East African Business Summit: A shared future between nations

October 16, 2014

The Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame came away from East African Business meeting with a consensus that the new leadership in the region that is down to earth, brilliant and of action is needed. The two leaders are part of what has been dubbed as coalition of the willing have many reasons to continue to be optimistic about the region in coming years insofar as the new Kenyan leader has impressed them possessing all the traits to take Kenya to the next level of economic success and to contribute to regional peace and prosperity. With an annual trade volume of approximately $65 billion, East African countries have become top trading partners amongst themselves despite the presence of China, Europe, India and United States of America. Considering the complementary structure of East African economies, there is obviously huge potential to further grow the trade volume between these East African neighbours.East Africa has been the host of many key global summits and the hub of increasing economic integration.

Today, in Kigali, the two leaders asserted their interest for closer engagement within the region.Obviously, apart from economic areas, the new East African community building opened two years ago has security and political dimensions, as well as a sociocultural pillar, as the association aspires to create more prosperity, more security and more happiness for the people in the region.Kenya is the largest economy in the East African region and ranks ninth in Africa  is transforming at a rapid pace. Having a gross domestic product of approximately $55 billion and the second-largest nation with 40 million people, its young population is fuelling the growth of the consumer class, hence creating enormous business opportunities. According to a report published recently, by 2025 Kenya could produce 10 million new consumers and emerge as a substantial player in energy and agricultural production. Under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, Rwanda has become an outward-looking country, a champion in the technology adoption, business environment and a leading actor in carbon-reduction initiatives. For Kagame, Kenya is a trusted friend, a strategic partner and a country he knows personally well, as he was a frequent visitor to Kenya before he became the President. He closely witnessed the transformation of Rwanda in the 2000s, freeing its people from poverty and emerging as an economic powerhouse in the region despite the genocide that took place twenty years ago.

The Rwanda-Kenyan relationship is currently at an all-time high. The close chemistry between the top leaders of the two countries has had significant impact on the overall tone of the relationship.Top executives of Kenyan companies have said their operations in Rwanda have been successful beyond their expectations and that they plan to reinvest their profits to expand their operations in the country, a vote of confidence in the future of Rwanda and the future of bilateral relations with Kenya.Today, the world looks to Rwanda with great respect. Obviously, in the next few years, as a predominantly export-oriented economy, the road to a new age of prosperity is not likely to be an easy journey for Rwanda. It has to deal with continuing regional uncertainty and volatility. However, as Kenya and Rwanda are expected to grow stronger, a deeper economic connectivity in the region could unlock new opportunities that will be beneficial to East Africa and the continent.Rwanda is a country that has staged a true economic miracle if the Africa has ever seen one. From being perceived as a hopeless case, destined to remain an economic backwater after the war that cost lives of almost a million people, to emerge as a leading global economy in the region and Africa is no mean achievement. With pragmatic political leadership in place, hard work, continuing sense of possibility and national pride, it is likely that Rwanda will continue to amaze the region and the continent.

Contador Harrison