By Joseph Kizza
KAMPALA - Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta has emphasized that human capital is the one-most important asset necessary for East Africa’s eventual success, saying that young people in the region need to commit themselves to work.
He said this in front of a huge crowd of mainly youths at the fourth edition of Vision Group’s Pakasa Forum in Kampala.
Resources such as oil should not be thought of as the most important assets of any economy, said Kenyatta. Instead, regional nations should know that it's the people (human captial) themselves that are the top-most asset to drive the economies forward.
He was responding to a question by one of the participants of the forum on what oil-producing countries like Uganda can do to avoid the so-called "oil curse".
The Pakasa Forum is a brainchild of Uganda's leading multimedia company Vision Group and within just a year, it has seen its popularity grow, with more youths picking up interest, edition after edition. The latest edition ran under the theme: Creating opportunities for youths in East Africa.
The Kenyan leader, who is the current chairman of the East African Community (EAC), delivered a keynote address before answering questions from the crowd inside the Kampala Parents School auditorium.
It was the first time the majestic eloquent leader addressed a group of people on Ugandan soil, and luckily for the local youths, it would be a great opportunity for them to have a sip from his well of business acumen. He is one of the richest people on the continent.
In 2011, he was listed in Forbes Magazine as number 26 on their maiden Africa's 40 Richest List. His net worth then was estimated at a whooping $500m (a quick calculation puts that, locally, at sh1.3trillion). And that was three years ago. It's 2014, so put your imagination to work now!
So against that background, his invitation to cross borders on the invitation of President Museveni to speak to the young people yearning for success was something to reckon with. And Vision Group CEO Robert Kabushenga kept on re-echoing that throughout the forum, so much that he even exclaimed "Eh!" after Kenyatta finished his address, taken aback by the stateman's tasteful intelligence.
"That's what we here in Uganda say when we are impressed," Kabushenga told Kenyatta, drawing applause from the audience.
So when question time came, the questions came in quite diverse, touching on pertinent issues, including unemployment, education, economy, public service, transport, and many more.
Earlier, Kenyatta had first met with his host Museveni at State House, Nakasero before making his way to the venue. The two leaders, together with their South Sudanese counterpart, Salva Kiir, held talks ahead of an upcoming meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
His convoy eventually eased into Kampala Parents School at 1.20pm local time under stifling temperatures. Clearly he was late, but he would go on to apologize for that. The venue was provided for free by its proprietor Sudhir Ruparelia, who himself is one Africa's richest men.
The Kenyan president's convoy arrives at Kampala Parents School. PHOTO/Kenney Oryema
President Kenyatta was accompanied by his son, Muhoho Kenyatta. PHOTO/Kenney Oryema
Kenyatta is led to the auditorium where an expectant crowd awaited him. PHOTO/Kenney Oryema
President Kenyatta, before taking his seat, gestured a thumbs-up to the audience. PHOTO/Kenney Oryema
Speaking before a massive group at the business conference, the Kenyan president said that “when we talk about the future of East Africa, we are speaking about the future of the youth”, pointing out the need to have young people trained.
But to realize regional prosperity, East Africa, he said, needs to break away from the mindset of the older generations, of which he said that while trying to acknowledge their respective cultures, the people from the previous generations as a result led to local society being divided along ethnic and tribal lines.
“We need one another. We cannot in this day and age continue to talk like our grandfathers.”
The son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru told his audience that the needs of a young person in Uganda are similar to those of one in Kenya or Tanzania or anywhere in East Africa.
“We should look at each other as people who can work together in solidarity,” he said.
Kenyatta, who traveled along with his 18-year-old son Muhoho Kenyatta, said it would be “a dream come-true for me if the dreams of our forefathers come true in the next ten years.”
Looking rather relaxed in front of his new audience, the Kenyan leader made himself comfortable, making sure before taking his seat after his address to coolly ease out of his dark coat when the heat inside the fully packed auditorium took its toll on him.
In fact, as he started off his address, he was apologetic for his late-coming, an apology his highly expectant audience accepted with an appreciative applaud when he explained how he had had to meet his host first, before anything else.
While responding to the questions, he, as if to settle into the moment, once in while shared light moments with the moderator Vision Group's CEO Robert Kabushenga. That seemed to have worked way perfectly well for him as he spoke of how the youth can generate wealth and make use of related opportunities by engaging in agriculture.
"Look at this as a source of opportunities, a source of wealth going forward," he said.
For long, unemployment among youths has been one of the biggest headaches for the region's governments, and in response to one of the questions on this issue, Kenyatta said a railway line currently being work on, among other things, would create jobs and would "make business in East Africa much faster, and therefore attract the pool of investment within the region"
He said persistence, patriotism and commitment "of our young men and women" is key in driving the region to prosperity.
Asked what guarantees had, for example, been put in place to ensure that locals secure most of the jobs by foreign investments in his country, the Kenyan president underlined that such measures existed.
He said that in Kenya, East Africa's biggest economy, the requirement is that 90% of the jobs available from foreign investment are secured by the locals.
Also, the president said that for such investments, all materials that can be procured domestically must be supplied by local entities.
"We must benefit from the local market through all the stages of development," he said.
BEAUTY QUEENS: Miss Uganda past and present, Stella Nantumbwe (L) and Phiona Bizzu (R) attended the event. PHOTO/Kenney Oryema
Earlier, before the arrival of the key speaker, former Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) chairman Fagil Mandy tipped the youths on the benefit of having skills and taking advantage of available opportunities.
"Believe that opportunities are there. Use opportunities around you," he advised. "You must accept to train yourself maximumly. Through training, each of your body parts can make money for you."
The educationist provided the young men and women with what he called 'the seven resources", which were in the form of investigation of oneself;
- what do you do with your thoughts?
- where do you spend your emotions?
- what do you do with your time?
- what do you do with your energy?
- what do you do with your money?
- what do you do with the space around you, and
- what do you do with the people around you?
It is what one does with these seven resources that will determine whether one will succeed, or fail, said Mandy.
'We need to do more'
Meanwhile, President Kenyatta, who admitted he has never been unemployed but once made a few mistakes of his own before eventually "getting myself back on track", told the youths to believe in themselves.
"Believe in yourself so as to change your life. Be committed to service other than being committed to money. Never feel that you are too young."
But while pointing this out, he was certain to stress that corruption has been and still is "one of our biggest issues" to tackle.
"We need to do a lot more than we are doing to change the mentality of our people."
Discussions on (http://instagram.com/newvisionwire; https://www.facebook.com/thenewvision; http://www.pakasa.co.ug/ ; http://www.twitter.com/@newvisionwire (use the hashtag #Pakasa4).
President Kenyatta is welcomed by Vision Group CEO Robert Kabushenga. PHOTO/Roderick Ahimbazwe
Steven Bamwanga(R), a Vision group board member, talks to a guest. PHOTO/Roderick Ahimbazwe
Felix Kulayigye(L), UPDF Political Commissar, being interviewed live on Urban TV at the event. PHOTO/Roderick Ahimbazwe
President Kenyatta greets the Ruaparelia family; Sudhir, Rajiv and Jyostna as introduced by Robert Kabushenga. PHOTO/Roderick Ahimbazwe
(L-R) Ephraim Ntaganda, Iman Abdulhamid Al-Jabry; CEO Icon Industrial Services and Godfrey Kirumira. PHOTO/Roderick Ahimbazwe
Denis Nabende(L) Managing Director Time FM and Awel Uwihanganye, CEO Leo Africa Forum. PHOTO/Roderick Ahimbazwe
Here, the Kenyan leader greets businessman Ephraim Ntaganda. PHOTO/Roderick Ahimbazwe
Guests started to arrive early at the event on Saturday. PHOTO/Roderick Ahimbazwe