Kevit DesaiReady to deal

January 21, 2009
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 22 – If there is any issue affecting the business community in the country, then you are sure to see the members of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) lobbying the government to solve it.

This is because KEPSA is the umbrella body of many private sector associations and it’s charged with bringing greater alignment and deeper understanding between the business community and the government.

The alliance, whose membership is drawn from over 250 associations, has been credited with managing to get the government’s attention on a myriad of issues that hamper their growth. When such organisations are dutifully carrying out their mandate, it’s easier to forget that behind the scenes there are people working tirelessly hard to ensure everything runs smoothly.

One of those people is the newly elected Chief Executive Officer Kevit Desai who will now lead the association in articulating the interests of the private sector.

Desai, who takes over from Sam Mwaura says although he has not been officially confirmed nor does he know for how long this tenure will last,  he has big plans for the organisation, which has a total representation of eight million people in almost all sectors of the economy. He recently shared his vision with Capital Business.

“I am the Acting CEO but I’m involved with KEPSA on a full time basis. My team and I are currently involved in enormous transformation in order to meet the growing demands of the private sector,” he reveals.

He says they plan to do this through the existing mechanisms such as the ministerial stakeholder forum which helps each sector to meet regularly and dialogue with the appropriate government institutions. This enables them to bring some of the most important and dynamic issues to the government.

Other forums include the Prime Minister’s round table meetings which links the senior officials of about 20 ministries to the line sector associations, while the members also get to meet relevant parliamentary select committees where they share knowledge with the Members of Parliament.

“I would like to see the private sector and the government collaborate more towards identifying and solving issues of the day. In 2003, we were allowed to participate in the development of the country,” he says pointing to their involvement in the drafting of the Economic Recovery Strategy and the subsequent increase in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“This goes to shows that we need to collaborate more in order to find ways in which we can solve some of the complex issues that are difficult for one institution to solve,” he adds.

He argues that by pulling their heads together, the economy would be greatly transformed as so would the society as a whole.

Desai points to KEPSA’s values of inclusivity which have seen them incorporate 20 representatives of the Micro and Small and Medium Enterprises sector into their membership.

“This demonstrates our ability to come up with one single direction that is inclusive. It also demonstrates our ambition for strengthening the pace towards the prosperity of this country,” he boasts.

The informal sector contributes 75 percent to the Kenyan economy and thus the need to create an environment for them to thrive. Desai acknowledges that despite their significant contribution to the economy, the informal sector is vulnerable and suffers the greatest consequences in bad times.

“These people are sometimes even treated like criminals when they do something wrong yet they are the most instrumental and productive sectors of this nation. And so the legislation that informs their growth has to be one that gives them confidence to invest and security to carry out their business,” he adds.

He discloses that their lobbying has borne fruits with the announcement in December last year that the government would speedily gazette Circular 12 and 13 which clearly spell out the fees and charges that businesses are required to pay.

While announcing the recommendations of the second round table meeting, the government committed itself to addressing the issue of harassment of businesses by law enforcement agents particularly the police and the Council askaris as well as the many levies, taxes and charges which hurt businesses.

He says he’s also proud of the fact that KEPSA recently established an office in the Prime Minister’s office, which helps them in their monitoring capacity and accords them an opportunity to identify what the true hurdles in implementation of some key issues are.

However, the corruption cases that have been recently unearthed and which mostly involve government officials threaten to destroy the near cordial relationship between the two parties and worse still erode investor confidence in the country.

“It’s a sad tragedy of loss of incredible resources that we have in this nation. Worse is that they are a bottom less pit of recurring events which have a huge impact on our overall business confidence,” he complains.

Desai is of the view that the private sector should have an input in some of these key parastatals and corporations by having some members of the industry represented in these boards arguing that this would help in the early detection of problems and how to solve such issues.

“This problem requires a multi-stakeholder intervention in order to control it as much as possible. The various systems of investigations and judicial controls should also be reformed in order to meet the growing strengths of such scandals,” he emphasises.

He concludes by saying that the country needs to be serious in tackling all the problems it is currently facing, enact and enforcing legislations that promote a conducive business climate and speedily implementing those laws if it is to achieve its ambitious development goals.

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