East african community leaders have called for an immediate end to bureaucracy by public servants, saying that this is discouraging the private sector from investing in partner states.
Speaking at the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Retreat on Infrastructure and Health Financing and Development in Kampala on Thursday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said that the public sector has on a number of occasions frustrated public-private partnerships.
“It takes up to two years to get approval to do a project. People get frustrated and we forget that East Africa is not the only place where people can invest. We must be much more welcoming to capital that is willing to invest in our priority areas,” he said.
Kenyatta called on East Africans to speedily remove impediments to trade, if the region is to competitively trade with countries like China and India.
“Let’s sell East Africa as a destination of 160 million people if we are to attract the kind of investment we need in health care and infrastructure development,” he said.
Rwanda’s Infrastructure minister James Musoni, who represented President Paul Kagame at the summit, called for a win-win situation between private and public sectors.
He said there is a need to have an innovative way of handling public-private partnerships.
“Private sector comes with the intention to make money but they also have the challenge of financing because they borrow from expensive sources and this is transfered to the consumers,” Musoni said.
“There should be some level of government participation which in a way addresses risks envisaged by the private sector. If the risk is addressed, then the financing cost also goes down.”
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who is the EAC chairperson, called for a harmonised approach of procuring projects across the bloc to cut costs.
He reiterated the need for making affordable the cost of transport, electricity and the internet to boost development and attract investment to the East African region.
“We have also made good strides on the EAC One Area Network as the implementation of cross-border ICT infrastructure is critical for the attainment of a unified market in communication services in East Africa,” he said.
“I am gratified to note that Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have implemented the EAC roaming framework, which has considerably reduced on the telecommunication charges for the East African citizens. I urge all the Partner States to embrace this initiative for the benefit of our people.”
Other presidents who attended the summit include; John Magufuli of Tanzania, and Salva Kirr of South Sudan.
Burundian Vice-President Martin Nduwimana represented President Pierre Nkurunziza.