What Unctad 14 meeting portends for hosts Kenya

Conrad Onyango and James Momanyi @PeopleDailyKE

Nairobi welcomes six Heads of State and Government, more than 70 ministers and 7,000 delegates from across the world for the six-day United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad). There are high expectations of the country reaping big for hosting such a huge international event, just six months after hosting the 10th World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference.

The Unctad conference, which was opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday, has lined up a number of events to run alongside the main conference. Besides multilateral engagements amongst governments, multinationals, Non-Governmental Organisations, entrepreneurs and investors will pitch tent in Nairobi to sign agreements and partnerships that will have a huge impact on trade and development globally.

President Kenyatta said the mandate of the Unctad should be strengthened so that it can play a more meaningful role in the implementation of new global agenda that seeks to end poverty and offer greater equality in development. “Constructive engagement transparency, inclusiveness and willingness to compromise will be key for all our success.

I remain confidence that this conference will deliver successful outcomes for the global economy and sustainable development,” said Kenyatta. UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon called on deeper cooperation between member states to achieve the sustainable development goals, saying it was key to restore lost hope on global trade and economy, currently at an all time low.

“We need to restore people’s trust in the global economy. Unctad 14 has a vital role to push for implementation of a holistic sustainable agenda,” said Ki Moon. The conference will address international investment agreements, sustainable stock exchanges, urban development and gender dialogue at the global investment forums.

Unctad secretary general Dr Mukhisa Kituyi predicted more trade deals would be signed at this year’s meeting compared to last year’s in Geneva, Switzerland. “We witnessed business deals estimated at Sh1.4 trillion signed in Geneva last year. We hope this would be surpassed in Nairobi especially as interest grows in the creative industry,” said Kituyi.

The meeting also brings together hundreds of global corporate leaders, the academia and international public workers. Kituyi told People Daily that Kenya has not emerged as the global destination of choice by accident but rather through aggressive campaigns by the government.

“For instance, Ambassador Amina Mohamed and myself pleaded with the Turkish government to drop their bid so as to allow us to host the WTO ministerial conference,” Kituyi said. The demand for hotel rooms has been rising since Friday, with hoteliers stepping up efforts to cash in from the conference previously hosted by Kenya in May 1976.

“We only have a couple of rooms left for our regular clients,” said Pride Inn Hotels group chief executive Hasnain Noorani. Sankara Hotel, a five-star establishment in Westlands, recorded full occupancy. “We are sold out,” said a representative who requested anonymity.

Kituyi said a major international non-governmental organisation, one of the biggest in the world formed 74 years ago in England, plans to announce the relocation of its global headquarters to Nairobi in recognition of the Nairobi ecosystem as a centre for international activity. Empretec, a capacity building initiative for disadvantaged people in business will be running a programme. “The organisation targets women, youth and small-scale entrepreneurs with training and marketing.

During this conference we are going to launch Empretec Kenya,” said Kituyi. While these are some of the low-hanging fruits, by hosting the conference, Kenya now stakes claim as a major artery for regional trade and destination for conference tourism.

While other countries are given four years to prepare to host the conference, Kenya was only given one year to prepare because the country already has the infrastructure and experience of hosting such international meetings. Kenyatta International Convention Centre chairman Omingo Magara told People Daily the facility is always ready to host the world.

“We have the experience and we have already shown in the past that we can host such conferences effortlessly,” said Magara. “The business community in the hotel, transport, food and the tourism sectors are going to gain a lot because some of the delegates have already organised to visit our parks after the conference. The multiplier effect is going to be very huge,” he added.

The World Investment Forum, which will be addressed by top global leaders, will provide the vision to national governments, financial institutions and business community on how to direct investment towards key Sustainable Development Goals sectors. At a pre-conference event held on Saturday organised by Food and Agriculture Organisation and Swiss Trading and Shipping Association, local small-scale farmers were enlightened on how they can participate competitively in markets through novel value chain arrangements and market based partnerships.

In May, Foreign Affairs Cabinet secretary Amina Mohamed said the government would spend Sh250 million to host conference, which will leave behind boundless opportunities that will leave permanent footmarks in the country’s economy and image.

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