KIGALI, June 27 – President Mwai Kibaki on Thursday urged local and international investors to take advantage of numerous investment opportunities existing in Kenya.
In his address during the official opening of the First East African Investment Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, President Kibaki said that Kenya was rich with rewarding investment opportunities in key economic sectors.
He named the services, manufacturing, infrastructure development, hotel industry, agro-processing and investment in public utilities such as power generation, water supply and telecommunications as key sectors with investment opportunities in the country.
"This is a unique forum that provides us with an opportunity to exchange ideas on ways to improve business in our region. The occasion also enables us to showcase the available trade and investment opportunities," said President Kibaki.
The Head of State assured investors that Kenya had overcome the challenges occasioned by the disputed Presidential elections.
"The Grand Coalition Government we have established is working tirelessly to unite Kenyans and to address the development challenges facing our people. I, therefore, assure investors and other visitors that Kenya is safe and your investments are secure," President Kibaki said.
He also noted that the unique forum provided an opportunity to assure investors that Kenya and the other East African Community (EAC) Member States were continually improving the policy and business environment.
However, President Kibaki noted that the five East African Community Member States must do everything within their mandate to attract good flow of trade and investments from within the region and from other countries in the continent and the entire world.
"This underscores the need for us in the region to provide the requisite policy and physical environment needed to attract investments and enhance trade levels. Poor infrastructure, for example, remains a major constraint to trade and investment," he told the Head of States meeting in Kigali.
President Kibaki called for increased allocation of resources for the upgrading of road and railway network, ICT infrastructure and air transport in the region in order to open up the member countries for more investment as well as to lower the cost of doing business.
He noted that ICT had the potential to greatly contribute to the growth of the region and create thousands of jobs with minimal investment.
"We see the ICT sector as a major contributor to economic growth. We are, therefore, inviting investors in the ICT sector to come to Kenya and invest in this rapidly growing sector," remarked the Head of State.
With regard to the energy sector, President Kibaki told the participants in the Conference that although his Government was implementing several projects to generate 600 megawatts by 2012, measures have been put in place to generate 2000 megawatts of electric power by 2030.
The President, however, called for regional electricity integration through power pools to accelerate growth and expansion of the electricity sector as well as to provide quality electric power at affordable tariffs.
And even as he spoke, the Electricity Regulatory Commission (ERC) announced back home that it had approved the increase in electricity cost up to 24 per cent.
President Kibaki said that elaborate reforms such as simplified investment procedures aimed at eradicating bureaucratic red tape and to provide efficient and enabling environment for industrial operations have been instituted leading to improved investment climate in the country.
On his part, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni accused the politicians and bureaucrats of the newly independent EAC members of making terrible mistakes of ruining business through confiscation and nationalization of private property, particularly in Uganda.
The Ugandan President, who is also the Chairman of the EAC, further challenged the countries to disentangle from donor syndrome and urged them to fund their development programmes using locally available resources because it was cheaper than the donor loans which attract interest.
Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, termed the forum a crucial building block for the integration process which would enable the EAC member states share economic prosperity and tap unexploited potential to drive the socio-economic welfare of the region.
President Kagame told the five countries to use business capability, economic infrastructure and belief in EAC citizens as the navigational tools to enable the countries get out of the current economic predicament.
He decried congested and inefficient ports, dilapidated railway and road infrastructure as well as snail-paced border crossing and a multitude of weighbridges that promote corruption.
Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza told the participants that his country had emerged from what he termed ‘a painful experience of political unrest’ and assured that peace and stability had been restored.
"My government is committed to creating a conducive environment for investment," he said.
Others attending the regional investment conference included EAC Secretary General, Amb Juma Mwapachu, several ministers from the five member states and members of the diplomatic corps.
Over 800 business executives from various parts of the world were also presented.