Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be with you all this morning, and to see so many distinguished men and women. We want to especially thank our Tanzanian brothers and sisters for agreeing to come to join us at this event and to accompany His Excellency President Kikwete on this State Visit to Kenya.
Let me begin by saying that President Kikwete is an old friend of Kenya. It is no exaggeration to say that had it not been for his help in the past, as many of you will know especially after the disputed 2007 elections, without his help, Kenya’s history might have been very different. So for that, we as a nation and as a people are grateful for his input.
Let me also say that Kenya appreciates and acknowledges the old and strong friendship between our two sisterly nations. I do not need to tell you that that friendship has deepened in recent years, and that it has been strengthened by our common membership of the East African Community, and the recently signed EAC–COMESA–SADC Tripartite Agreement. Let me also say that we appreciate the extensive investment in infrastructure within Tanzania that has been supported strongly by President Kikwete and that facilitates the very issues that we are here to discuss today.
Just this Sunday, President Kikwete and I commissioned the construction of the Taveta–Arusha road, which will join Tanzania to the Northern Corridor at Voi, and tighten regional integration. This is the second major road construction to link our two countries after the Arusha–Namanga–Athi River one, and indeed, in the coming years there will be many more to come. Like us, President Kikwete fully appreciates the value of infrastructure for our trade, for our integration, and also for the prosperity and freedom of our region.
Throughout his tenure, President Kikwete has been a champion of trade and integration. Though that tenure is now coming to an end, he will leave a legacy of good neighborliness, and deeper trade relations in our region.
This is true considering the fact that last year, our exports to Tanzania grew by 5.5%, to Ksh 43 billion. Also considering that today Kenya is one of the leading African investors in Tanzania. On the other hand, we also recognize that in the last year Consider that nearly Ksh 20 billion shillings worth of goods and services from Tanzania come into Kenya. That is a very clear indication that we are vital partners for each other’s prosperity.
But even as we acknowledge this and though we say we are off to a very good start, these numbers that I have just mentioned are not a true reflection of the potential in both countries. We can and we should be doing far better. Our people are innovative, they are entrepreneurial and our businesses are hungry for both markets.
I believe if we plan carefully together, if we work even more closely together, and more importantly, if we let the capital, talent and energy of our people cross our borders freely, then there is no reason why we cannot double or triple our trade. That is why I believe strongly that this should be kept uppermost in your mind as you enter into your deliberations at this forum.
Although, indeed, this is not the last – because I believe we should have many more – we need to constantly remember that if we play our cards right together, we will achieve the freedom and prosperity that are the great promises of our integration. We favor integration not just because it is good and right, but also because, time and again, we have seen the prosperity that follows it.
And this integration is driven largely by international trade and investment. The whole range of our international relations need to take very clear lessons we learn from what integration has done in the wider global arena. That is why Kenya recently hosted the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. In December this year, we will host the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization — a first of its kind to be held in Africa.
All these initiatives are aimed at strengthening our relations, and our trade, with the rest of the international community. As I said, what we have learned from our relations with you and with the region, we intend to apply more widely.
Today’s discussions provide a great opportunity for us to strengthen business ties, and to forge stronger relations between the two countries’ private sectors.
It is through such constructive engagement and dialogue that business will identify opportunities, and establish the networks and partnerships that will help us all seize these opportunities. It is through such interactions that we will identify and overcome the barriers to deeper integration. Indeed, I am convinced that there will be concrete achievements to report at the end of this forum.
However, these processes – the process of establishing actual results, the process of doubling our trade – will be hastened only if business plays its proper role. Governments can deliver good policies. Governments can deliver good programs. Governments can build infrastructure. But nothing will happen if the business community does not step in.
I must also at this stage say that we, as a region, can no longer afford businesses which are either corrupt, which are insensitive to our neighbors’ cultures, or which do not act with the imagination and innovation that we need to achieve our goals.
We need, instead, businesses that are committed to the region; that are committed to innovation; that will compete hard but fairly and that will be sensitive to the issues and concerns our respective countries. It is only by so doing that we can ensure we achieve the prosperity that we seek.
As I close my remarks, let me mention one last fact: that Tanzania and Kenya are members of the EAC-COMESA-SADC tripartite free-trade area, which we officially launched in June this year. Now, that agreement establishes a single market for 26 African countries, and nearly 700 million people across Eastern and Southern Africa.
To make the most of the opportunities opened up by the agreement, we need a framework under which business in Kenya and Tanzania can work together. In the Joint Commission between Kenya and Tanzania, we already have the beginnings of that framework. I would very strongly encourage our chamber of Commerce here in Kenya to reach out to their counterparts in Tanzania, and, if possible, begin discussions about signing a MoU or a similar agreement. Ties of that kind will hasten our growth, and bring the prosperity and integration that we all so eagerly seek.
With all that said, I would now like to conclude and invite my brother President Kikwete to make his remarks and leave you to have what I believe will be fruitful and mutual beneficial deliberations.
Thank you. God bless you.