NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 8 – Kenya’s quest to become an integrated regional financial services hub will only be achieved if the country puts in place the requisite reforms and resources to enable this to happen, visiting Lord Mayor of London Right Honourable Michael Alderman Bear has said.
While highlighting the factors that have made London a global financial centre, Mr Bear advised Kenya to open up its markets to skilled labour from across the world while developing its own workforce in order to have a big talent pool that can drive this agenda.
This, he said, would need to go hand in glove with business friendly and taxation regimes that are predictable, transparent and which are supported by infrastructure development.
“Our encouragement is (for Kenya) to create a pipeline of skills that you need for your next five year-plan; to train people for the sort of jobs that are necessary and to create the added value in your country to take advantage of an infrastructure requirement,” he advised.
Further, the Lord Mayor who was accompanied by a delegation of investors from the United Kingdom investors underscored the importance of having good governance as well as a critical mass of institutions in the same place that would in turn attract more people to come to the cluster.
He was however not lost to the fact that Kenya is a regional economic powerhouse with a convenient time zone and membership in several regional economic blocs which he said should be leveraged as the country’s competitive advantage.
Mr Bear expressed his country’s willingness to assist Kenya realise this potential through for instance sharing its experiences and expertise in this area.
“As Lord Mayor of the City of London, I would be delighted to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding if you wish so that we can plot out how we can make a contribution with the timeline to deliver what I think is so important in your great city,” the Lord Mayor who was born in Nairobi said.
While welcoming the assistance, Finance Permanent Secretary Joseph Kinyua also drew the Lord Mayor’s attention to other sectors of the economy which he said needed to be invested in so that they can contribute to the country’s development.
Investment opportunities in tourism, energy, transport and communications as well as the banking sectors abound and he invited the UK business community to consider injecting funds there.
“Recent government policies have laid a solid foundation and created an excellent platform or investors to exploit opportunity and leverage on our national infrastructure and regional position to seek growth and further development,” he offered adding that the meeting with the UK investors was timely.
Such cooperation, he pointed out would help cement the relationship that Kenya and the UK have and which dates back many decades. The ties have seen the UK become Kenya’s second most important trading partner after Uganda accounting for over 10 percent of the country’s total export volumes.
For instance in 2010, Kenya exported goods worth Sh40.2 billion while its imports amounted to Sh37.7 billion making it one of the few times that the balance of (merchandise) trade is in the country’s favour albeit slightly.
However, Mr Kinyua did acknowledge that more still needs to be done to help the country become a middle-income and industrialised state in the next two decades like it has envisaged.
This will entail the formulation of prudent and effective policies that support economic growth and development programmes besides addressing the downside risks that threaten these goals.
In addition, the PS said the country would have to ensure that its debt levels remain within an appropriate ceiling. In 2010, Kenya’s total debt stood at 42.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product although this has since risen to about 47 percent. The government however continues to reiterate that these levels are sustainable.