Nairobi, Kenya – The 14th African Union High-Level Private Sector Forum concluded successfully at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi, Kenya. The forum, organized by the African Union Commission in collaboration with the East African Community Secretariat, brought together a diverse array of stakeholders to discuss strategies for inclusive growth, sustainable development, and enhanced trade and investment across the continent.
Under the theme “Public-Private Sector Engagement for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development while Deepening Regional and Continental Trade and Investment towards Implementation of ACTA,” the forum aimed to strengthen linkages between regional and continental markets, with a focus on fostering increased trade and investment.
The participants, including high-level public policy makers, private sector actors, financial institutions, representatives of women and youth-led/owned creative start-ups, as well as academia and research institutions, engaged in comprehensive discussions to ensure a broad representation of perspectives.
During the event, Deputy Secretary General of the African Union Commission, Ms. Annette Ssemuwemba, highlighted the importance of stimulating economic growth beyond the natural resources sector.
She emphasized the implementation of an industrialization policy within the East African Community (EAC) that focuses on diversifying the manufacturing sector, promoting higher value addition, and supporting SMEs. Ms. Ssemuwemba also stressed the need for a unique approach to industrialization in Africa to fully benefit from the market opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
One of the participants, Mr. Simon Kaheru, a Board member of the Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) and the East African Business Council (EABC), emphasized the benefits of regional integration to tap into a larger market. However, he also highlighted the challenges of high financing costs and logistics to access wider markets.
Also in attendance, Mr. Jim Kabeho, UMA Board Member, emphasized the need to accelerate integration through the AfCFTA to address barriers to trade within Africa. He called for collaborative efforts to facilitate smoother trade processes and enhance economic cooperation among African nations.
The UMA Executive Director, Dr. Ezra Rubanda, provided insights into the key issues discussed during the forum. He emphasized the following points:
Advocacy Prioritization, Dr. Rubanda stressed the importance of governments prioritizing key agendas aligned with the needs of the private sector. By creating an enabling environment, governments can support the growth and success of businesses.
Infrastructure Development, Participants recognized the pivotal role of logistics and infrastructure in boosting trade. Investment in robust transportation networks, including roads, railways, ports, and airports, was deemed essential to facilitate the efficient movement of goods across the continent.
Policy Harmonization, The forum emphasized the significance of policy harmonization to enable the free flow of goods and services across borders. Participants stressed the need for streamlined regulations and procedures to facilitate trade.
Value Chain Integration, Strengthening and expanding value chains within Africa was identified as a priority. By promoting intra-African cooperation, businesses can leverage shared resources and expertise, leading to increased productivity and competitiveness globally.
Payment Platform Integration, The integration of payment platforms was recognized as crucial for bolstering trade within the region. Enhancing digital payment systems and facilitating secure cross-border transactions would enhance trade processes and efficiency.
Leveraging Market Opportunities,
Participants highlighted the importance of exploring untapped markets, embracing emerging technologies, and promoting innovation to unlock the full potential of regional and continental trade.
Increase funding for African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) secretariate and National Liaison secretariates.
Governments should desist from temptation of bilateral or regional countries with third parties.
Capital direct strategies to be appended so that utilization of resources is effective.
As the forum came to a close, participants expressed their commitment to implementing the identified recommendations and working collaboratively towards achieving the shared vision of inclusive growth, sustainable development, and increased trade and investment across Africa.