, KAMPALA, Uganda, Aug 9 — Increased regional trade will spark economic growth and accelerate regional integration, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.
Improving the ease of doing business and allowing the private sector to thrive were critical if government efforts to address policy and regulatory issues were to bear fruit, the President said on the second of a three-day state visit to Uganda.
President Kenyatta arrived in the lakeside town of Entebbe on Saturday at the start of his first state visit to Uganda where he held bilateral talks with his host President Yoweri Museveni—focused on security, anti-terrorism, trade and investment.
He was scheduled to visit Quality Chemicals Industries, a pharmaceutical plant that manufactures malaria medicine, before addressing the business and diaspora communities on afternoon Sunday.
On Monday, the President will deliver a landmark address to Uganda’s parliament.
“We can no longer afford businesses which are either corrupt, or which do not act with the imagination and innovation that we need to achieve our goals,” the President said.
He said the region could only be assured of prosperity if the enthusiasm, innovation and creativity of the youth is rewarded with productive work.
The President observed that it is through constructive engagement and dialogue that business will be able to identify opportunities, and establish the networks and partnerships that will help in maximizing available opportunities.
He expressed his hope that business forums will help in strengthening ties and forge stronger relations between the private sectors of Kenya and Uganda.
The two countries stand to benefit further from the tripartite free trade area of EAC-COMESA-SADC launched in June this year if they work closely together. EAC is the East African Community; COMESA the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and SADC the Southern Africa Development Community.
Kenya and Uganda are working on framework under which the business community of the two countries can work together to take advantage of the single market of 26 African countries and 700 million people across Eastern and Southern Africa.
President Kenyatta praised the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and its Ugandan partner for signing an MoU on improving trade.
Last year bilateral trade between the two nations was valued at a tune of $880 million, with Kenyan exports to Uganda standing at $700 million versus imports of $180 million, according to data from President Museveni.
“Last year, in keeping with our recent history, the volume of trade between us made Uganda one of Kenya’s most vital trading partners,” said the President.
He said if the two countries planned carefully and worked even more closely together then trade volume could triple.
President Kenyatta said international trade and investment are the drivers of international relations and the region needs to take lessons from integration to wider global arena.
He said this is the main reason Kenya hosted the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in July 2015 and also plans to host the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in December this year being the first to be held in Africa.
“All these initiatives are aimed at strengthening our relations, and our trade, with the rest of the international community. As I said: what we have learned from our relations with you and with the region, we intend to apply more widely,” said the President.