abauja — President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged Nigerian business organisations to intensify consultations with their Kenyan counterparts to double the volume of trade between the two countries within the shortest time possible.
He encouraged the two countries' business communities to present to their respective Governments the challenges that may be hindering the smooth flow of investment and business so that they could be addressed.
"Our countries are actively pursuing growth in employment for our young people. I am certain that business and private sector leaders will progressively complement Government efforts aimed at enhancing competitiveness to enable our various goods and services compete favourably in the export markets," the President said.
President Kenyatta spoke when he officially closed a one-day business forum hosted by President Goodluck Jonathan at State House, Abuja. The forum brought together leading Kenyan and Nigerian businesspeople to explore ways of deepening their cooperation.
The occasion saw the signing and launching of the Kenya-Nigeria Trade and Investment Council which will be co-chaired by Equity Bank's James Mwangi on the Kenyan side and Aliko Dangote of the Dangote Group on the Nigerian side. The council has the responsibility of boosting trade between the two countries.
Noting the unfulfilled trade potential between Kenya and Nigeria, the President underscored his Government's desire to enhance trade and investment flows between the two countries.
"One main aim of my visit here, therefore, is to further build and strengthen the foundation that we have put in place for robust economic and commercial relations between the people of Kenya and the people of Nigeria," the President said.
He added: "That is why I am pleased to engage with you, who are key players in commerce and business, and even more importantly, to listen to your proposals and suggestions on how our Governments can support you to do more and better business."
As the two countries address challenges associated with the high costs of production, the President called on the private sector and business associations to help in containing undesirable business engagements especially those involving contra-band goods and banned products.
President Kenyatta said the Kenya Governments is putting in place measures to control and contain the challenges that contra-band and unauthorised products have on the competitiveness of genuine products, the security of investments and creation of employment opportunities.
He welcomed proposals on improving the current level of support to the private sector, saying the Kenya Government is ready to facilitate trade enquiries, product promotion fairs and investment forums.
The President said the Government of Kenya places the private sector at the centre of its economic and social development programmes and has built regulatory capacity through statutory bodies with sufficient legal powers to enforce fair trading and pricing practices in the economy.
"Through these bodies, the Government has successfully offloaded its majority shareholding in state commercial companies through the Nairobi Securities Exchange, improving corporate governance practices as vital business decision-making and management instruments are guided by economic imperatives," the President informed the businesspeople.
He observed that the Jubilee Government's strong monetary and fiscal policy framework has made the private sector in Kenya one of the most vibrant and fast growing entity.
"This strong foundation is the signpost that we are presenting here today as our bedrock in support of stronger commercial and trade ties between our two countries," the President said.
Addressing the forum, President Jonathan emphasized that the Nigerian and Kenyan Governments are commitment to creating a conducive environment for the private sector to thrive for the mutual benefit of the people of the two countries.
The Nigerian President said the forum presented an effective opportunity for the businesspeople of the two countries interact, network and build business relationships.
"Kenya and Nigeria have established friendly and cordial bilateral ties.
We are determined to see our business communities also cooperating for the benefit of our two countries," President Jonathan said.
He said the business forum was a precursor to the World Economic Forum on Africa which Nigeria is hosting for the first time.
During the occasion, the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kiprono Kittony and Sani Dangote present reports on the progress the two countries' businesspeople have made towards increasing interaction. Dangote, the vice-president of the Dangote Group, said improved business relations between the two countries have seen closer cooperation in tourism, finance, agri-business and movies industries.
"As a result of the increased business interactions between Kenya and Nigeria, Kenya Airways -Kenya's national carrier -will from June 30 start direct flights to Abuja," Dangote said.
Kenya's Co-chair of the Joint Trade and Investment Council, Mwangi of Equity Bank, said a number of Kenyan companies have already ventured into Nigeria following the joint business initiative. He added that the number of Nigerian tourists to Kenya has also increased.