EAST African Community Secretariat, Kampala, Uganda, 1st September, 2015:
The President of the Republic of Uganda, H.E. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has said that Africa and many developing countries face the challenge of high and growing youth unemployment, which if not addressed can potentially be a source of instability as has been the case in North Africa.
The President, who was this afternoon officiating at the official opening of the 1st East African Manufacturing Business Summit and Exhibition 2015 (EAMBS'15) at the Speke Resort, Munyonyo in Kampala, Uganda said many African youth had lost lives as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of employment opportunities in Europe.
In a speech read on his behalf by the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, President Museveni said "this is a painful lesson and we as leaders must think of a collective regional strategy to respond to unemployment including expanding the manufacturing sector capacity, promoting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and youth entrepreneurs.
President Museveni urged the private sector to invest sufficient funds in research, technology and innovation and called on both the public and private sectors to come up with a regional research, technology and innovation network to serve as a vehicle for fostering collaborative research and transfer of technology into the sector.
The President noted that EAC Partner States were giving high priority to the development of infrastructure and energy, which were critical for efficient operations of the manufacturing sector in particular, and facilitating business, and cross-border investment. He said the regional target was to eliminate electricity supply deficits and achieve full interconnectivity of the region by 2017, making it (EAC) attractive for investment in heavy industries such as steel mills, petrochemicals, paper, cement etc.
"East Africa is on its way to become a regional hub for manufacturing and a gate-way to investing in Africa," said the President.
Uganda's Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Hon. Amelia Kyambadde hailed the EAC Secretariat, East African Business Council and the private sector for initiating the Manufacturing Business Summit. She said the Summit creates a relevant regional platform for building partnerships for growth of cross-border businesses and also facilitate advocacy on the need to improve business environment for a competitive manufacturing sector.
Uganda's Minister urged the private sector in the region to bring on board the youth as part of the aggressive apprenticeships, internships and other skills development programmes. She also urged the region not to forget Political Federation as the ultimate goal of the East African Community, as well as peace and stability, which will be able to consolidate the gains that are were being made in the regional integration process.
The Secretary General of the EAC, Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera urged Partner States' governments to take some tough decisions so as to turn the region into one viable economic entity by eliminating all barriers to the factors of production in the bloc; active involvement and commitment to industrialization, and; financing of technology transfer and innovation.
"Governments in the region should also be bold enough to undertake investments in those areas where the private sector are afraid to venture into, as well as use of public preferential treatment to support locally manufactured goods, and the labour mobility by freeing labour market in the region," said the Secretary General.
Amb. Sezibera said improving the business environment was critical, adding that the recent Kenya-Uganda sugar saga was the most unfortunate thing in the recent years of the integration process.
"Sugar produced in Uganda or in any of the Partner States is EAC sugar, there is no such a thing like Burundi avocado, Rwanda pineapple, Tanzania Rice, Kenya beef or Uganda sugar. These are all products produced within the EAC and are bound by the EAC Customs Union and Common Market protocols," said Dr Sezibera.
The Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, called for sustainable investment in an integrated manner in the region and noted that EAC was the gateway for Africa. Dr Kituyi said the region needs to model itself to the realities of the market otherwise it will be left behind on the global market.
The Chair of the East African Business Council, Mr. Dennis Karera, called for fast-tracking the harmonization of domestic taxes, work permits and residence regimes within the bloc in order to improve on the business environment.
"In addition, governments need to improve road networks, do away with non-tariff barriers, and use the procurement system to promote local industries by providing opportunities for local sourcing so as to enhance the business environment and make the region competitive," said Karera.
The Chief Executive Officer of Bidco Africa, Mr. Vimal Shah said this was an exciting moment for region and Partner States should start thinking of removing all the borders in readiness for rapid transformational change.
The two-day summit is running under the theme "Unleashing the Manufacturing Potential for Accelerated Development and Employment Creation in East Africa."