Regional Integration: EA Should Stop Marktiming

Published on 22nd May 2007

Recent reports have indicated that Kenya’s economy has grown, meaning the poverty levels are going down. Pius Sawa, a Ugandan Journalist, talked to Dan Muriuki, the chairman of Kenya Association of Tour Operators who was in Kampala to attend the 82nd meeting of Rotary International District 9200.


Pius: What is your take on the report that Kenya’s economy has improved? Do we see everyone driving a land cruiser in the near future?


Muriuki: The enabling environment has come back after twenty-four years. Look at the roads and the legislative framework. The licenses that used to be required of us to do simple businesses like hotel running, which required about thirty of them, have been combined into one license. The corruption levels are going down.


As a tourism fraternity, we have had the best year since 1997. We are talking of 26 billion shillings from the industry. This has never been achieved in Kenya. Why? All of a sudden, the enabling environment is there for people to do business without government interference, and much cost in terms of bad infrastructure such as roads.


If we continue at this pace, Kenyans who are investing in the US will opt to invest in Kenya. Why do serious investors like Virgin Atlantic choose Kenya? It is because he has ‘smelled’ opportunities and Kenya is growing. For Richard Branson to choose an airline to come to Nairobi, as opposed to going somewhere else, it means there are business opportunities. That is a big pointer.


Pius: Steps are in high gear to see a Common Market for East Africa. We are talking about Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania, which sums up to a population of over 80 million people. How are Kenyans interpreting this?


Muriuki: Our populations are too small to sustain large industries and large production. We are just above thirty million in Kenya. To sustain a huge investment in terms of production you need a bigger market. So when you bring together the East Africans that opens up. When it is the East African breweries for example, they can sell the beer all the way to Kigali, walking right across, hence movement of labor to and fro.


Pius: Ugandans are worried that they will not compete well compared to their counterparts in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi since Swahili is not well established in Uganda. What is your comment on this?


Muriuki: Not all members of the European Union speak French. The European Union is made of Germany, French, Lithuanian, and Belgian among others. They don’t speak the same language, but the economy is thriving.


We should not talk of Kiswahili; at least we can speak English so we are better off. Ugandans should not look at that as a hindrance. The fact that they all don’t speak Swahili will not leave them behind. Marketers will have to look at an easy way of reaching the population. Even in Kenya not everyone speaks Swahili, but they will still sell Kimbo (cooking oil) to a Maasai woman who does not speak the language.

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