East Africa is attracting increasing international attention. The Common Market and efforts to enhance stability in the region are noteworthy, and economic growth continues to impress investors, who see vast opportunities here.
My visit to Kenya next week is the fifth that I make as Swedish Minister for International Development Co-operation. Sweden’s partnership with East Africa has deep roots and should be nurtured to bear new fruits as prospects for the future grow.
For East Africa’s economic growth to continue rising, economic integration is fundamental.
Regional commitments have to be adhered to and be translated into national implementation. High transaction costs for traders and investors, big or small, continue to hamper this process.
As policy makers, we must work together with the private sector to ensure that growth as well as economic integration are inclusive, leading to more jobs and reduced poverty among its people.
This year, Kenya celebrates its 50th birthday. Sweden and Kenya enjoy excellent relations that have been nurtured by a broad bilateral co-operation aimed at enhancing development, alleviating poverty and building a strong and transparent democracy.
Our ties go back to the first years of Kenya’s Independence and our first development co-operation agreement was signed in 1965.
Swedish business has recognised the potential in East Africa for trade as well as investment. The role of the private sector in development is being increasingly emphasised in Swedish policies and priorities for development co-operation.
It is important that the knowledge and resources of the private sector are used in tandem with traditional aid. Consequently, Sweden supports market development in East Africa through both its regional and bilateral co-operation initiatives.
One area of co-operation that I particularly believe in is promoting gender equality and the role and participation of women in development, including in the private sector.
Using the full potential of all citizens in a country is a key factor of economic development.
One important aspect of development co-operation between Sweden and Kenya is the broad participation of Swedish society and Swedish institutions. Our government agencies and departments, civil society and — increasingly — the private sector, all play important roles in our bilateral co-operation.
In Kenya today, Swedish institutions are active development partners in areas such as, agriculture, land reforms, national audit, statistics, urban development and business development.
I would like to see this exchange of institutional experiences for mutual learning increase over the coming years. My government will encourage even more Swedish stakeholders to participate in our future partnership with Kenya.
Kenya is part of the overall positive economic trend in East Africa. For Kenya to make its Vision 2030 a reality, transparent and effective government institutions must be ensured as well as the rule of law.
The struggle against widespread corruption and impunity must be strengthened. Extrajudicial killings have no place in Kenya 2013.
Several of the issues touched upon above have been part of the work that the CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, Betty Maina, and I have discussed with the other members of the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel for new global development goals post-2015.
I am therefore very glad that the two of us will have the opportunity to present some of our findings in a joint seminar on Tuesday in Nairobi.
The role of East Africa is still unfolding and I belong to those who have strong faith in its future.
Gunilla Carlsson is Sweden’s Minister for International Development Co-operation