Kenyatta said all efforts to increase integration and intra-Africa trade must at all times seek to generate decent and well-paying jobs for the hundreds of millions of Africa’s youth.
Kenyatta spoke when he officially opened the 21st COMESA International Trade Fair and High Level Business Summit in Nairobi.
The opening ceremony of the conference whose theme is “Powering Regional Integration through Trade” was attended by three other Heads of State namely Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Edgar Lungu (Zambia) and Paramasivum Pillay Vyapoory of Mauritius as well as Deputy President Dr William Ruto.
“Africa is a young continent, with about 60% of our population under 25 years. All our efforts to increase intra-Africa trade must also seek to generate decent and well-paying jobs for the millions of educated, talented, and energetic young people on our Continent,” said the President.
The Kenyan leader said that continental integration will also be beneficial to Africa’s Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) and not the large corporations alone.
The President said the huge attendance of the summit is an indication of the role played by intra-regional trade as a driver of economic development and progress.
“As Africa embraces the movement towards a borderless territory under the recently launched African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the business communities, both regionally and globally eagerly await the benefits of trade that will come not only with expanded markets but with the opportunities for rapid development and access to innovation and technology,” he said.
Kenyatta noted that in terms of consumer base, the COMESA market accounts for 520 million people, while the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) and the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) account for 630 million and 1.2 billion people respectively.
He called for more efforts to diversify and add value to raw materials produced in Africa instead of the continent being a source of raw products for the rest of the world.
“This is the situation that AfCFTA attempts to remedy by facilitating higher product diversification and higher levels of progress,” said the President.
“Our Continent is full of resources, products, markets and services that can propel interstate business to rival established configurations in Europe, America, and Asia,” the President added.
He used the COMESA forum to underscore the progress Kenya has made in reducing the cost of doing business and improving the overall investment environment.