BY PSCU and MWAKERA MWAJEFA
LIVINGSTONE, Zambia 27th July 2019: President Uhuru Kenyatta last evening said economic diplomacy offers the best opportunity to conquer poverty and joblessness in Africa.
He called on those in positions of power to provide quality leadership by getting actively involved in economic diplomacy that delivers opportunities for growth and transformation.
Mr Kenyatta spoke at Avani Victoria Falls Resort in Zambia where he addressed the inaugural National Economic Summit (NES) at the invitation of President Dr Edgar Lungu.
Economic diplomacy is an engine that developing countries are employing to drive faster economic development especially in Africa.
It is becoming a major theme of the external relations of virtually all countries. This promotes a country’s foreign and financial relations in support of its foreign policy.
The current trends include increasing collaboration between state and non-official agencies, and increased importance given to World Trade Organization issues.
Others are the negotiation of free trade and preferential trade agreements that accords covering investments, avoidance of double taxation and financial services.
President Kenyatta was the only sitting Head of State invited to the summit which was also attended by the former Tanzanian President Dr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.
Mr Kenyatta, who is in Zambia on a two-day official visit, said for economic diplomacy to succeed in Africa leaders must involve relevant stakeholders especially the private sector.
“This combined strength enables us to maximize on the use of the available scarce resources,” he said.
According to him economic diplomacy has become a priority for many countries worldwide and African countries are not in competition with each other but only interested in strengthening connectivity across the continent.
The President, who gave the keynote address at the national conference, asked Zambia Airways to start flying to Nairobi saying competition was good for growth and African countries should stop blocking access to their markets.
He said the current attention on intra-Africa trade, investment and commercial agenda was responding to the reality of a globalized world.
The five fundamental realities that underline the importance of economic diplomacy in Africa, Mr Kenyatta noted that more than 95 percent of the world trade was being transacted outside the continent.
He singled out the high cost of doing business in Africa and the many barriers that exports from the continent face in global markets as some of the challenges leaders must address.
“Africa is the only continent that has the least trade and investment with itself,” he said adding that the continent was the most affected by the new challenges of globalization, supply chains, data flows and block chains.
Observing that African cities are fast becoming the new global engines of economic growth, the President expressed optimism Africa was on the right track to benefit from the rate of economic growth in the global South compared to the north.
“The more than 65 per cent of uncultivated arable land in Africa presents a huge opportunity for increased agricultural production on the continent to feed itself and the rest of the world,” he said.
The two-day summit themed ‘the future of Economic Diplomacy’ sought to establish how economic policies, bilateral trade and investment agreements, and international organizations anchor inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa.
President Kenyatta thanked his host for the invitation to the forum saying Zambia and Kenya share a common aspiration of economic growth and national transformation for the benefit of their citizens.
“This Summit is opportune and timely. Let us use it constructively to generate ideas and feasible solutions that can take Zambia and our Continent forward,” he told the gathered top captains of industry, academia, civil society, government and international stakeholders.
His host, President Lungu said Zambia would remain committed to the continued bilateral cooperation with Kenya adding that his administration was keen to ensure the prosperity of the entire continent.
Besides seeking solutions for the economic challenges facing Zambia and the African continent, the forum also sought to fashion homegrown solutions for sustainable economic development.
Kenya and Zambia enjoy warm relations driven largely by deep commercial ties and people-to-people interactions. The two countries cooperate in many areas including agriculture, tourism, education, ICTs, transport, trade, investment and regional security.