STATE RELATIONS

Widening Kenya’s international trade ties

In Summary

•It is expected that the show of commitment by the leaders will provide the necessary energy required to usher in a new era of bilateral trade

President Uhuru Kenyatta.
President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Image: FILE

In what is being termed a charm offensive, President Kenyatta was this week hosted by Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica for a three day state visit that is set to increase bilateral trade relations between the two countries. The historic state visit sees President Kenyatta touting Kenya’s economic progress and similarly highlighting Kenya’s proactive agenda of forging trade ties with numerous international partners. Whilst Kenya and Jamaica are not historical trade partners, President Kenyatta’s state visit is likely to herald a new dawn in the Kenya – Jamaica relationship.

The two leaders and their respective delegations kicked off the state visit with the signing of four Memoranda of Understanding, ranging from commitments to cooperation with respect to tourism, political consultations, culture, heritage and sports. While largely ceremonial, it is expected that the show of commitment by the two leaders will provide the necessary energy required to usher in a new era of bilateral trade and commercial relations between the two nations.

As discussed in this column before, President Kenyatta’s preference for foreign travels indicates a larger agenda of widening Kenya’s international trade partnerships. Within the past five years, we have witnessed Kenya’s aggressive search for international trade partners through informal and formal state visits within Africa, Europe, Asia, North America and most recently, Latin America. It is to be noted that President Kenyatta has placed importance on fostering mutually beneficial trade relationships through these visits and has constantly emphasized that Kenya is indeed open for business.

This aggressive search has seen President Kenyatta lead by example in marketing Kenya’s suitability for wide ranging economic partnerships and favourable investment climate with respect to investors seeking a foothold in the African continent. This in turn has seen Kenya’s international reputation soar in recent times, with Kenya often being the country of choice with respect to investments in Africa. Evidencing this, are the numerous multinationals setting up shop in the Kenyan market. As a leader in the East African region, coupled with its favourable investment, regulatory and legislative climate, the commercial and geopolitical worlds are taking note of Kenya’s growing significance on the global stage.

Indeed, Kenya’s ambitious accelerated development targets largely hinge on the country’s ability to foster mutually beneficial trade partnerships. Particularly noting the Government of Kenya’s preference for Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), it stands to reason that marketing Kenya as a dependable trade partner feeds directly into Kenya’s developmental strategies.

This calls, however, for increased bilateral and multilateral trade agreements that serve to crystallize and give effect to Kenya’s ambitious search for global developmental partners. An example of this is the conclusion of Double Tax Avoidance Agreements (“DTAAs”) that serve to identify Kenya as a favourable investment destination, and consequently increase Foreign Direct Investment (FID) in Kenya.

Karen Kandie – MD IDB Capital