African leaders attending a development conference in Nairobi have pledged to place the private sector at the forefront to achieve economic growth.

President Uhuru Kenyatta led the Heads of State and Governments in affirming their commitment to create an enabling environment for the operation of private businesses.

The leaders attending the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) also agreed that their governments should put more emphasis on improving infrastructure to create a business environment that creates wealth and jobs.

President Kenyatta noted that the ease of doing business in many African nations has improved but added that more efforts are needed for more countries to move up the rank.

Kenya has been ranked as one of the top 10 most improved countries in the world in terms of the ease of doing business this year.

Other African countries that are part of the 10 most improved include Uganda, Mauritania, Senegal and Benin.

“The regulatory reforms undertaken by African countries as captured in the World Bank’s ease of doing business report (2016) shows remarkable improvement in most of the countries in the region,” the President said when he opened a high-level session focusing on the role of the private sector in development.

The Kenya Government was also lauded for creating a platform for engagement between the public and private sectors aimed at improving the business environment.

The Kenya Private Sector Alliance said private businesses in Kenya now play a robust role in the country’s economic growth thanks to efforts by President Kenyatta and the regular Presidential Round Tables he holds with them.

The Presidential Round Tables have led to key reforms including the establishment of government service centres (Huduma Centres) offering quick and efficient pre-registration services that has reduced the time required to start a business to only four days.

The dialogue between the private sector and the government has also led to the launch of online portals such as e-citizen, e-regulations and Kenya Open Data, which have eased access to government services.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the recognition of the role of the private sector to drive growth is one of the biggest outcomes of the conference.

He said Japan appreciates its partnership with an Africa that is increasingly asserting itself as an attractive destination for investment.

The conference also underscored the crucial role of integration in Africa’s economic future.

Many economic blocks have embarked on developing regional infrastructure links to facilitate trade and development.

“East African countries for example have embarked on elevating the state of roads, railway, pipeline, electricity and ports to increase intra-regional trade,” President Kenyatta said. He said Kenya is leading the East African region in promoting integration.

The President cited the near completion of the first phase of the Standard Gauge Railway.

He also noted that the expansion of the Mombasa port together with the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor project will be a backbone for regional growth.

He also cited the North-South Corridor, a trans-Africa infrastructure initiative, championed by South Africa that includes roads, rail, ports, energy and other projects.

The corridor passes through 12 countries – Tanzania, Congo, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

Speaking on Japan’s partnership with Kenya, the President said the Asian economic giant has been a reliable partner.

Japan has participated in building geothermal power plants in Kenya and establishment of one-stop border posts. Japan has also been involved in the growth of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

Other Presidents who spoke during the session included Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), John Mahama (Ghana), Muhammad Buhari (Nigeria) and Alpha Conde (Guinea) among others.

President Museveni called on Japan to open its markets for more African products and to also enable more Japanese tourists to come to Africa.

The Ugandan leader also challenged Japanese enterprises to promote African ownership through more partnerships.

President Mahama said fear about security in Africa should neither be overemphasised nor used as a disincentive to stifle the continent’s economic growth.

The conference was also addressed by leading private sector representatives from Africa and Japan.

Siyanga Malumo from Zambia challenged African governments to treat multinationals owned by Africans the same way they treat those from outside.

He said Africans should start accepting that there are strong multinationals owned by Africans and based in Africa.

The company he heads – Copperbelt Energy Corporation Africa that is headquartered in Kitwa, Zambia – runs power companies in Nigeria and also supplies electricity to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Malumo said he feels happy when he sees Kenyan banks like Equity and KCB running operations outside Kenya.



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