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President Kibaki cuts the ribbon/FILE

Kenya

Focus on infrastructure development, Kibaki urges

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 16 – As Kenya undertakes the most ambitious infrastructure investment programs in its history, President Mwai Kibaki has called on the private sector to engage more in infrastructure development.

He said challenges of infrastructure development, such as lack of adequate financial resources, created opportunities for the private sector to invest further lessening Kenya’s reliance on development partner funding.

“We need to implement a clear framework of facilitating private sector participation in infrastructure development either on its own or in partnership with governments. I am confident that with the participation of the private sector we can mobilise our own resources to finance infrastructure development,” he said.

The President who was speaking at the opening of the Regional Infrastructure Conference, on Tuesday, added that government has finalised a Bill that is to be tabled before Parliament, whose objective is to facilitate private sector investments in infrastructure development and management.

Infrastructure that comprises roads, power, rail, energy, ICT and telecommunications, accounts for 2.6 percent of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Kibaki urged Kenyans to explore innovative ways of raising finances including harnessing domestic savings through capital markets.

“Through our capital markets we can be able to tap domestic savings as well as global investment funds and commit them to infrastructure development through equity or debt mechanisms,” he said.

Hinging on the conference’s theme of “Better Infrastructure, Better Life”, Kibaki stressed the importance of countries in East Africa to start undertaking projects that cut across the region, pointing out the need for the economies to jointly plan projects that benefit them.

With the East African region holding the highest transport and energy costs in the world, Minister for Roads Franklin Bett said it was necessary to revamp logistic processes by improving infrastructure.

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“Container transport costs from Eastern African port to neighbouring countries is almost twice as much when compared with ports in Europe,” he revealed.

Internet and telephone connectivity in the region, Bett said, were not any better when it came to cost, adding that sharing fibre connectivity could reduce internet and international call charges by up to 50 percent.

Breakthroughs in legislation such as the endorsement by parliament of the National Construction Authority Bill 2011, Bett said, would help in establishing a body to oversee the development of the construction sector.

The three-day conference will look at the need to make infrastructure user convenient and the aspect of timely, cost effective implementation of infrastructure projects among other issues.

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