Kenyan professionals and property developers should take advantage of the common market protocol to develop new markets and regional joint ventures, the Architectural Association of Kenya chairman has said. “The protocol will allow professionals to expand their markets and transfer best practices,’’ said Mr Steve Oundo during an interview.
The coming to effect of the East African Common Market Protocol has raised a flurry of excitement, with people talking and thinking of bigger business opportunities. Already, various companies including the likes of Kenya Commercial Bank, Nation Media Group and Equity Bank have laid a footprint in the region.
Others like the AAK have been preparing for the common market through meetings with similar associations within the bloc. “That market is good for business. There is a lot of excitement, with everyone planning to take advantage of it. Businesses are also establishing channels of distribution,” says Mr Vimal Shah, director of Bidco Oil Refineries.
He adds that even if Kenya grew at 10 per cent as a single market, it cannot compete with the kind of opportunities the 126 million-people market can provide. “It also means competition, which is healthy for business. For those who are not ready, they should pull up their socks, otherwise they will be left behind,” he adds.
Kenyan professionals including lawyers, engineers, architects, doctors and teachers among others are aware of the opportunities within the region and are going to those markets to establish partnerships, adds Mr Kizito Mokua, East Africa Real Estate Fair Kenya representative. “Due to the integration process, many companies are looking for opportunities,” he says.
The East Africa Real Estate Fair is among the flurry of activities investors are getting into, to sample what the region has to offer. Slated for August 19, in Kigali Rwanda, the three-day fair seeks to find ways to exploit the huge opportunities existing in the Rwanda real estate market. This is a sector that is booming in that country, having experienced a 10 per cent growth in public works, which created a shortage of fully functional office space and residential housing.
The fair will include delegates and exhibitors drawn from financiers, property developers, professionals and suppliers. However, besides the obvious advantages the market has for East African business, there still exist bottlenecks and misgivings.
Though East Africans can now move and trade freely, establish businesses within member states and even get jobs, some citizens in the region are not too enthusiastic, fearing that their jobs and other opportunities will be taken away. Kenyans especially, are seen as a threat because they are better-educated and more economically empowered.
Tanzania at some stage was not proactive because its people thought that Kenyans will take over their jobs, Mr Vimal says. “However their leaders are advising them to take advantage of the market.” He adds that sadly, people within the region have not realised that they are no longer Kenyans, Ugandans or Tanzanians, but East Africans. “We must start wearing the hat called East Africa, and think of ourselves as such.”
Among other challenges cited are the region’s poor roads and lengthy customs procedures. Mr Oundo says that EAC countries have concentrated on infrastructural development in their main cities, and not spread these across their countries. “For any development to take place there must be roads, water and power. Any potential investor will be looking out for that,” says Mr Oundo.
Other experts have also pointed out the need to establish clear structures and action plans for the free flow of labour, goods, services and capital within the region. However, Mr Vimal is positive that the region is on the right track. “The coming to effect of the market is the beginning of the process to getting a unified market. We should look at the long-term,” he says. “Challenges will always be there as long as there are changes. These are teething problems. Challenges are opportunities for improvement and should be looked at that way.”
Source: Daily Nation