The African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) private sector and entrepreneurs are pushing for increased intra-ACP trade to boost economic development and industrialisation.
Speaking during ACP private sector forum in the ongoing two day ACP business summit in Nairobi, the group recommended the reduction of trade barriers for members’ states.
“The private sector provides an essential framework for the ACP economic development programmes as well as promoting productivity by bringing down barriers to doing business and investing in human resources and economic development,” Richard Ngatia, the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kncci) said.
“Today, as the private sector, we urge the ACP governments to work more closely with the private sector to help reduce some of the difficulties at hand.”
He emphasised on the need to build capacities to produce goods and services to support ACP intra-trade and for export to improve global competitiveness.
“Our priority should be to grow trade and create opportunities for the many SMEs in the ACP nations to grow their businesses and be part of the global value chains through Intra ACP trade,” said Ngatia.
To support Youth Employment and Enterprise Development, the private sector recommended the need to develop and promote national skills, strategies and programmes for the future of the workforce through Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) forums.
They also want to play part in the preparation of young people for the job market through structured partnership and collaboration with industry and academia.
On Sunday, President Uhuru Kenyatta outlined six key focus areas that need revamping in order to jump-start industrial transformation of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) member countries.
The president cited the human resource, agricultural industrialization, entrepreneurship and the growth of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME's) as well as improved regulatory and institutional frameworks as areas that ACP nations need to focus on in order to grow their economies.
Other areas he identified include the creation of an environment that supports innovation and technology transfer, and that which promotes private sector-led industrial development.
He cited the bloc's population of over 1 billion people, who are largely the youth under the age of 35, as the engine that can drive the industrial revolution of the countries economies if equipped with the right skills.
“Given the right skills training and opportunities, this large reservoir of young people will become the engine that drives the transformation we seek as a group as well as individual countries,” the President noted.
On Kenya's push towards full industrialization, the President said his administration is investing heavily in post-school training especially in the acquisition of digital skills to enable young Kenyans to access opportunities presented by the digital economy.
Speaking at the business forum, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottely called on ACP member countries to tap into the potential of local investments by managing migration and creating a strong sense of local ownership.
The PM gave the example of Kenya's Equity Bank saying the financial institution has created employment and investment opportunities in Kenya where "international banks have not been able to fully respond to local market needs".
Namibian President Hage Geingob and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness called for a total war on corruption saying graft was a big impediment in the economic take-off of ACP countries.
The Namibian leader acknowledged the challenges facing the fight against corruption but insisted that ACP nations have no other alternative to ending corruption if they have to succeed.
PM Holness challenged ACP nations to encourage more people-to-people engagements so as to create linkages and an atmosphere of trust needed to spur trade and cross-border investments.
To diversify trade, Seychelles President Danny Faure urged ACP nations to invest more in both local and international blue saying his government recently set up the Blue Economy Council to optimize the utilization of ocean resources for economic development.
Tony Elumelu, the Chairman of the United Bank for Africa who is also the founder of the largest philanthropic organization in Africa, said he is committed to the cause of the African youth noting that his Elumelu Foundation has so far trained 7,500 youth entrepreneurs across Africa.
Mr Elumelu gave an example of a young Kenyan by the name Peter Kikumbi who he said benefitted from the entrepreneurship training and is now engaged in ambitious medical research to develop a contraceptive for preventing HIV infections.