Uhuru speaking in Singapore was important for partnerships

In Summary

• Singapore and Kenya are both key business hubs for the rest of their continents.

President Uhuru Kenyatta tours the Housing Development Board in Singapore on September 20 for the Singapore Summit 2019 where he was the keynote speaker
President Uhuru Kenyatta tours the Housing Development Board in Singapore on September 20 for the Singapore Summit 2019 where he was the keynote speaker
Image: PSCU

At the recent Singapore Summit 2019, an event which brings together business leaders from around Asia to discuss trends in business and geopolitics, a guest from outside the continent delivered a speech promoting business and cultural exchange between Asia and Africa. In his keynote address, President Uhuru Kenyatta represented the strength of Kenya by inviting Singapore and Asia to use the country as a gateway to the African continent. 

Singapore and Kenya actually have many similarities. They are both key business hubs for the rest of their continents, a great deal of commercial and financial transactions first pass through the countries before being completed in neighbouring states. Both countries are leaders in the ICT and finance sectors, and enjoy the successes that accompany being one of the fastest growing economies in their continents. 

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) enables access to a single market of more than 1.2 billion people that is valued at over $29 trillion. The pro-business environment that Uhuru has cultivated over the past few years means that for most Asian business people, the place to begin penetrating the African market is right here in Kenya. 

The benefits of that extend far beyond the upper-echelons of our nation’s most successful entrepreneurs and company owners. The effect on our economy is enjoyed by all, and it positions Kenya as a global leader, representative of a promising phase in African development. 

As Uhuru noted while addressing the crowd in Singapore, Kenya has risen almost 50 spots on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index from 2012 to date. We are already ranked in the top five best places to do business in Africa, and only getting better.

Ninety-five percent of our population already has mobile phone subscriptions, which results in the amazing progress we have seen recently in mobile banking. The entire world is aware of the strides in financial inclusion that M-Pesa has generated. 

But ICT in Kenya goes further than that.

Technology penetration is at an all-time high, which enables SMEs and budding individual entrepreneurs to take more risks with small loans and achieve better results. The interconnectivity helps bring Kenyans up to speed with international counterparts, and brings us one step closer to the Vision 2030 goal of our economy reaching middle income status.

I have no doubt that Uhuru has a busy schedule running the country. But the fact that he flew to Singapore to communicate the possibilities and benefits of conducting business with Kenya was a brilliant move of statesmanship. Getting up close and personal with participants at the Singapore Summit will leave a lasting impression on this network of leaders.

Possibilities of direct flights between the gateways of Asia and Africa - Singapore and Nairobi - as well as joint capacity building and information sharing were floated.

It is all good to invite foreign countries to come to Kenya to see for themselves why so many countries turn to us as they break into the African market. But real deals are only made in person. The wide array of trans-border cooperation that Kenya enjoys is a result of developing personal relationships with international leaders. 

In July, Kenya and Singapore hosted the Afro-Asia Fintech Festival 2019 in Nairobi together. The Singapore Summit served as an opportunity for Uhuru to build on that and invite Singapore to collaborate with us on transportation construction, as well as energy, housing and communications infrastructure. 

While Kenya has benefited a great deal from China’s investments during Uhuru’s tenure, it is important to maintain stable and mutually beneficial relationships with other Asian allies as well. Keeping deals on the table with both Singapore and Japan ensure that Kenya maintains its status as a competitive and independent player in the global politics playing field. 

Kenya’s strategic location on the Indian Ocean, as well as the fact that English is widely spoken and the labour force is highly skilled, makes us a great asset as a partner to any nation. The real challenge is making good use of those assets, and we have the President to thank for stepping up to the plate.

 

Cherambos comments on topical issues.

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