As Kenya welcomes President Barack Obama and thousands of delegates for the 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) this weekend, discussions about trade have been pushed to the forefront of debate.
In 2014, President Obama highlighted the importance of trade between Africa and the United States at the US-Africa Leaders Summit. Less than a year later, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was renewed, allowing African nations to continue exporting certain goods in to the US duty-free. It was through the legislation of AGOA that Kenya became the number one exporter of apparel to the US in sub-Saharan Africa. These exports were among the total amount of goods, worth 39 million Kenya shillings, exported to the US from Kenya in the last 12 months.
With this as context, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit hosted in Nairobi and President Obama’s visit is set to strengthen the economic ties between the United States and Kenya, potentially giving a boost to the trade relations between the two nations. Investment in infrastructure projects, including transport and electricity will also drive Kenya’s ability to trade.
Intra-Africa trade, which currently stands at 15% will be an important item on the agenda at the summit. Whilst Kenya’s exports to Africa grew by 4% in 2014 with increased interest from nations within the region, there is potential for more. Breaking down the current barriers that stem regional trade will be a topic of discussion amongst the 1400 delegates in attendance, which include policy-makers and high-level government officials.
Tourism is another key “export” for the country. The Kenyan tourism industry has the chance to capitalise on the summit and show potential investors and business tourists what Kenya has to offer, as Obama’s visit demonstrates to the world that Kenya is a secure destination for tourists.
Promoting our innovation and keen entrepreneurial spirit may also increase the strength of Kenya’s brand. They will both take their spot in the limelight as both investors and entrepreneurs interact. Indeed, over the course of the last two days, the Pre-GES expo held at Kenyatta International Conference Centre granted entrepreneurs the opportunity to share their business ideas with potential partners. These partnerships will set the foundation for increased business activity between nations.
From entrepreneurs, to the President of the United States, this weekend is an opportunity for all relevant stakeholders to come together and leverage the continent’s “unlimited potential”, to re-use Obama’s words, and push for Africa’s development through entrepreneurship, investment and fair trade.