NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 29- The East African Community (EAC) partner States have been called upon to come up with a clear policy that will guide the participation of the private sector in various infrastructural development programmes.
President Mwai Kibaki admitted on Wednesday that financial constraint is the biggest challenge that the region faces and therefore the involvement of the business community in development is crucial if the community is to increase its competitiveness.
“While the support of our development partners is welcome, we also recognise donor resources have decreased, hence the need to establish a framework for their participation in construction and maintenance of infrastructure projects,” he pointed out.
The member States have been pursuing a number of projects in power generation, rails and road networks improvement which have been funded by the region’s meagre resources.
Speaking during the opening of the second EAC Investment Conference, the President made a case for the region’s economic sectors saying they offer enormous and attractive investment opportunities.
“I urge local East African farmers and investors as well as aid agencies to scale up investment in the agricultural sector,” he said of one the sectors with the potential for high returns.
The Head of State also urged entrepreneurs to seize the opportunity that the laying of the fibre optic cables portend to make the region an ICT hub.
“Our youthful population is prepared and ready to take up their rightful position as citizens of the digital age. As investors, you are well placed to take advantage of these new developments,” he told participants of the event which is meant to brainstorm on how the EAC can showcase its investment opportunities even as it continue to seek regional integration.
At a press briefing that followed the official opening of the conference, Rwandan President Paul Kagame regretted Africa’s isolated role in the global market but reiterated the five governments’ commitment towards addressing the problems that hinder its participation.
Africa is currently only able to attract three percent of the total global capital inflows, a predicament which has largely been blamed on its negative image which focuses on strife, war and famine.
“The era of pointing fingers to those who are long gone or far away is over. We shall take back our past, make informed strategies and take action in the present and ultimately decide our own destiny,” he said adding that they were striving to improve the quality of life for the 125 million citizens.
To attract greater trade and investments, President Kagame who’s also the Chairman of the EAC proposed the adoption of ‘institutional revolution’ which he pointed out could only start with the elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers which would in turn improve the region’s business climate.
Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga concurred with the Rwandan Head of State and pointed to the need for the member countries to nurture closer ties with the business community to remove and minimize barriers to trade in their respective nations.
“We must increase our interaction towards creation of a conducive business environment before the member states collectively market the region as an investment destination to the international community,” he observed.