By Esther “Essie” Wambui >>>>>
Diplomatic representatives from the five East African countries that also form the East African Community [EAC] met with investors in Toronto this week.
The investors networking event was organized by Canada East-Africa Chamber of Commerce, with the aim of connecting the East African diaspora in Canada with their country representatives.
Ambassadors John L. Lanyasunya (Kenya), Jack Mugendi Zoka (Tanzania), John Chrysostom Nsambu (Uganda), Speciose Nzeyimana (Burundi) and Ms. Umtoni Shakilla (Chargee d’Affaires for Rwanda), collectively highlighted the varied investment opportunities and sectors that exist in EA.
From the onset, the diplomats individually underscored that their countries are not in competition with each other, but rather work together to promote common good for comparative advantage, common market ties and a move towards a common currency for the EAC.
Admitting that various social and occasional political challenges remain, the five nonetheless pointed out that the region economies were some of the fastest growing in the world.
It is the right time, they each stressed, for top Canadian investors to take advantage of favourable conditions to invest in the region. They welcomed tourists too, noting that the region was home to many world-class attractions.
High commissioner Lanyasunya accentuated that Kenya is an important player in the region, with a liberalized economy which among other business advantages has well-developed financial markets.
“The country is recognised as a regional banking, information and transportation hub with a huge pool of educated people.” He said. “There are, among others, investment opportunities within the ICT (Information and Communications Technology), agriculture, tourism and infrastructure – including regional roads, railways and pipeline construction.” He continued.
In his appeal to Canadians to invest in Tanzania, H.E Zoka stated that the country was at peace and has favourable investment conditions. He warned though of “the three declared enemies” of his country –ignorance, disease and poverty – which he said have to be overcome in order for Tanzania to grow into a middle-income county like their neighbour Kenya.
“There are still too many people living below the poverty line and this cannot be allowed to continue.” Zoka said.
In place of a formal presentation, Ugandan High Commissioner chose to do a Q & A. “With an estimated two million East Africans living in North America,” Nsambu urged diaspora East Africans to take advantage of their numbers and look into all possible investing opportunities.
Presenting in French (through an interpreter), Amb. Nzeyimana of Burundi was quick to acknowledge her country’s current security situation, which she insisted was only temporary as it related to recent elections. Listing many incentives put in place to encourage investment, Nzeyimana invited all kinds of investors saying that “there are a lot of sectors in Burundi that need foreign investment and expertise.”
Rwanda’s Chargee de Affairs, Ms. Umutoni presented Rwanda as “viable and enjoyable”, taking time to outline the many advantages of investing in Rwanda and the ease at which one could do so. She said that her country’s consistently increasing GDP speaks for itself.
Ms. Umutoni singled out Rwanda’s financial sector as a huge opportunity for investment, saying “…fifty eight per cent [58 %] of Rwandans have no access to formal financial services”.
On their part, host Canada East-Africa Chamber of Commerce encouraged East Africans to invest and spend money to improve the lives of people back home.
Speaking on behalf of the Chamber, financial advisor Preetum Anauth addressed opportunities in the stocks market; noting that the East Africans living in Canada know these countries and can identify particular companies to invest into.
Referring to the touting of the 21st century as Africa’s century (economically), Anauth pointed to the beginning of this decade, when African growth rates have exceeded those of the world in general.
“There are salient features that make the East African stock market very attractive,” he said. For example, the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) is a frontier market that shows resilience, continued performance and growth potential. Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange (DSE) on the other hand had shown increased liquidity with more shares traded each year as compared to the year before.
Anauth alluded to recent and future developments that should make people more comfortable investing in East Africa: Cross listing of companies in the different stock exchanges, cross listing in the London Stock Exchange and the region’s soon to be launched Exchange Traded Funds (ETF).
The Canada East-Africa chamber of Commerce is a not-for profit business organization that promotes trade, tourism and investment opportunities between Canada and East Africa. These business opportunities are in banking & finance, energy & mining, travel & tourism, building & construction, agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure, environment and natural resources.
Watch video clips here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGf5rV5Tre1tZ1xFsLX3n5JlHJcfbQsws
By Essie Wambui For Canada East-Africa Chamber of Commerce