International Finance Corporation's East Africa Corporate Governance Programme

Position, 22.09.2015

Remarks at the Launch of the International Finance Corporation’s East Africa Corporate Governance Programme by Dr. Ralf Heckner, Ambassador of Switzerland to Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda on Tuesday, 22 September 2015, at 6:30 p.m., Intercontinental Hotel Nairobi 

Chairman of the Central Bank of Kenya, Mr. Mohammed Nyaoga,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the introduction, and thank you to the IFC, especially to Mr. Darrin Hartzler, Mr. Cheikh Oumar Seydi and Ms. Rose Lumumba, for giving me the opportunity to be with you tonight. It is great to be here with so many leaders from business and industry.

Personally, I feel privileged to serve my country on the African Continent; a continent on the move. Some of the fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. Important infrastructure projects, like the new railway from Mombasa to Nairobi, are being realised. Despite a protracted financial and economic crisis in Europe, Switzerland’s economy is strong and doing well. In the area of infrastructure, the longest railway tunnel of the world – 57 km long – will be inaugurated next summer; a major event for Switzerland and our neighboring countries Italy and Germany.

You might ask yourself why Switzerland is supporting and funding the IFC’s East Africa Corporate Governance Reform Programme? We are convinced that the State and the private sector have different roles to play in society. But we also believe that a good partnership between the public and the private sectors is fundamental in building a strong economy with social cohesion and environmental sound practices.

There a couple of good reasons for Swiss funding of IFC.

Based on our own experience, we know that private sector initiative drives long-term growth. Yet, the financial crisis in 2008 also brought to the fore the negative side of the private sector. Corporate Governance had clearly failed.

Good Governance, otherwise referred to as Corporate Governance, is crucial in the private sector and there are important benefits from corporate governance for businesses and society as a whole:

First, it improves a firm’s access to financing mechanisms and facilitates foreign and domestic investments.

Second, it contributes to a more stable financial sector, and

Finally and most importantly in my view, corporate governance supports economic sustainability and transparency: a company that is not well governed tends to perform poorly in their social and environmental footprint; and such a company is more likely to engage in corrupt or illegal practices.

For the above good reasons, Switzerland is supporting IFC’s East Africa Corporate Governance Programme.

Let me underscore the importance of corporate governance in the fight against corruption one more time. As members of the corporate world, and as leaders in business and industry, you have a responsibility to contribute to a world without corruption. And there seems to be a great opportunity here in this country, the corner stone of East Africa, to move that fight forward:

President Kenyatta has committed himself publicly on various occasions to address corruption in Kenya. Switzerland is committed to supporting the President’s anti-corruption policy. I reiterated the same at the presentation of my credentials last week. Over the last decades, Switzerland has been gaining a vast expertise in the fight against corruption and money-laundering, in particular due to its position as one of the largest global financial hubs. In order to avoid being a safe haven for illicit funds, Switzerland has continuously strengthened its respective legislation; and Switzerland has also returned blocked assets to the people of the Philippines, Nigeria and Haiti, to name just a few.

Corporate Governance in the private sector and Good Governance in the public sector have to join forces when it comes to fighting corruption. I will do my share to promote Good Governance; and, I am sure, you will do your share when it comes to Corporate Governance in business.

In conclusion, I am very much looking forward to working with you towards a more transparent, more accountable, more prosperous and better world.

Thank you for your attention.