NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 4 – Businessman Chris Kirubi has challenged South Africa to play a leading role in opening up Africa for business.
Kirubi who was a participant in a panel discussion at the “Africa: The Outlook, the Opportunity” event hosted by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg in downtown Johannesburg, South Africa, said Africa’s leading economy remained closed to other countries on the continent in terms of business relationships, yet it had all it takes to unite the whole continent.
“Open markets are not happening yet. We must open markets for people, goods and services. South Africa needs to take leadership by opening up for smaller countries. How many of us have been allowed to invest here?” Kirubi was quoted in the Business Report as saying.
He said focus should be on removing too many differences on tax, travel, investment and trading regimes, adding that stood the biggest challenge to inter-African trade.
Kirubi, who is one of the wealthiest people on the continent said as an economic powerhouse, South Africa had an important role to play in reshaping how Africa did business not only with the rest of the world but more importantly with itself.
“There are major issues we are not addressing and it is an issue of laws,” added Kirubi, who is also the East Africa Chairman of Tiger Brands, South Africa’s biggest consumer goods company.
On tax, he asked for instance why South Africa and Kenya did not have a tax agreements and why he needed to go via Mauritius each time he needed to open a holding company. “We have a problem. We’ve got to wake up.”
On travel business, Kirubi questioned why African travel businesses kept going to Europe and North America to sell African tourism, leaving behind Africans who would even be more interested in visiting other countries in the continent.
His sentiments on the issue of openness were echoed by South Africa Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus who said Africa should be about co-operation and less about competition, “how do we use our different strength to benefit Africa as a whole?” she said.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan who was also among the panellists acknowledged that there were “huge challenges” in the mining sector, but reiterated the need for perspective on issues relating to labour strikes.
“There is a lot of good work being done. In the next few years, skills development and training will be enhanced a lot more.”