The 1st East African Investment Conference in Kigali was a success, participants said. They hope trade and investment opportunities in the bloc will be boosted as the regional potentials have been exposed to potential investors.
“We achieved 75 per cent of our objectives,” Dr Maggie Kigozi, Executive Director Uganda Investment Authority said in an interview during a dinner organised by the East Africa Business Council (EABC) at Serena.
She is a board member of the EABC, an umbrella body of businessmen in the East African Community.
Kigozi was part of the hundreds who met with top world business executives and the five Heads of State.
The conference that started on 26th to 28th June, in Kigali was to showcase the available trade and investment opportunities, map out strategies of positioning the bloc as a world investment destination and market the region as one entity.
After the meet, Kigozi said, prospective investors from Japan promised to invest in bio-fuel production. The development comes at a time when increasing energy costs are pushing prices of consumer goods to an all time high.
Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete had earlier told the delegates that transport costs had doubled. Meaning importers in Kigali and Burundi cities—which are tucked miles and miles from the sea may be paying thrice in transport costs.
From presentations during the conference, the five member states are not sleeping. They are looking for investors in alternative energy sources.
President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya told delegates that energy shortage has been exacerbated with the growing productive sector and households demand for power.
He advised that given the current consumption trends, EAC needs to urgently increase investments in additional power production.
Kenya government plans to generate up 600 additional megawatts of power by the year 2012 and add another 2,000 megawatts of power by the year 2030, mainly from geothermal sources.
Kibaki advised governments to also aggressively push the regional electricity integration agenda through power pools to reduce energy tariffs. He believes the investment would facilitate the provision of quality electric power at affordable tariffs in a region.
Against that backdrop, Kigozi said some Japanese investors had shown interest in investing in biofuel production.
Environmentalist recommend biofuels as they are more eco-friendly and renewable.
These fuels are said to also be having the potential to transform the social and economic situation of millions of East Africans.
Experts say, one of the advantages of developing biofuels is that it provides a certain amount of energy security.
The investors’ interest come at a time when this month has seen record rises in the price of both petrol and diesel, overtaking last months record increases. The price of crude reached nearly $140 a barrel.
Investors happy, Kagame is EAC chairman
Commenting on the rotational East African Community chairmanship, Emmanuel Hategeka, Secretary General Rwanda Private Sector Federation said President Paul Kagame’s taking over of the mantle energizes the businessmen’s efforts.
He described the president as, “a visionary leader with a strong focus on private sector development. Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni handed over the EAC chairmanship to Kagame at the 9th Heads of State Summit in Kigali.
Emmanuel D. Ole Naiko, Executive Director Tanzania Investment Centre said they are happy President Kagame, a known anti corruption crusader in the region is now the EAC political head. He said Tanzania will draw lessons from Kagame’s leadership.
According to Ole Naiko, corruption i is making investors shun other countries. Rwanda has a zero tolerance for corruption, a move that has made the country the dream investment destination.
Investors are also streaming in the country partly because of a safe investment environment, the strategically location and equal treatment accorded to them. According to Rwanda Investment and Export Promotions Agency, the country has also immense untapped potential in agriculture, ICT, mining, finance and energy.
Reginald A. Mengi, Chairman EABC said money spent on ‘oiling’ bureaucrats in some countries is an additional cost that makes doing business in the region expensive.