It gives me pleasure that the East Africa Chamber of Commerce has successfully hosted the 2013 Annual Trade Conference. It requires resources, energy and determination to gather such a large number of potential investors together from all corners of America. This event once more gives us from the East African Community (EAC), a chance to showcase the opportunities for trade and investment in our region of East Africa and Africa at large. The opportunities for investment in the EAC partner states are enormous. East Africa is a blessed land with resources.
Africa is the richest continent in resources that remain unexploited, specifically our countries of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Let us take advantage of these resources and develop our nations. History tells us that no country can ever develop unless that development is self-generated and is in-grown. I, therefore, challenge my countrymen and women to take a lead to deliver development and prosperity of our countries.
Investment opportunities in East Africa are bedrocked on the stable political environment in our region. The EAC political stability spans consistently over the last 25 years or so. In terms of macroeconomic stability and economic growth, our region once more scores high economic indicators consistently for more than 20 years. I trace the economic growth of the EAC partner states in the recent past as promising. This is demonstrated in the past 10 years, where real GDP growth rates have been robust.
The EAC is the fastest and leading economic bloc in Africa, ahead of SADC, ECOWAS and others. We have contributed to the growth of Africa, a continent that has promised to offer leading indicators to the economic growth of the world in this decade. It is projected by the IMF that Africa will grow by 5.3 per cent in 2013 compared with 3.3 per cent projected growth of the world economy.
This demonstrates that it is time for Africa now to lead the world to prosperity and development.
In reference to natural resources, East Africa is blessed with a lot of minerals, including diamonds, phosphates, gold, vermiculite, iron ore, limestone, tin kaolin and other clays, tungsten and salt. Our latest blessing is oil and gas discoveries in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
The government of Uganda has further pledged and undertaken to invest the resources of oil production in infrastructure. We have demonstrated this by embarking on Karuma Dam construction, where funds had been ring- fenced and provided for. We further call upon investors to invest in the sector of energy.
The East African nations have the greatest comparative advantage in the agriculture sector. East Africa is a potential food basket for the world, growing mainly organic foods. Our focus is further driven to agro-processing. Africa has been ripped-off by the skewed trade relations for long. East Africa exports tea, coffee, cotton, etc., to the Western capitals for processing and resold back at 10 times the price of purchase. Value addition to agricultural products grown in East Africa and Africa at large is our priority. It is the way to go, if our nations are to prosper.
We need capital to finance our projects. Gone are the days where financing developing countries like the EAC partner states was solely from the World Bank! World Bank can only now raise 25 per cent of the development finance! The other portion is from private equity, emerging economies like the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The Diaspora has also proved that it is a player in developing our nations. During the year 2012, it is estimated by the World Bank that $4.5 billion was remitted to East Africa in general. This is an important role the Diaspora has played and it is undisputable.
Our governments are committed to further improve the investment climate. A lot of reforms have happened, including the ongoing harmonisation of laws to effectively implement and harness the benefits of the East African Common Market. The EAC economies are private sector-led and liberalised. There are no restrictions on transfer of money. Other infrastructure that is being worked on to improve and reduce the cost of doing business include; road works, airports, railways and waterways – especially in Lake Victoria and ICT.
Tourism is also another important growth sector in the EAC region. The earnings from tourism for the EAC states in the year 2011, amounted to $3.514 billion. It is projected that with improvements in the infrastructure as mentioned above, these earnings will rise much higher in the medium term.
There is, therefore, a huge potential and investment opportunities in leisure and hospitality industry, including hotels. It is now or never that our nations have to rise and prosper once again and take their rightful positions and share of the world prosperity.
Mr Banyenzaki is the Minister of State for Economic Monitoring. This is an abridged version of a keynote address to the East Africa Chamber of Commerce conference held on 17 – 19 October 2013 in Dallas, Texas - USA.