Mr Kahuthu is a private sector development specialist, a public private partnership (PPP) expert and is an experienced policy analyst having participated in several task forces facilitating the review of public policy at national and regional level.
He has previously worked with UNIDO and UNDP as a programme adviser. He has also carried out several consulting assignments in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Africa, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Latin America, Belgium and France.
He is a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, where he obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree (Business Administration option), with emphasis in international marketing and economics. He has an MBA degree from the University of the Free State (UOFS), in South Africa.
What is the mandate of EACCIA?
EACCIA was established in 2005 by the national chambers of the countries which were members of the East African Community. These were Kenya National Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KNCCI), Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture (TCCIA) and Uganda National Chamber of Commerce & Industry (UNCCI). Since then, more chambers have joined the EACCIA.
Our mission is to strengthen the private sector in East Africa through influencing policy at the national and regional levels, supporting national chambers and strengthening cooperation and partnerships between the public and the private sectors in East Africa.
We also focus on SMEs growth in the region and promote Public Private Partnership (PPP) in projects’ development.
How many member countries are there?
We currently have six member countries which have joined the EAC, including Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
The Federal Democratic Republic of Somalia has requested to join as well. EACCIA also collaborates with Ethiopia, Djibouti, Mozambique as well as Somaliland chambers.
What is the potential of EACCIA in creating opportunities for the youth?
EACCIA has been able to direct a reasonable number of young entrepreneurs to where they can receive support. It is our hope to formalise this at some point as a regional youth programme.
One member of our board of directors is running a programme that is targeting regional youth to embrace agriculture as a business and has been invited to visit Uganda by their leadership to help set up the initiative.
As EACCIA, we will soon be teaming up with banks, such as KCB, to develop regional initiatives tailored for the youth.
What challenges does the region face in trying to improve the business environment for the youth?
Unemployment and being able to turn their innovative ideas into businesses. Lack of capital and the regulatory frameworks are just not right to enable them go to banks and borrow. Programmes which countries like Kenya have set up are not quite addressing it effectively.
More lobbying and advocacy work needs to be done by our sister chambers to level the business environment in favour of the youth though.
What bottlenecks affect smooth running of equitable business in the member countries?
I believe that we are still very far from achieving the Common Market for East African Community member states, even if all of us have signed the Protocol which brought it into being.
Both EACCIA and the East African Business Council (EABC) are collaborating to have the issues hindering its smooth operationalisation resolved.
EACCIA is sometimes called upon to intervene when two of the countries that neighbour each other, and trade with each other regularly, decide to block other country’s goods from entering their country. This is against the letter and spirit of the EAC Common Market Protocol.
What is the vision of EACCIA towards creating a vibrant EAC business environment?
Developing policy proposals that will assist in removing constraints facing the business, industrial and agricultural communities, promoting unity within the private sector and collaborating closely with governments to make the East African Community more attractive to investors.
Which sectors are going to grow the EAC economically?
Generally, EAC member states’ economies are driven by a very vibrant agricultural sector. Others are ICT, service sector and oil and gas sectors.
What motivates you as a CEO?
Giving a full day’s job to my organisation gives me the satisfaction I need. When I assist somebody, it makes me happy.
I am also quite proud of my contribution in the ongoing implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agenda through the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI).
I have been the EAC private sector focal point for that agenda and I have great satisfaction to see that it shall become a reality soon.
Do you have precious memories that drive you?
Between 2004 and 2006 while working as the Latin American Economic System (SELA) Africa region representative, I led two African delegations to Latin America (Uruguay, Chile and Brazil) as well as frequenting Caracas, Venezuela, the headquarters of SELA.
During these visits, I realised how unrepresented Kenya was, yet Latin America had over 11 fully fledged diplomatic missions in Kenya.
I made a proposal to Mwai Kibaki’s government which resulted in Kenya establishing its first mission in Brazil.
In addition, as a programme adviser with UNIDO, I was involved in preparing the 9th National Development Plan which focused on “Industrial Transformation to the Year 2020”. The plan contained useful lessons which Kenya could have used to move the country forward and I feel very disappointed every time I look at that Plan. I still have a copy in my home library, just in case somebody would need to preview it.
What advice can you give the young generation regarding jobs opportunities and career choices?
There are more opportunities in the non-formal employment sector where our youth could create jobs for themselves. They undertake very general degree courses which the industry may not be in need of. Kenya is going to start being an oil and gas producer but we have very few skilled labour force in that area.
What would you do better were it possible to go back in time? Is there something that makes you wistful?
I would use time more productively. I made many mistakes in the past – I would correct some of these mistakes and impact more Kenyans. Yes. I wish Kenya could return to the good old days of early independence when professional standards were upheld.
We had an organised public transport system and a city that was sparkling clean. All this is now like a dream when you look at the state of Nairobi and the rest of our country! Kenya should dust off its professional database, people who are ready to impact their knowledge and experience to benefit others.
How do you spend your leisure time?
I enjoying relaxing with my wife and some of my close relatives. I also like reading professional books and novels for relaxation. I miss being with my church members, mostly because I am out of the country attending to official duties.