, ABUJA, Nigeria, May 7 – President Uhuru Kenyatta has called on African leaders to work together in removing obstacles that hinder movement across the continent.
The President, who was accompanied by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, said free movement of people, goods and services would increase intra-Africa trade and help the continent achieve its development targets.
“Lack of political will and negative perception should not be allowed to undermine Africa’s integration and economic growth,” President Kenyatta said.
He was speaking during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum on Africa which opened Wednesday in the Nigerian capital, Abuja as he concluded his visit that saw Kenya and Nigeria sign a number of agreements to boost trade and investment between the two countries.
The President said leaders should not block African investors from investing in the continent by imposing stiff regulations including cumbersome visa requirements.
“We need to facilitate our businesspeople to trade within the continent more freely,” he said.
President Kenyatta, who is the current chairman of the East African Community, discussed steps the region has taken to improve trade among East African member states.
He observed that the advent of the single tourist visa has eased travel and effectively turned all the participating countries of the region into a single tourist destination.
President Kenyatta said the move gave impetus to the extension of the visa scheme to business people who can show ability and intent to trade.
“There is no reason why we cannot begin by issuing proven African investors with visas allowing them to do their work with minimum of difficulties,” President Kenyatta said.
He said the introduction of the use of national ID cards for travel within the East African borders has substantially eased movement, opening new opportunities for cross- border trade and integration.
The President added that collaboration between Heads of State in the region has improved movement of cargo along the Northern Corridor.
He observed that the time taken to transport containers from Mombasa to Kampala has reduced from 18 to four days while those to Kigali take six days down from 22 days. READ: Uhuru urges private sector to bridge Africa’s infrastructure deficit.
“These concrete achievements sharply lowered the costs of transport – and as we all know, the cost of transport has long been a key constraint in the development of intra-African trade,” President Kenyatta said.
Speaking during the occasion, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said there were more benefits than disadvantages in opening up countries for intra-Africa trade and people-to-people interaction.
He said insecurity should not be used as an excuse to block free movement of people, goods and services within the continent, saying criminals do not use visas to get into a country to commit crimes.
Malian Prime Minister Moussa Mara said other African countries should emulate the East African initiatives in facilitating free movement of people, goods and services to promote intra-Africa trade.
Nigerian business magnate, Aliko Dangote said African investors should be encouraged to invest in the continent by being facilitated to move freely. He thanked the Government of Kenya for according him a five-year business visa.
African Development Bank President, Donald Kaberuka, who moderated the discussions, urged the leaders to present the recommendations on free cross-border movement to the African Union.
During the occasions, the leaders signed the call to action by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Travel and Tourism.