EA business leaders move to boost trade

East African community business leaders are trying to boost competitiveness. Wary of renewed foreign invasion, they are exploring other ways of tapping the region’s vast resources to boost economic growth.

East African community business leaders are trying to boost competitiveness. Wary of renewed foreign invasion, they are exploring other ways of tapping the region’s vast resources to boost economic growth.

Industry leaders, under the aegis of the East African Business Summit (EABS), said in Nairobi Thursday that trade within the East African region has been clogged.

To highlight growing concerns over the business environment, EABS has organised a summit intended to strengthen ties between governments and business players in key growth areas in the region.

Rwanda private sector is yet to come up issues to table during the summit but the country’s State Minister for Industry and Investment Promotion, Vincent Karega said that whichever position they private sector come up with, should be aimed at improve competitiveness.

“We are waiting for the CEOs of East African companies because they are the organiser of the summit. But the main objective is to promote competitiveness in the region,” said Karega.

The summit will be held in Kampala between July 17 and July 19, this year bwith the theme for this year’s summit is ‘Enhancing East Africa’s Global Competitiveness.’. It is expected to address the challenges facing the region and how best its business potential can be tapped.

Mr. Charles Muchene, the EABS chairman, said success depended on understanding the contours of both political and business power in the region and taking advantage of human capital and mineral resources in East Africa
Kenya is particularly strategic because of its unique geographical advantages and well developed business hub.

EAC member states comprising Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi are also seeking to establish a single economic space to cut costs of doing business and improve competitiveness.

Among the challenges cited by EABS are the high cost of telecommunications, rigid labour markets, gaps in the public-private partnerships, political uncertainty and poor governance and inability to fully exploit human capital.

“All the region needs is to develop collective trust among the states, business and political leaders to transform its economies, ” said Mr Richard Ndung’u, the KPMG CEO.

The last such summit—co-sponsored by Citibank N.A, Nation Media Group and audit firms KPMG, Deloitte & Touche, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and KPMG, was held three years ago in Kenya.

In 2003, EABS conceived the fibre-optic sea cable East African Submarine Cable System (Eassy), that is expected to  connect 21 African countries to one another and the rest of the world with high-quality Internet and international communications services.

“It is urgent to have an elaborate strategy to take advantage of resources and prepare the region for competition with giants such as India and China,” said Muchene, who is also the country leader for audit firm PWC.

“Future competition will come from the East. If we do not address our challenges, we will be swept by the wave,” said the Nation Media Group CEO, Linus Gitahi.

Firms from these Asian nations are boosting their presence in East Africa through multi-million shilling acquisition deals or green field targeting industries as diverse as telecommunication, tourism, energy and technology.

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