Kenya has huge untapped potential for digital economy growth – President Kenyatta

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VIENNA, Austria

Kenya’s PresidentUhuru Kenyatta has said there is huge potential and numerous opportunities forthe growth of the digital economy in Kenya.

The Head of State observed that Kenya’s recent milestones in the digital spaceespecially in the development and deployment of disruptive applications providea good backbone for the growth of the digital economy in the country.

He said: “Kenya has managed to recordimpressive progress in e-commerce especially in areas such as mobile bankingand e-government. Some of the breakthroughs are in sectors such as agriculture,health and money transfer,”

The President was speaking on Tuesday during the ongoing Africa-European Union(EU) High Level Forum in Vienna, Austria, where he cited MPESA which hassignificantly improved financial inclusion in Kenya and in the eastern Africaregion as an indication of the digital potential that the country holds.

Besides the financial sector, President Kenyatta said Kenya has made remarkableprogress in the infusion of ICT technology in the delivery of health services.

“In recently celebrated cases, hospitalsin Kenya now have the capability of undertaking complicated medical proceduresusing the internet,” President Kenyatta pointed out.

Other areas that have benefitted from digitization include the retail sectorwhere increased penetration of broadband internet has result in booming onlineretail business.

In agriculture, the President said, digitalization has transformed the lives offarmers and others in the value chain by providing near real time agriculturaland market information.

“Information from markets and paymentsare easily channeled to the farmers,” President Kenyatta said.

President Kenyatta underscored the importance of creating conducive environments for the private sector to thrive so as to the much needed jobs and wealth for the population.

The Head of State emphasized that Governments need to put in place an enabling environment that enables businesses to plan ahead with certainty.

“There is need for strong macroeconomic framework focusing on predicable policies, formalization of informal sector activities, addressing information asymmetries on existing investment opportunities, delimiting communication challenges, deepening reforms that reduce investment risks,” he said.

The President urged the public sector policy makers to develop legal, political and regulatory mechanisms that support efficient and effective service delivery and which ultimately support the initiatives of the private sector.

In Kenya, the President said, the establishment of single contact points for business commonly referred to as “one-stop shop” where businesses can access all services under one roof has boosted the investment environment.

“In Kenya we have fully operationalized one stop shop services, Huduma centres,” President Kenyatta said.

The President also singled out quality, reliable and resilient infrastructure as a key enabler for investment decisions.

To prepare the youth well for the job opportunities in the private sector, President Kenyatta expressed the need to have in place commensurate education curriculum that links education institutions with the labour market demands as well as investing more in technical and vocational training especially among the post school population.

“There is need to enhance the education system to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education courses as a foundation for trade,” the President said.

President Kenyatta said provision of concessional credit and a favourable ease of doing business environment for start-ups and SMES is also key to creating jobs for the youth.

He singled out value addition targeting the current raw and unprocessed exports to developed countries as well as embracing digitalization as a means of value addition and transformation in public service delivery as key ingredients to Africa’s transformation agenda.

“Value addition of these products will stimulate vertical and horizontal opportunities across the economy,” President Kenyatta said.

The Head of State informed the forum that Africa has enormous investment opportunities in nearly all sectors including agriculture, agribusiness, manufacturing and value addition, tourism, clean and renewable energy, affordable housing, water, education, extractives industry, ICT and infrastructure.

“Africa is currently the most profitable region with 11.4 percent return on investment compared to the global average of 7.2 percent. With a young population and fast expanding middle class formation, Africa has good prospects,” the President said.

President Kenyatta pointed out that trade agreements also provide a formal framework on which states trade in goods and services in an orderly and predictable manner, citing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) signed in March this year by African countries to facilitate intra-Africa trade.

Other speakers included President Paul Kagame and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria who co-chaired the forum.

Later, President Kenyatta and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda held a joint meeting with EU President Jean-Claude Juncker.

During the meeting, the three leaders discussed and agreed on mechanisms for the implementation of partnerships that will go a long way in strengthening relations between the AU and EU.

Separately, President Kenyatta also held a meeting with the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, where the two leaders declared support for the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) negotiated between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) partners to promote ACP-EU trade and investment.

President Kenyatta and the President of the European Parliament also spoke extensively on their support for peace and security, especially on counter-terrorism efforts.

On trade and investment, President Tajani pledged to lead an EU business delegation to Kenya next year.