opinionBy Betty Maina
Kenya's business community has expressed their appreciation and welcome the signing of the Special Status Agreement by His Excellency, Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and His Excellency President Mwai Kibaki of the Republic of Kenya.
We wish to congratulate the late Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for his historical State visit in March this year which gives new impetus to our historical relationship and which led to the initiation of the Special Status Agreement.
Private sector congratulates and welcomes Desalegn for choosing Kenya as the first country to undertake State visit since taking over the mantle from the late Meles Zenawi. We shall always remember the late Zenawi and H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn as heros and beacons of our African Democracy and commercial and committed leaders with a big picture to deepening commercial relationships between the two countries.
We applaud the Ethiopian leader for taking up the task to fulfill the late Meles Zenawi's desire.
Business executives, see the signing of Special Status Agreement by our two leaders as a very bold move towards greater and deeper regional integration for the benefit of the economies and prosperity of our 130 million people.
The volume of trade between the two countries has been growing with Kenya's exports valued at Sh.4.8 billion in 2011 and imports from Ethiopia valued at Sh369 million in 2011. We note that there is very huge potential for investments and trade between the countries and therefore, it is our expectation that the Special Status Agreement will provide new trade and investment opportunities for benefit of the people of our countries.
The business community appreciates the signing of Special Status Agreement which has agreed on axle loads and transit procedures which will allow vehicles from both sides to move freely without restrictions.
The one stop border post at Moyale will definitely facilitate the movement of cargo between the two countries. The steady growth of Ethiopia's Gross Domestic Product which has been growing at 11 percent in the last nine years is a good indicator of a sound and well managed economy which political leadership has shown commitment over a number of years bringing Ethiopia to higher levels of competitiveness and enabling her to take advantage of the comparative advantage in many sectors such as energy and agriculture.
Manufacturers acknowledge the assurance by H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn that Ethiopia is committed to encouraging trade and investments which will create wealth and employment opportunities through trade and investments for her youthful population of 28 years on average.
The manufacturing sector welcomes investment opportunities available in Ethiopia which are labour intensive oriented in sub sectors such as textiles, leather and leather products, food processing and other agro processing such as edible oils, sugarcane processing and inputs productions such as seeds and fertilizers, agricultural chemicals and horticulture and floriculture sectors and service and hospitality industry.
The businesses welcome incentives offered by the Government of Ethiopia on availability of land with soft terms on land lease, tax holidays of five to seven years, development of physical infrastructure and support services by the government , least cost energy in the world at US$ 3 cents per KWH ,manufacturing logistics and non collateral bank loans.
Africa's combined GDP of $1.6 trillion will rise to $2.6 trillion in 2020 with a spending power of $1.4 trillion. Our combined working age population in 2040 of 1.1 billion people will be greater than China and India combined. In short, Africa is bursting with opportunity and we should all be working towards delivering this promise and removing any hurdles in the way to the realization of the African promise.
Kenya and Ethiopia combined today are home to 14 percent of Africa's population. However, we contribute less than 5 percent of Africa's GDP. There is need to work in concerted ways to increase the slice of this GDP which will increase by 62 percent in 8 years - by 2020!
The business community offers and welcomes a deeper partnership between the two nations to work at deepening this by addressing issues in our respective business environments that discourage investors and job creators from our respective business communities.
Once again business in Kenya pledge to work with the Ethiopian counterparts in helping realise this African dream.
The business community eagerly looks forward to the full implementation of the Special Status Agreement.
The writer is the chief executive of Kenya Association of Manufacturers.