TRADE TIES

Kenya confidant as African leaders select regional trade office

PS Macharia Kamau said Kenya presented an honorable competitive bid that adhered to all laid down criteria

In Summary

• Kenya competing against Egypt, eSwatini, Ghana and Madagascar.

• AU leaders meeting in Niger are also expected to come up with a tentative date to officially open the bloc for trade.

African leaders pose for a group photograph as they meet to sign a free trade deal that would create a liberalized market for goods and services across the continent, in Kigali, Rwanda March 21, 2018. /REUTERS
African leaders pose for a group photograph as they meet to sign a free trade deal that would create a liberalized market for goods and services across the continent, in Kigali, Rwanda March 21, 2018. /REUTERS

Kenya is confident that African leaders meeting in Niger will tomorrow pick Nairobi to host offices for the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA).

Speaking to the Star yesterday, Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau said Kenya presented an honorable competitive bid that adhered to all laid down criteria and intense lobbying to maximise its chance.

Our bid was among the best. We hope these tasked to select the country to host the secretariat do professional job,’’ Macharia said.

He added that besides having a geographical advantage against its competitor, Kenya is a strong trade player and an excellent human resource to drive the secretariat.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, hosting the continental trade office will not cement Kenya’s role as a lead country in trade and multilateralism while providing traders in the region a convenient meetup joint.

A team of evaluators from the African Union were in the country in May to assess facilities, safety and other criteria before making recommendations to the African Union Council of Ministers.

Last month, Trade Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya told a news briefing that his ministry and that of Foreign Affairs had rolled out a vigorous lobbying mechanism, including shuttle diplomacy.

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement legally came into effect on June 1 , but the countries that have signed up have until July to work out it's operational modalities.

Signed by 52 countries and ratified by 24 as at June 1, the treaty, is expected to create $3 trillion (Sh300 trillion) continental free-trade zone encompassing 1.2 billion people for movement of goods, traders and workers with little restrictions.

Initially, six other countries including Ghana, Egypt, Madagascar, eSwatini, Senegal and Ethiopia were challenging Kenya’s bid but the last two have since pulled out.

Apart from selecting the host of the secretariat, those leaders will unveil regulations governing issues like trade liberalisation, rules of origin, removal of non-tariff barriers and the development of a payments and settlements system.

They will also come up with a tentative date to officially open the bloc for trade.

The set time frame is to give firms enough space to make adjustments and states to prepare new trade documents.

According to Reuters, the African Union (AU) wants to boost annual intranet-continental trade to 25-36 per cent of all African commerce within five years, from just 18 per cent currently, and attract large, long-term investments from firms like global carmakers.

Kenya will however have to wrestle tough politics within AU, considering Egypt is currently holding the regional presidency.