At the second American Chamber of Commerce US-East Africa Trade and Investment Forum in Nairobi, President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke of the role of anti-corruption campaign in boosting business.
Indeed, Kenya’s ranking just improved to position 56 on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, a sure sign of our progress in opening up the private sector to budding entrepreneurs and foreign investors.
However, there is more work to do. First, the anti-corruption campaign must be a group effort. Businesses must take part by fully adhering to the anti-graft Code of Conduct. Self-regulation is as essential as government regulation.
The main change that has made Kenya a better potential site for investment is the current war against corruption.
Companies must understand that when they employ corrupt business practices, they are inevitably hurting themselves by damaging Kenya’s image as a safe investment option with strong profit potential.
Consequently, the President committed to American investors at the Trade and Investment forum to uphold good business practices via an environment of transparency and fairness.
Part of the plan is to make sure international and local companies have the opportunity to expand their ventures within Kenya, without being hindered by the threat of bribery or other forms of corruption.
Though the volume of trade between the US and Kenya is currently relatively low, Kenya is working to increase awareness of business opportunities here.
US-based companies such as General Electric and Phillips have already expanded their ventures in Kenya, and there is much more potential now due to our fast tracked economic growth.
Besides that, the government’s continued investment in infrastructure, especially the SGR and extension of the Mombasa-Nairobi railway line to Suswa, has been essential to reducing the cost of doing business.
New industrial and green energy plants, such as those near Suswa, are more accessible today. And that will directly translate into increased job creation in the coming years.
One of the main issues facing the youth overall today is joblessness, and the government has set a bold target of creating at least 6.5 million secure and stable jobs.
Many of them will be in industries that have previously played a significant role in the Kenyan economy, such as energy, infrastructure and logistics.
However, we must keep in mind that anxiety about a precarious future is not a thought exclusive to the Kenyan youth. Recent comments by Belgian Ambassador Nicolas Nihon echo those of our president.
When asked if his embassy has done anything to help qualified young people find gainful employment, he responded that this is a universal challenge.
However, the old system of school, university, and then working in a single career for life is no longer the norm. Today’s working class change jobs and even sectors frequently throughout their career lives, and the job of the Kenyan government is to stay ahead of the trend.
That is why the government is working to foster SMEs and creative startups that address this changing reality. Kenya is quickly on its way to becoming a middle income economy, and we are increasingly being seen as a partner country rather than a recipient of aid.
In other words, high income countries like Belgium and the US prefer to inject their money here through business partnerships or trade, and not in the form of grant aid. This is undoubtedly a good sign. Gone are the days when Kenya was seen as a tumultuous country plagued by inner strife and undemocratic governance.
Finally, our country is on track to becoming more representative than ever before. The nation wants transparency, accountability, state of the art infrastructure and opportunities to keep up with the unpredictability of the contemporary world order.
The only way to deliver on development promises is to listen to what the people want. We are on track, good people. Worry not, and work even harder.