|Hon. Amos Kimunya making his speech at the Kenya Top 100 2011 Conference at the Strathmore Business School on 6 October 2011|
Your Excellencies, High Commissioners and Ambassadors,
Chairpersons of Industry Associations,
Vice Chancellors and Deans of Universities,
All Entrepreneurs present,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning, it gives me great pleasure once again to attend the 4th Kenya Top 100 conference. I recall that I was here in 2009 at the Intercontinental hotel to officially open the conference and I am grateful that you considered me a once again to be the guest of honour this year.
I would like to congratulate KPMG and the Nation Media Group through its local business focused paper the Business Daily once again, under the leadership of Josphat Mwaura and Linus Gitahi for the excellent work they are doing giving recognition and rewarding the people that create wealth for this country and drive our economy forward. I would also like to thank the companies that have found this to be a venture worthy of their sponsorship. It is a demonstration of their vision.
As a government we are proud of the Kenya Top 100 initiative because it supports what we stand for, that is the transformation of our economy into a globally competitive and prosperous nation with a high quality of life as envisioned in Vision 2030. Promoting entrepreneurship and increasing trade within the East African region is a hallmark of vision 2030. The theme of the Survey “One Market, more opportunities” is very apt as it places the focus squarely on finding opportunity to increase trade with countries in East Africa. For as long as companies begin to see that we are talking about a region with the potential for 130 million consumers, their approach towards doing business will change significantly.
I am reliably informed that companies that have participated in the surveys since 2008 have received special and/or preferential treatment as a result of being members of the Top 100 club. I am also informed that each year the Top 100 initiative turns over at least 3 new companies into the club 101, or companies with a turnover over Kshs. 1 billion. This is a remarkable feat and I would like to see club 101 begin to take their rightful place in the market as the future blue chip companies. It is worth noting that some of the largest corporations in the world such as Google, Microsoft, facebook or even the Ford Motor corporation all began as small companies and grew over time.
When I was here two years ago, plans were underway to run the Top 100 in Uganda, I have since learnt that the Top 100 has hosted 2 (two) very highly successful award ceremonies. I am also aware that 1 (one) award ceremony has been held in Tanzania last year and plans are currently underway to stage a Top 100 in Rwanda next year. I would like to be invited to preside over a function in which the East Africa Top 100 comprising companies in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda are recognized.
Ladies and gentlemen, you are all too aware that there was a severe food shortage in some parts of the country not too long ago, which brought to us, through our television sets, the harsh reality about how we are all affected when we do not produce enough to feed ourselves. Self sufficiency must be our goal and both the government and private sector have a role to play. Let me congratulate the private sector, which of course includes you in this room today, for coming together through the Kenyans for Kenya initiative to raise close to Ksh 1 billion to help ease the pain of our fellow Kenyans.
This intervention should be seen as a very short term measure and the government is working with stakeholders on longer term measures that will prevent such situations from arising again. The private sector has a role to play and we encourage them to join hands with us.
We have seen the decline in value of the Kenya Shilling against the major currencies, especially the dollar in the last couple of weeks, causing it to fall to its lowest level in history. Kenya, being a Net importer of goods, has therefore seen this loss in value translate into price increases of basic commodities to levels never witnessed before. We should arrest this by striving to become Net exporters by increasing our efficiency and productivity. The Entrepreneurs that are seated in this room today have the ability to make that happen.
Even as we work hard towards self sufficiency in food production , we all must continue to look beyond our borders and take advantage of the Common Market Protocol that His Excellency President Mwai Kibaki signed on 30th June 2010. Development in Kenya is not sufficient to generate the standard of living that we would all like to enjoy and it is only through accessing other markets that we can create a better standard of life for ourselves. Our economic growth and prosperity will be derived by engaging with the regional and global community through international trade. The purpose of the East African Community is to do just that. To create.
I want to encourage you to look at new opportunities that arise in a creative way so that we can capitalise on them in a bigger market. This will benefit your companies. It will help Kenya to quickly re-establish itself as a strong economic performer in this region. It will further strengthen the relationship between the countries within the community.
We look forward to continuing to leverage trade and investment to build an even closer relationship, taking advantage of market opportunities and the shared values and understanding between our countries.
By having a regional trading block such as the East African Community will help to expand markets in Africa and allow Africa to benefit from the global trade. Africa accounts for less than 3% of global trade and only 10% of Africa’s trade is with other African countries. Despite having a similar population to India’s, Africa has 55 countries with as many national frameworks, complex borders and tariff as well as non-tariff barriers.
Increasing employment must be a key focus for all of us. Worldwide, it is a well known fact that the Small and Medium size sector provides upto 60% of employment. However, when the population continues to grow faster than can be absorbed into employment , scenes of upheaval such as happened in North Africa and the Arab world become a clear reminder of what can go wrong. Africa’s large young population could be a force for future growth and productivity or a fuel for conflict and economic paralysis. All depends on how sufficient and evenly distributed are economic and political opportunities. Trade and regional integration is one way of unlocking growth potential, creating economic opportunity and creating incentives for co-operation to deliver political stability in the region. Prosperity is coming to corners of Africa where the private sector is playing a key role in development.
This government is focused on economic growth, and we know that trade and investment are key to our efforts in moving Kenya further on the path toward prosperity. Our government is committed to opening new markets for businesses and to creating stronger commercial links with other countries in Africa. Trade isn’t just about opening markets – it’s about ensuring that our countries are competitive enough and productive enough.
Kenya understands that labour mobility remains an important priority for our region and we are working very hard with our neighbours to ensure that movement of labour across the borders is enhanced, we know that there are a few hurdles along the way, but these are being addressed. Kenya is determined bring a new, revitalised approach to our relations with our neighbours. We are part of the East Africa and we want to see the region prosper and grow. Developing a comprehensive, region-wide, free trade and economic integration through the East African Community is a big part of our shared vision.
Ladies and gentlemen, Let me say thank you once again to you for inviting me to address you, to KPMG and the Business Daily for organizing such a wonderful conference and to the rest of you, congratulations for making it to the Top 100. You are members of an exclusive club, go out make an impact.
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