I am happy to have this opportunity to join you this afternoon for this important business forum between the Kenyan and Nigerian business fraternity.
Let me begin by thanking you, my brother, and indeed the business community from Nigeria, and your Kenyan counterparts, for sacrificing your time to come and engage with us with the aim of enhancing our business relations.
Your visit demonstrates your commitment to deepen relations between the two countries at both the public and private sector levels. I wish to take this early opportunity to convey the warm greetings from my Government and the people of Kenya.
Our relations and engagements have been growing over the last few years following the two state visits to Nairobi and to Nigeria in 2013 and 2014 respectively. The two visits yielded a number of agreements including the Bilateral Trade Agreement and the Memorandum of Understanding between the Kenyan and Nigerian Private sectors.
I am reliably informed that Kenya and Nigeria have agreed to establish the Joint Trade Committee, which will address issues affecting our trade relations. I believe once the committee is in place it will clear some of the hurdles our business persons are experiencing in order to enhance our trade volumes.
With the Bilateral Trade Agreement in place, I believe our experts will be able to discuss ways of dismantling any impediments to increasing trade between the two countries.
The two past visits also culminated in the formation of the Nigeria-Kenya Business Council and the Kenya Nigeria Agri-business Group launched in May 2013 and October 2014 and they have since had reciprocal visits to Benue State of Nigeria and Busia County of Kenya to enhance agriculture cooperation through benchmarking.
I am happy to note the outcomes where Busia County received 30 scholarships to the Benue Cultural University for Agriculture.
I have observed that trade between the two countries has increased steadily in the last ten years rising from US$ 13.5 million in 2004 to US$ 31.3 million in 2014. However, these figures are quite low demonstrating that there is room to enhance trade between the two countries. It is evident that a lot needs to be done to increase our basket of imports and exports. I believe this forum avails you the opportunity to identify and increase the list of exportable products and services from and to both countries.
Over the last few years, we have been implementing our national development priorities through the Kenya Vision 2030 blue print. The Vision aims at transforming Kenya into a newly industrialized middle-income economy providing a high quality of life to all its citizens in a clean and secure environment. The strategy seeks to unite all sectors towards building an inclusive economy that is private-sector driven.
Kenya is an economic hub in the region due to its geographical location and proximity to the East and Central African countries.
We have the most developed business and financial services sector, accessible transport and communication connectivity, diverse human resource capacity, and is at the centre of a wide and expansive market of the five countries in the East African region with a population of over 135 million people.
Kenya is also a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Free Trade Area having a population of over 430 million people. This presents a huge market for locally produced goods.
We are in the process of further widening the market through the Tripartite Free Trade Area, which will provide a market of over 650 million people.
Kenya thus avails enormous opportunities for investment in ICT, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, finance, transport, infrastructure and energy that would serve the above cited regions.
We also have the LAPSSET corridor project that comprises of modern port facilities and rail, road, pipelines and fibre optic links to serve a hinterland comprising Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Sudan.
They present opportunities for investment and I urge you to take a look at the projects inherent in LAPPSET for investment.
Kenya has also discovered oil deposits in the recent years. Given the economic importance of the sector and the Nigerian experience in this sector, we invite Nigerian investors to consider investing in Kenya by going into joint ventures with Kenyan companies or through Public Private Partnerships. I want to assure you that Kenya is open and safe for business and investment.
It is an ideal investment destination given the business-friendly reforms the Government has implemented as well as enlarged market mentioned earlier.
Kenya is on a positive reform trajectory and the Government has implemented far-reaching structural reforms and sound macro-economic management with an impressive turnaround in economic performance.
As one of the promising emerging economies in Africa, Kenya is keen to expand and upgrade infrastructure to deliver the required efficiency, in terms of time and cost, to facilitate trade and investment and in particular attract and sustain private sector investments in critical sectors of the economy.
In this regard the Government has taken steps to improve trade and investment climate implementing key policy initiatives which include: The enactment of the Public Private Partnership Act 2013; The roll-out of e-Procurement; The enactment of investor protection; Ease of doing Business initiatives; The establishment of One–Stop-Shop and the Reduction in the cost of power among others.
In conclusion, we hope that following your engagement with the Kenyan business community during my last visit to Nigeria in 2014 and during this event, there will be tangible benefits that translate into real business. It is important that private sector plays its rightful role while the Government delivers on policy.
We recognise your important role in our economies, and urge you to support us in the work of building our prosperity, and bringing rewarding work to all who are willing to do it. Forums like this are invaluable, since they provide an opportunity for businesspersons to meet and share expertise and experience.
Once again, I commend you for responding to my invitation and coming into Kenya in large numbers. I am confident that your few days in Kenya will bear positive outcomes and form a solid foundation to Kenya-Nigeria business relations.