Leveraging the East African market through trade and investment.
THE EAST AFRICAN INVESTMENT CONFERENCE
26th – 28th June 2008
In 540 BC, Heraclitis, a Greek philosopher said, ‘nothing endures but change.’ As globalisation spreads its wings, nations are realising that they must bury social, cultural and geo-political disparities to create a universally acceptable environment that will reap tangible economic outcomes. It is becoming evident that regional integration shall shape the future of the world’s economies and the East African Community is no exception.
‘The reality of the situation is that we have merged our economies from various national ones to a single regional one’, Francis Gatare, Rwanda’s Investment and Export Agency head says. It is with this in mind that his organisation is involved in frenzied preparations for the upcoming East African Investment Conference set to take place in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, at the end of June 2008.
Rwanda, the region’s leading regional investment conference organizer, is hoping to serve as a pioneer by creating a platform for member states to reap the fruits of regional integration. The conference will serve as an opportunity to evaluate East Africa’s potential to serve as a commercial platform for servicing the continent. The forum will enable producers and industrialists to challenge government officials on regulatory issues and link them with investment bankers to stimulate further investments and expansion in the region.
Under the theme ‘Leveraging the East African market through Trade and Investment’, the conference targets participants from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi. Rwanda is working directly with the East African Business Council (EABC) and all regional investment agencies to ensure that the event is successful.
For Rwanda, there is a lot at stake. On the outset, a landlocked country with a population of under ten million does not offer much promise in terms of return on investment to a multi-million dollar investor hoping for quick returns. On further scrutiny, Rwanda’s location at the precise core of the African continent presents a strategic advantage. For Rwanda, successful regional integration with Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Tanzania increases the investors’ target population tenfold from 9.7 million to 125 million. East Africa’s total GDP currently stands at US$ 104.2 billion, again ten times higher than Rwanda’s US$ 11.24 billion.
The stakes are high and something needs to be done; Francis Gatare suggests that integration is long overdue. ‘We have always been perceived to be one market, when an investor wants to invest in Rwanda, they are already considering the region,’ he argues.
East Africa was faced with a dilemma between December 2007 and February 2008 when Kenyan opposition and incumbent government entered a deadlock dispute over the country’s political leadership. The turmoil crossed the country’s borders when fuel prices sky- rocketed in Uganda and Rwanda and goods in transit to the two countries were blocked from crossing the Kenyan border.
It is obvious that what happens in Kenya will affect what happens in Rwanda and vice versa. A commonly sited example is the last Doing Business Index, where Rwanda was ranked poorly in the area of doing business across borders; as a result of regional issues “At this conference we are going to confront eachother directly on policy issues” Mr. Gatare added.
The guestlist of the conference delegates does not suggest otherwise, Amb. Juma Mwapachu, the EAC’s Secretary General and heads of state from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya will all be present. Seven hundred leading business executives from Rwanda, the region and the world are all invited to attend. Among them; Loyd Blankfein (Goldman Sachs), Frank Griffiths (FINA Group), Kithili Mbathi (Stanbic Bank), Patrice Motsepe (Africa Rainbow Mineral), Charles Mbogore (East African Business Council), Cyril Ramaphosa (MTN Group), John Milenge (Electrogaz), Patrick Bitature (Simba Telecom), Jan Mohammed (Serena Hotels) and James Mulwana (UMA).