Kenya has been urged to deepen the services sector and fast-track growth within the segment which is now emerging as the main driver of growth in Africa.
Speakers attending a preparatory meeting for the 10th World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference set to take place from December 15-18 in Nairobi urged Kenya to tap into Africa’s middle-class that is now estimated at 300 million citizens.
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) secretary-general Dr Mukhisa Kituyi said after close to a decade of slow growth in the region, it is the services sector which is turning around economies and creating employment, adding that if properly nurtured, Nairobi is poised to become the continent’s services hub given Kenya’s huge human capital base.
“Kenya is a leader in services such as ICT, trade, hospitality and accountancy. We must start agreeing on issues such as free movement and right of employment throughout Africa because the services sector is experiencing phenomenal growth in about 32 African countries, making it a dominant sector in the region,” he said.
He also urged Kenya to focus on value addition to make the region more competitive on the international marketplace so as to realign the trade imbalance which currently favours other regions at Africa’s expense.
The sudden dip in agricultural production notwithstanding, Kenya must insist on certain minimum requirements on agriculture subsidies to support agriculture and spur rural development, said Kituyi—part of which can be achieved by putting in place a regime that would enhance value addition.
“You cannot be a country of merchants. Value addition is important,” said the secretary-general, urging Kenyans to define liberalisation by articulating what the country really wants because dynamics of international trade make it very difficult to agree on anything.
“If we don’t have a way to breathe life to the agendas, ours will definitely be secondary,” he said. Foregin Affairs Cabinet secretary Amina Mohamed, who is the MC10’s chair, moved to strengthen mechanisms that safeguard Kenyans at their places of work abroad.
“By setting certain standards of contracts, for example, such as the right to retain passports, we can go a long way towards freeing Kenyans who are being abused at their places of work,” she said. Hosting the conference puts Kenya on the spot, this being the first WTO ministerial conference in Africa, where over 7,000 delegates are expected to attend.