numbers are.”
Ruto said Kenya would continue to invest heavily in “relevant education” that would impart skills and competence to advance the country’s industrial sector hence creating millions of opportunities for young people in manufacturing and value addition.
Ruto also praised the “strategic leadership” of Museveni whom he said would help the region realize political federation.
“Museveni is the president of Uganda but his heart is in the region. His strategic leadership in putting countries together is invaluable. We hope Museveni, President Uhuru and others can help us have a political federation to consolidate investments in infrastructure, trade and other areas,” he said.
ChimpReports understands Ruto will later today attend the commissioning of a road connecting North Eastern Uganda and Kenya.
Speaking at today’s event, Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde called for the removal of non-tariff barriers to spur cross border trade.
She emphasised the need to “leverage the demographic dividend of which majority are youth” through job creation.
Kyambadde also appealed to regional leaders to attract more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in strategic areas such as infrastructure to boost regional interconnectivity.
The Africa Strategic Leadership Center boss Dr Robert Mwesigwa said called for increased partnerships among African countries, saying, “Nationalism without Pan Africanism is meaningless.”
He gave examples of India and China which took consistent steps towards creation of strong markets and entrepreneurs thus cultivating ground for rapid and sustainable economic growth.
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