President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged the East African region to harness its shared identities as the strongest asset to develop its economy.
Addressing the Ugandan Parliament in Kampala on Monday, President Kenyatta said the close ties between the people of Kenya and Uganda should encourage similar policies that would guide the region out of poverty.
It is such shared identities and people-to-people links that tie our partnership. We will need these links more than before in future, he told Ugandan MPs.
Mr Kenyatta, who was on his first state visit to Uganda since his election, used the podium to challenge the region to reorganise policies if they want to catch up with the “Asian Tigers” – the emerging economies of the Far East.
These “Tigers” include Malaysia and Singapore, countries that “have managed to move from wretched poverty to great wealth in just two generations.
Of concern to him is corruption and poor governance, which he argued were eating into any progress the two countries make.
Both Uganda and Kenya belong to the East African Community, which also includes Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.
The region has been involved in key infrastructure projects such as the standard gauge railway, improving the port of Mombasa and reducing roadblocks on goods in transit.
But President Kenyatta admitted there are enemies who may want to stand in the way of these projects.
He never named them, but hinted at corrupt officials and political detractors who he argued posed challenges that are the other side of the coin for peace and security.
We must build robust institutions from the detractors of our promise. Our institutions will need to converge around common standards of excellence, he said.
This, he argued, would require joint participation of parliamentarians, the judiciary, the public and civil society, groups that he said will have an invaluable role in pushing the region forward.