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Uhuru, Ban open trade forum with calls to walk the talk on past deals
Published on 18-07-2016 - at 02:15' by Daily Nation

Dr Kituyi said the target is more than Sh1.4 trillion ($14 billion) by the end of the week.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday led thousands of delegates in opening the 14th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) at Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Nairobi.

Speaking at KICC shortly after arriving from Rwanda, where the 27th African Union Summit is taking place, President Kenyatta called for concerted efforts in addressing the various agreements reached in similar fora, particularly on goals to reduce poverty and spur development.

“The same challenges discussed in Nairobi at the 4th Unctad conference in 1976 are even more relevant today. It is my hope that this year’s conference’s focus on action will be a key game changer in driving some of the agreements we have reached previously in promoting trade and innovation, which are central to our development agendas,” said President Kenyatta.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni was expected to join the leaders but made a last-minute change to stay in Kigali and support his country’s bid for the AU Commission chairmanship.

He was represented by his vice-president, Mr Edward Ssekandi.

Uganda is fronting its former vice-president, Ms Specioza Kazibwe, to chair the powerful organ of the AU and Mr Museveni’s absence, as well as his Namibian counterpart Hage Geingob, laid bare the extent to which the Kigali event had eaten into Nairobi’s guest list for heads of states from Africa.

There had been conflicting indications of the official guest list but eventually, no other head of state from the region showed up.

The event, however, kicked off colourfully at KICC, where it took place for the first time in Africa 40 years ago. Mr Ban expressed optimism that the focus on action as the key theme for the conference was a positive sign that participants had realised the need for implementation and progress.

“This is the second time Unctad is coming to Nairobi,” said Mr Ban. “We need to ask ourselves what has changed since 1976. The challenges remain the same, including the vulnerability of the developing countries to declines in commodity prices as well as worrying signs of unsatisfactory pace of economic growth, and it is time to translate the decisions to action.”

The UN chief added that the world “must unite in eliminating detractors like protectionism and xenophobia for all-inclusive and sustainable growth”.

Unctad Secretary-General and former Trade Minister Mukhisa Kituyi said the choice of Kenya as the host for the conference for the second time showed the country’s pivotal position in promoting trade without borders.

Unctad is held every four years, with the last two having been held in Ghana and Qatar in 2008 and 2012 respectively.


Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed was elected president of the Nairobi conference and will take charge as the chair of the ministerial meetings throughout the week.

President Kenyatta, who invited the guests to sample the hospitality offers in the country, is expected to join them today for the high-level segment discussions.

Once the ceremony kicks off, members will crunch out the detailed outlines of the Unctad programme of work for the next four years.

The meeting in Nairobi is also expected to issue a political declaration at the end of the conference to guide the future work at Unctad.

“We are looking to give it a Kenyan name, we have not agreed on one although we have a number of options, and am hoping to convince them to go with mine,” said Ms Amina.

The conference will have 10 side conferences. The more than 10,000 delegates will be holding weeklong deliberations on key economic issues, including the fall in commodity prices, globalisation, economic partnerships and sustainable development.

Kenya is represented by 4,600 delegates and is among the developing countries hopeful that negotiations will protect their economies, increase investments and save them from debt distress.

The forum is also expected to come up with tangible measures aimed at reducing global economic inequality, among other pressing challenges.

UN officials, heads of governments, global private and public sector representatives, civil society and youth groups will be under pressure to ensure that the final text meets the expectations of the world.

The success of the UN arm for mobilising financing for development will be measured by the amount of investments that will be pledged and achieved during the conference.

Unctad has organised the World Investment Forum, which has brought together fund managers, investors, individuals looking for partnerships, mergers and acquisitions and to start new enterprises.

Dr Kituyi said the target is more than Sh1.4 trillion ($14 billion) by the end of the week.

“The last World Investment Forum which lasted three days, unlike this one which goes for four days, ended with transactions and deals worth $14 billion. There’s no reason we shouldn’t.

"I think there would substantially be larger number of governments and companies and interested investors participating in our match-making,” he said earlier.

The main conference has been structured to come out with a framework that will address challenges and opportunities in multilateralism for trade and development.

Terrorism, climate change and global economic volatility will form crucial deliberations with Kenya being a key driver of the decisions after the event having played host.

Outside the formal conference delegations will be shuttling between the various factions of the 194 member organisations to lobby for their interests.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta converses with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Secretary-General of Unctad Mukhisa Kituyi after a joint media briefing at State House, Nairobi, on July 17, 2016. Uganda President Yoweri Museveni was expected to join the leaders but made a last-minute change to stay in Kigali and support his country’s bid for the AU Commission chairmanship.



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