NAIROBI —The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), The Africa CEO Forum, and International Finance Corporation (IFC) have joined efforts to rally for improved intra-Africa relations for the benefit of the continent.
The group held a launch event in Nairobi on Tuesday, to introduce the seventh edition of the Africa CEO Forum that will take place on 25-26 March 2019 in Kigali, Rwanda. This will be the first time the event is held in East Africa.
Speaking during the event in Nairobi on Tuesday, KEPSA Deputy CEO Rachel Muthoga said Kenya remains committed in leading the drive in Africa to put the private sector at the forefront of development.
The East African economic power house has been enjoying robust growth in recent years, with Muthoga noting that there has been growing investment opportunities in Kenya.
“KEPSA is a strong partner and is looking to take more people to Rwanda this year,” Ms. Muthoga said.
IFC Country Manager, Manuel Moses, said that IFC seeks to bring the full capacity of the World Bank Group to build public- private partnerships and help open up new sectors to private investment.
He noted that IFC have new tools and products to help create the incentives that will encourage investors and grow investments in Africa.
High Commissioner of Rwanda to Kenya, Dr. Richard Masozera, said: “We want to encourage dialogue among business leaders and public- private dialogue to help make Africa become more competitive. This is therefore to invite you to Rwanda for the 7th edition of the Africa CEO Forum to make this an excellent event.”
The launch had a high-level panel discussion that addressed Kenya’s economic role in Africa.
Held under the theme “Kenya: Growing with Africa” the speakers looked at why Kenyan private sector needs to expand beyond the region and bring the successes and innovations it has achieved in many fields (mobile money, off-grid solar, digital banking, start-up hubs among others) to the rest of the continent.
The panelists comprised of Denis Awori, Chairman of Toyota Kenya, Darshan Chandaria, CEO of Chandaria Industries, and Brenda Mbathi, Executive Director of General Electric and a KEPSA director.
More than 60 high-level Kenyan and East African business leaders were in attendance among them KEPSA members.
The Africa CEO Forum is the leading international conference dedicated to the private sector in Africa and hosts the continent’s top CEOs, international investors, experts and high-level policy makers every year.
The forum has an unparalleled ability to mobilize, offer cutting-edge content and attract global media coverage. It is committed to unlocking Africa’s economic potential by championing private sector-led growth, leading discussions around innovative public policies and sustainable business.
Last year’s forum held in Abidjan,Cote d’Ivoire, attracted 1,500 participants from 70 countries with 700 CEO’s representing their respective institutions. The annual forum has attracted over 3,000 companies since 2012 with 120 heads of states and ministers attending.
With Africa swinging into action to strengthen regional integration, the choice of Rwanda, a country at the intersection of East and Central Africa, matches the Africa CEO Forum’s desire to facilitate meetings and encourage business flow between CEOs from across the continent.
During the Nairobi launch, business leaders called on governments to address existing tariff and Non-Tarriff Barriers (NTBs) to enable increased intra-Africa trade and growth of the continent.
The Kigali meeting comes at a time when African states are nearing the threshold of 22 countries needed to operationalise the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). So far, 18 countries have ratified the agreement reached in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, last year.
The agreement is expected to ease movement of goods and services within the continent as Africa takes advantage of the high population to find a market for goods produced by its members.
Currently, most countries are facing challenges accessing both African and international market owing to various trade barriers among them protectionism plicies.
Kenya was among the first countries to ratify the agreement that has also been endorsed by Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eswatini, Ghana, Guinea and Mali.
Others are Mauritania, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo and Uganda.
Intra-Africa trade currently stands at about 12 per cent compared to other continents with Europe enjoying a 67 per cent penetration, Asia (58 per cent) and North America at 48 per cent.