Don't fear Kenyans, President Uhuru Kenyatta tells East Africans

Don't fear Kenyans, President Uhuru Kenyatta tells East Africans
President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) answers questions during the East African business summit held in Kigali, Rwanda. With him is Rwanda President Paul Kagame (centre) and KCB Chief Executive Joseph Oigara. (Photo:PSCU)
President Uhuru Kenyatta has allayed fears among the rest of the East African partner states that Kenyans will not dominate all available jobs if the regional labour market is opened and liberalised.

The Head of State described such fears and mentality as unwarranted, adding the East African leadership needs a clear and brave approach to address those fears.

President Uhuru said there is need for the leadership in region to demystify the notion about protecting "jobs for my people", an approach taken by some partner states.

He said there is need for the partner states to make the region more competitive through full integration.

The President said full integration of the East African region is being slowed by these unfounded fears among its members.

"What has made us not move at the pace we need to are national fears that if I open up the labour market, my people will be denied jobs and that all the opportunities will be taken," said the President in Kigali, Rwanda.

President Uhuru said people from the region must start talking as East Africans by dealing with their national fears, adding the matter needs the political goodwill of leaders.

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He said Kenya and Rwanda are currently reaping significant benefits after liberalising their labour market and free movement of people between the two countries using national ID cards as travel documents.

"What we are doing is tapping the best workers in the region, not blocking people just because they come from another country," said the President.

Insecurity matter

President Kenyatta gave the example of the United States, which has over the years achieved remarkable growth and development by tapping the best talent from all over the world including Africa and India. "We need to discard inward-looking mentality that we inherited from the colonialists and allow our people to move freely," said the President.

This position was shared by Rwanda President Paul Kagame, when the two heads of State faced hard questions from senior policy makers and captains of business and industry in the region during the 6th East African Business Summit in Kigali.

The regional forum, whose theme is 'Positioning East Africa for Inclusive Prosperity in 2020 and Beyond' discusses policies that are aimed at spurring economic growth and transforming the East African nations.

President Uhuru and Kagame, who were the panelists during yesterday's session moderated by Kenya Commercial Bank chief executive officer Joshua Oigara tackled hard questions including movement of labour and resources, the threats of Ebola, insecurity and terrorism, ICT and incompetent graduates being churned out of the regional universities.

President Kagame described as primitive and limiting the mentality of denying people from the region an opportunity to seek jobs outside the respective countries.

He said an experiment by Kenya and Rwanda had proved mutually beneficial, adding he has people from all over East Africa working in his office besides Americans and Britons.

He, however, underlined the need for those working outside their countries to respect the laws and institutions of host countries. "We need a conversation with our people (from the region). Their fears are unwarranted for. There are more benefits to be achieved," he said

The two said insecurity and terrorism in one country affects the other and concerted efforts, working together and sharing intelligence are needed to effectively combat cross-border vices.

They said the two countries are already co-operating and thinking of building the necessary capacities to combat the cross-border criminals including engaging the military for quick intervention.

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East Afican business summit Uhuru Kenyatta regional integration