Underlining the need to quicken the pace of integration, President Kenyatta said the economic fragility of the African continent over the past 50 years has arisen partly due to Africa’s fragmented markets, which has placed economies in competition with each other rendering them too small to compete globally.
Speaking on Friday in Cape Town where he is attending the World Economic Forum on Africa, President Uhuru Kenyatta said that deeper integration will widen the market for goods and services.
“This will enhance intra Africa trade and investment which will facilitate the growth of African economies and uplift the living standards of the people.”
The Head of State who was speaking during a session of the World Economic Forum deliberating on the theme of ‘Africa in 2063’ outlined his vision and perspective of Africa in the next 50 years.
In addition to integration, President Kenyatta emphasized that the future of Africa was embodied in the youth and women, saying that Africa not only has the youngest population in the world but also that the majority of the population are young people.
“For Africa to achieve sustainable development and prosperity, we need to invest more on the youth especially in education. We must also empower women who constitute half of our population.”
The president said his government will invest in the youth as a priority especially in providing education and equipping them with entrepreneurial skills.
“We are also mainstreaming ICT in the education system to ensure our youth have solid grounding in modern information and communication technologies and in order to nurture the culture of innovation that has increasingly taken root in our country.”
President Kenyatta cited MPESA as an example of what technology can do saying the Kenyan innovation which has speeded financial transactions, deepened financial inclusion and generated employment is now in use even in developed countries.
The president said that his government will continue to pursue policies that will enable the youth and women access affordable credit for investments.
This, he said, will further promote the SMEs sector which employs the largest number of people in the country and continent.
On women, the president noted that Kenya has adopted a progressive Constitution that has mainstreamed the empowerment of women and which now enables them to access leadership positions and to inherit and own land.
Emphasizing the need for integration, President Kenyatta noted that the people of the East African region and indeed in the continent were already engaging in cross border trade saying the challenge is now on the political leadership to formalize integration.
“What is now needed is the strong political will to support full implementation of all necessary protocols that will lead to full integration of the EAC as well as other regional blocs in the continent.”
The president regretted that trade among African countries accounts for only 10 percent of the continent’s total trade and is the least compared to trade between the continent and markets like Europe, America and Asia.
The president noted that 60percent of Europe’s trade is with its own continent while almost 50pc of all trade in Asia is conducted with regional peers.
Towards expediting the process of integration, the president called for the consolidation of trading blocs saying that Africa has 14 different trading blocs with overlapping memberships.
With respect to the East African Community, the President said his Government is committed to deepening the integration of the East African region through the further elimination of trade barriers.
The president further said peace and stability are necessary for the success of the integration agenda and reiterated the commitment of his Government to supporting peace initiatives in the region and especially in Somalia.
The president said better connectivity between countries of the East African region would enhance mobility of citizens citing the Lamu Port South Sudan and Ethiopia transport corridor (LAPSSET) as an example of the infrastructure projects that will improve links between countries in the region.
The president said the completion of the LAPSSET project will link Kenya and Ethiopia, open a wide range of new opportunities and enable millions of people to interact and generate wealth.
To facilitate integration, the president, therefore, underlined the need to prioritize strategic infrastructural development in order to facilitate the movement of goods and persons as well as create incentives for regional diversification and value addition.