KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY HON. WYCLIFFE OPARANYA, EGH, MP, MINISTER OF STATE FOR PLANNING, NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND VISION 2030, REPUBLIC OF KENYA, DURING THE OPENING OF THE FIRST AFRICAN BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT [AIBUMA] CONFERENCE ON â€œKNOWLEDGE AND INNOVATIVE LEADERSHIP FOR COMPETITIVENESSâ€ AT KICC, NAIROBI, KENYA, ON 25TH AUGUST 2010.
Topic: Harnessing Globalization Benefits through Knowledge and Innovation Leadership in Africa
Prof. Isaac Mbeche, Principal, College of Humanities and Social Sciences,
AIBUMA Conference Committee,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I would like to start by stating what a great pleasure it was for me to have been invited by University of Nairobiâ€™s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, on behalf of the School of Business, to make the keynote address to the 2010 African International Business and Management Conference. I notice from the letter of invitation that this yearâ€™s conference theme is â€œKnowledge and Innovative Leadership.â€ As the current Minister for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030, I can assure the participants that the issues you have selected to discuss in this yearâ€™s conference are of great relevance to the Kenya Government which is implementing the Kenya Vision 2030, and to Africa generally. Africa needs relevant technical knowledge and innovative leadership to sustain the current momentum in growth and poverty reduction.
I have noted that the conference organizers intended to combine academic experts and development practitioners in Africa so that the two groups can learn from each other. We in the Kenya Government have always encouraged better partnership between the public sector, business, NGOs and research centers as we move our country forward in prosperity that improves the livelihood of all Kenyans without distinction.
In that process we have been aware of lagging gaps in knowledge that could benefit from researchers and our business community. To give one example, although our manufacturing sector has grown impressively since 2002, it has created far fewer new jobs than the informal sector.
We need to understand the reasons behind this trend in order to create more jobs for our large pool of unemployed youth. Likewise, under the Kenya Vision 2030, Kenya aims to be a globally competitive provider of processed agricultural products, financial services, tourism and business processes off-shoring. I am pleased to see all these topics will feature in your conference. This will be yet another area in which cooperation between the academic community, government and the private sector can be built and expanded. I am sure that this quest for innovation also applies to other African countries in one form or another.
The same applies to need for leadership broadly defined to include national and political leadership, leadership and sound management in business, voluntary organization and NGOs, faith-led and community-based organizations in our rural and urban areas. I was very pleased to hear that in this conference, time will be devoted to discussing issues of leadership. As I am sure you are all aware, there has been a huge amount of literature now on the role of leadership in business innovation. The issue has featured frequently in the Harvard Business Review, and in books by Jack Welch and Warren Bennis, among others. A lot of that literature is based on western, development country experiences. I hope that this conference will take time to consider how applicable that literature is to our situation here in Africa.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Globalization is now a fact of life in the world. We live in a world of open trade, the internet, global business enterprises, and migration of people across countries of the kind never seen before in humanity. I am glad to see that this topic will be featured in your discussion.
Many countries in Africa are faced with a number of challenges which we can currently attribute to the globalization. As we implement the goals that our leaders have set for us in regional integration groupings like the East African Community, COMESA, SADC and ECOWAS, some countries are requesting special safeguards for their industries. Africa is also negotiation with the EU under the Economic Partnership Arrangements that comply with the WTO rules. All these developments represent our countries with special challenges that specialists and practitioners like those represented in this meeting must deal with. We must always look after our interests. But Africa cannot afford to miss opportunities available to it under globalization. Those of you who are familiar with the annual Global Competitiveness Report from the World Economic Forum in Davos will appreciate the dominant role which innovation plays in enhancing economic competitiveness that enables countries to command larger segments in the world markets. Innovation enables us to use resources most efficiently, and lower costs in comparison with our competitors. Unfortunately, apart from very few states, African countries on the whole have not introduced as much innovation in their economies as they should. This has to change. Africa has huge natural resources. Its human resource base is increasing steadily. What we now need is innovation linking our human resource base with our natural resource base, especially in agriculture, in order to ensure rapid growth and poverty reduction.
As you consider the role of innovation in global competiveness for Africa, I urge you to bear these issues in mind. We have seen in the last four decades the huge strides in development that have been achieved by South East Asian â€œTigersâ€ and now China and India. There are important lessons in innovation that African countries can gain from.
As African countries we must be alert to the opportunities offered by globalization and conferences like this one are appropriate forums to deal with practical questions on how African countries can sustain economic growth in order to remain competitive with other regions. As the world increasingly becomes a single marketplace, we must ask ourselves what practices African countries can adopt that can make them competitive in the global marketplace?
This global village now calls for innovative strategies â€“ based on sound knowledge. African scholars and business leaders should have a noticeable footprint by forging partnerships with each other to achieve transformation. The dialogue that you will initiate here deserves to be continued and discussed widely.
Ladies and Gentlemen: As many of you are aware, economic growth in Africa has been steadily strong since 2000. On average our economies have been growing at 5percent. We must maintain this trend. Our scholars and business people must contribute to the wealth of knowledge that will enable us to sustain that trend. Let it not be said again that of all the developing regions, Africa alone is lagging behind. We have the human talent of the kind represented here today. We have the resources and our leaders have shown political will to support this new momentum in growth.
I look forward to a conference of lively discussions whose primary aim is not to expound lofty ideas but to provide practical solutions to the problem of competitiveness of African countries sometimes attributed to lack of innovation and knowledge.
You have an obligation to Africa. From what I have read about AIBUMA, you have the potential to make a change.
You have all my best wishes and those of the Kenya Government in your effort to bring that change.
Lastly, let me remind everyone of us gathered here, that on Friday 27th, Kenya will usher in a new era when H.E. the President promulgates the new Constitution into law. This will be a historic event since the new law changes Kenya completely.
The new law comes with many opportunities and provides an excellent avenue for Kenya to prosper. But that anticipated prosperity is dependent on full implementation of the new law.
As universities and members of the academia world, it is expected that you will be on the forefront in implementing the law. The governmentâ€™s call to everybody is cooperation and support in implementing this new Constitution. I therefore wish to take this opportunity to call upon all of you to support government in realizing this dream, a dream that our forefathers hoped to see realized but remained elusive. We now have the chance and let us realize it together; let you be proud for being part of the change that we desired for many years.
With those remarks it is now my pleasure to declare this conference open.