President Uhuru Kenyatta today opened the inaugural Pakistan-Africa trade and development conference where he called for increased trade between the two regions.
The President said Africa is ready for business and urged Pakistan investors to explore untapped business opportunities in Kenya and the continent.
He said Africa made history last year by establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which creates a market of over 1.2 billion people with an income of about 3 trillion USD making it the largest free trade area since the establishment of the WTO in 1994.
The President pointed out that AfCFTA presents a unique platform for investors to engage Africa as a bloc thereby benefiting from economies of scale.
“This conference goes a long way in reaffirming the reality, that stronger bonds will be built between brothers and sisters across the African continent, under a single trading platform of the African Continental Free Trade Area framework, on which all third parties shall engage Africa on matters trade and investment,” the President said.
He applauded Pakistan for being a true partner of Africa over the decades, saying the shared history enables the two regions to aspire for a better future.
“For we, in Africa, share deep historical ties with Pakistan; in particular, Kenya and Pakistan enjoy warm relations stretching back over decades to the days before our independence, when Pakistani leadership called for and supported Kenya’s independence from British colonial rule,” President Kenyatta said.
The President called on the current crop of leaders to further deepen their relations and complete their freedom through socioeconomic transformation.
He noted that Pakistan’s current key trading partners are mainly developed countries and its neighbours saying the trade forum presents an opportunity to develop collaborative mechanisms that will help revive the historical trading corridor across the Indian Ocean.
The President said the move will add impetus to the East African branch of the Belt and Road Initiative Economic Corridor as epitomized by the Standard Gauge Railway and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, linking the East African Coast to Central Asia.
“It is my sincere hope, therefore, that this trade and development conference will mark the beginning of an increase in trade between Pakistan and Africa; with Pakistan joining the ranks of the continent’s leading trading partners,” he said.
The Head of State expressed optimism that the conference will offer a platform for public and private sector players to engage each other, create trade and investment linkages and build strategic alliances as well as business partnerships.
Citing the Aga Khan Foundation that has investments in many sectors, the President applauded Pakistani investors who make contribution to the development of Africa through their investments.
Pakistan Foreign Affairs Minister Makdoom Sha Mahmood Qureshi said his government chose Kenya to host the inaugural Pakistan-Africa trade conference because of the country’s dynamic and conducive investment environment.
The minister said Kenya’s Big 4 agenda is similar to his country’s development blueprint and said with President Kenyatta’s vision, the two nations will go a long way in deepening trade relations.
The new Foreign Affairs CS Ambassador Raychelle Omamo also spoke at the trade fair opening ceremony held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.