President Uhuru Kenyatta Sunday evening outlined six key focus areas that need revamping in order to jump start industrial transformation of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) member countries.
The president cited human resource, agricultural industrialization, entrepreneurship and the growth of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME’s) as well as improved regulatory and institutional frameworks as areas that ACP nations need to focus on in order to grow their economies.
Other areas identified by the Kenyan leader include the creation of an environment that supports innovation and technology transfer, and that which promotes private sector led industrial development.
The President who addressed a business summit at KICC ahead of Monday’s official opening of this year’s ACP summit said the bloc’s member nations are endowed with immense resources which if properly exploited would help hasten the attainment of their development targets.
He cited the bloc’s population of over 1 billion people, who are largely the youth under the age of 35, as the engine that can drive industrial revolution of the countries economies if equipped with the right skills.
“Given the right skills training and opportunities, this large reservoir of young people will become the engine that drives the transformation we seek as a group as well as individual countries,” the President noted.
On Kenya’s push towards full industrialization, the President said his administration is investing heavily in post school training especially in the acquisition of digital skills to enable young Kenyans to access opportunities presented by the digital economy.
The President called for a keener focus on the agricultural value chain through the establishment of stronger linkages between farmers and the ago-industry aimed at growing returns for farmers through increased access to markets.
“…because agriculture employs more than half of our workers, many of them poor; value addition and the integration of smallholder farmers into national and regional agriculture value chains, would contribute to more inclusive development,” the President sad.
The Kenyan leader told the ACP member states to offer an enabling environment for entrepreneurship to thrive especially and the growth of MSME’s.
He said MSME’s have the potential to fix the global employment challenge as well as address the needs of special interest groups such as the youth, women and the disabled persons.
“To successfully grow MSMEs, members of vulnerable and economically disadvantaged groups need finance, business skills training and markets; without which most of them fail in the first three years,” the President said.
The President called for the removal of bottlenecks that choke enterprises by strengthening regulatory and institutional frameworks so as to enhance ease of doing business in ACP member nations.
“As governments, we need to continuously improve the ease-of-doing-business in order to remove supply-side constraints and increase competitiveness, transparency and efficiency,” President Kenyatta said.
He said Kenya has been able to improve its ranking in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index from position 136 in 2014 to position 56 in the latest ranking by working closely with the private sector.
While citing successes attained by Kenya in financial inclusion, the President pitched for the utilization of technology to promote the growth of e-commerce, and improve the efficiency and transparency of service delivery by governments.
“By leveraging on digital financial services, access to financial services in Kenya has more than tripled from 26 percent in 2006 to 85 percent in 2019.
“About 39 percent of private enterprises in Kenya are engaged in e-commerce; and 70 percent of all e-commerce payments in Kenya are settled through various mobile money payment platforms,” the President highlighted.
Speaking at the business forum, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottely called on ACP member countries to tap into the potential of local investments by managing migration and creating a strong sense of local ownership.
The PM gave the example of Kenya’s Equity Bank saying the financial institution has created employment and investment opportunities in Kenya where “international banks have not been able to fully respond to local market needs”.
Namibian President Hage Geingob and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness called for a total war on corruption saying graft was a big impediment in the economic take off of ACP countries.
The Namibian leader acknowledged the challenges facing the fight against corruption but insisted that ACP nations have no other alternative to ending corruption if they have to succeed.
PM Holness challenged ACP nations to encourage more people-to-people engagements so as to create linkages and an atmosphere of trust needed to spur trade and cross-border investments.
To diversify trade, Seychelles President Danny Faure urged ACP nations to invest more in both local and international blue saying his government recently set up the Blue Economy Council to optimize the utilization of ocean resources for economic development.
Tony Elumelu, the Chairman of the United Bank for Africa who is also the founder of the largest philanthropic organization in Africa, said he is committed to the cause of the African youth noting that his Elumelu Foundation has so far trained 7,500 youth entrepreneurs across Africa.
Mr Elumelu gave an example of a young Kenyan by the name Peter Kikumbi who he said benefitted from the entrepreneurship training and is now engaged in an ambitious medical research to develop a contraceptive for preventing HIV infections.