Traders complain over slow reforms

October 29, 2009

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 29 – The slow pace of governance and constitutional reforms is frustrating Kenya\’s business sector.

The vice president of the American Chamber of Commerce of Kenya (ACCK) William Lay says the selective enforcement of laws coupled with inconsistencies in implementing them creates an unfavourable business environment.

"We have situations where you find person \’a\’ has to do this, person \’b\’ doesn\’t; he has to pay for this person \’b\’ doesn\’t.  Such things are allowed to happen in a market where we don\’t have a strong Constitution or where the rule of law does not exist," he stated.

He also explained that the lack of clear-cut constitutional guidelines on business discouraged foreign investment, and added that Kenya had a large potential of encouraging more investors through proper reforms.

"As a businessman I can tell you for a fact that it keeps people from investing in Kenya. Potential investors call the ACCK asking how things are and we try as much as we can to be positive. However when they ask you specific questions about the constitution, police or the courts we tell them Kenya could do better.  If they don\’t see some improvements, they will take their business somewhere else," he warned.

Mr Lay was categorical that it was crucial for Kenya to sort out its constitutional and reform wrangles in order to protect the business sector from further frustrations.

"As the private sector we want all of the issues that stand in the way of a democratically run government that promotes business and the creation of sustainable wealth sorted out. The private sector cannot prosper until infrastructure including constitutional reform is clearly set up," he said.

The director of Legal Affairs at the ACCK Benjamin Musau pointed out that Kenya\’s economy slipped down behind 11 other countries but added that the country had a lot of room for improvement.

"If you are conversant with the World Bank survey on doing business you will have noted with concern that we have declined from position 84 to 95 out of 183 economies. These are matters of governance and it does not mean that we did not reform at all but it means there are people who are reforming faster than us," he noted.

The president of the ACCK Dr Nelson Githinji observed that reforms that would make a difference in the business sector required dedicated leaders.

"Leadership is a critical factor and it is not a one off factor. It has more to do with consistency in the messaging and the leadership that would be critical for business. So it is not just about politics but the political leadership that becomes a vital factor for business," he noted.

They were speaking during a breakfast meeting where they engaged a group of parliamentarians on reforms.

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