Kenya on Tuesday celebrated the 22nd African Industrialisation Day with several leaders urging for more intra-African trade.
Many feel that due to the fact that Africa does the bulk of its trade with the outside world, the continent has been particularly vulnerable to external macroeconomic shocks.
Assistant Minister for Industrialisation Nderitu Muriithi argues that boosting intra-african trade requires the adoption and implementation of coherent and efficient trade policies at the national, regional and continental levels.
"How can we persuade ourselves to consume what we produce? How can we convince you as a Kenyan consumer to buy furniture in a place like Kariobangi here in Nairobi, which by the way is very cheap and of good quality? If you need a pump to water your shamba, do you have to import from China?" the minister said adding that consuming what was produced locally was the only way to grow the local small industries.
Noah Mundinanzoi is one of the many Kenyan industrialists suffering from too many imports.
Mundinanzoi who operates a mechanical engineering company in Industrial area in Nairobi says he was recently forced to sack over 25 employees due to lack of market for his products caused by increased imports from Asian countries.
"I don't mean it's bad to import but most of the things are all here with us. And this is evident in many of our countries in the continent in that it's like we don't have faith in our locally made products," he lamented. "My products should be easily sold in Nigeria, Egypt, Somalia, South Sudan and many others."
But United Nations Industrial Development Organisation country representative Ola Altera argues that the local industries have also a big task of looking for markets within the continent adding that most have also concentrated outside.
"I think we inherited this pattern from the old colonial days where all the commodities were exported to the European countries and other parts of the world. But I would say that intra-African trade creates room for value addition and most importantly job creation," Altera said.
The growth of intra-african trade has been constrained by a number of factors which include differences in trade regimes; restrictive customs procedures, administrative and technical barriers; limitations of productive capacity; inadequacies of trade related infrastructure, trade finance, and trade information; lack of factor market integration; and inadequate focus on internal market issues.
Intra-african trade stands at around 10 percent compared to 60 percent, 40 percent, 30 percent intra-regional trade that has been achieved by Europe, North America and Asia respectively.