Arusha — The East Africa Community Secretary General Dr Richard Sezibera has advised regional private and public sector players to consider embracing the ideals of a 24-hour-economy to accelerate economic growth.
The East Africa Community boss, who was speaking at the launch of regional retailer, Nakumatt Holdings, 50th branch opening in Arusha, Tanzania over the weekend noted that the region's reliance on an 8-12-hour economic production cycle is slowing down regional growth.
The branch which represents a US$2 million investment by Nakumatt is also a major milestone for the retailer, as it had earlier set a corporate target to open its 50th branch by February 2015 under its Nakumatt 2.0 Corporate Development Strategy.
On his part, Dr Sezibera noted that, in the face of globalization, East Africa's economy, cannot afford to remain shut overnight as other competing economies in the world operate round the clock.
"At the East Africa Community, we are working hard to support economic development by clearing Non-Tariff barriers and on the same vein, we are actively working to encourage both the private and public sector to adopt a 24 hour approach to business and service delivery," Dr Sezibera confirmed.
"Companies such as Nakumatt has played a key part in fostering innovative practices such as their round the clock operations which can be easily emulated by other private and public sector players," he added.
He further commended homegrown business organisations such as Nakumatt for playing a key role in driving regional integration. Retailers and finance institutions' he noted have been at the forefront in building a significant regional presence.
During the function, Nakumatt Holdings, Managing Director Atul Shah, described the opening of Nakumatt Arusha as a golden jubilee milestone as it now ranks as the 50th branch in East Africa. The new branch located, at the Tanganyika Farmers Association shopping complex in Arusha, Tanzania, also sets the pace for the retailer's renewed growth plans in the region and beyond.
Across the region, Nakumatt has been at the forefront in the promotion of regional retail trade integration and currently operates 8 branches in Uganda, 3 in Tanzania and 2 in Rwanda alongside its 37 Kenya stores.
He further reiterated Nakumatt's commitment to support the growth of formal retail in East Africa by playing a mentorship role. Plans, he added are already underway to transform some of Nakumatt Tanzania branches into 24 hour outlets.
"My dream is to ensure that we double the formal retail penetration in East Africa from the current less than 14% to at least 30% in the next ten years," Shah said. And added: "Such growth for formal retail sector will require concerted efforts amongst all stakeholders and will in turn inspire regional growth. My dream is to see thousands of farmers and other cottage industries accessing formal retail markets such as Nakumatt."
Alongside the dream, Shah further expressed his personal ambition to see the East African countries host the 2030 Football World Cup.
"As East Africans we must embrace a common vision to inspire regional development and foster social cohesion. In my view, nothing does this better than a common dream to host a global soccer bonanza," he said.
Currently enjoying a more than US$600 million turnover for its regional operations, Shah confirmed that Nakumatt's future looks bright with its pan African expansion plans now trained on such markets as Botswana, Zambia, South Sudan and Burundi among others.
With the opening of Nakumatt Mlimani, Nakumatt Pugu road and Nakumatt Arusha, Shah pointed it out that Nakumatt now has four running stores in Tanzania. The three new stores are the latest additions to the existing Nakumatt Moshi store which opened its doors in 2011 in the bustling town at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro.
In Kenya, Nakumatt is also gearing up for the opening of two new stores in Kenya by the end of the year.
Alongside the store openings, Nakumatt is also actively enhancing its private brands (Nakumatt Select and Nakumatt Blue Label) roll-out across the East Africa region.