Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday expressed concern about the growing trend among many countries to lean more towards “isolationist” or “grossly unfair” positions on trade.
Kenyatta, whose country hosted the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Trade (TICAD VI), spoke on Saturday at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre when he officially opened the two-day TICAD conference for over 20 African heads of state and government.
“The critical ingredients of prosperity in the last half century have been free and fair trade, infrastructure integration of regions, and educated and productive citizens who enjoy economic liberty and responsible government. Yet there is now a tendency among many countries to turn towards more isolationist or grossly unfair positions on trade,” said the Kenyan president.
“The global system of multi-lateral agreements on trade and development is under greater stress than it has been in the last half century. The wealthiest countries today, with few exceptions, got rich by trading with others,” he informed the TICAD VI conference that drew hundreds of journalists.
Though Kenyatta was subtle in his remarks by not mentioning any countries by name, he in a veiled way was making reference to Britain whose citizens voted to leave the European Union (EU) through the “Brexit” victory that was seen as a defeat for Britain, Europe and even for the global economy. Brexit cost the EU a sixth of its economy.
He said TICAD is in a way a counterweight to growing cases of trade isolationism. “Together we must ensure that the global trade and governance system is supportive of African enterprise and our people’s aspirations to prosper,” Kenyatta told fellow African leaders that included Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda. President Hage Geingob delegated the Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila to represent him at the two-day TICAD conference.
Kenyatta noted that Japan and large parts of Asia have been characterised by fast sustained economic growth and that Africa will follow this path and replicate Asian success stories.
“As a continent straddling the Indian Ocean, we have access to the investment and markets of Asia. We are also developing the logistical backbone and trained human resources to allow African markets, peoples and products to trade more profitably with the world,” he said.
He urged African countries to press for open trade and deeper infrastructure integration, and also develop its human resources by investing more in its people.
Kenyatta also spoke about growing instances of terrorism in sub-Saharan Africa such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and the continued threat of Al-Shabaab Islamists.
“Today, unique security threats are rising to fill any vacuum in governance at the local, regional and global level. Terrorism in particular is threatening and even dismembering some states,” said the Kenyan president.