Kenya will be among the biggest beneficiaries of Britain's exit from the 27-member European Union, the country's envoy said on Tuesday, pledging stronger trade ties post-Brexit.
British High Commissioner to Kenya Nic Hailey said the exit, to be finalised in two years from June 2016, will give the UK a free-hand to negotiate more openly with its trading partners. He said this might be a win big for Kenya as it will be among the first countries to be given priority.
He spoke in Mombasa after launching a Coastal Chapter of the British Chamber of Commerce Kenya.
The volume of trade between Kenya and the UK is in excess of Sh133 billion per year, which Hailey said is set to increase.
The commissioner said the UK will fund automation of tea auction to reduce by two-thirds the time it takes to pay farmers.
“We will ensure more produce of Kenya prosper with UK and build on trading relationship that is already worth one million pound yearly,” he said.
His assurance of better trade comes at a time when hoteliers at the Coast are pushing for open skies policy and review of visa regime.
Kenya Tourism Board chairman Jimi Kariuki urged Hailey to introduce direct flight to Coast. He said since 2014, no UK charter flight landed at the Coast. He also said UK should consider short-term visa requirement.
Hailey announced opening new UK Visa Application Centre in Mombasa. The new facility will provide an additional option to the VAC already operating in Nairobi, extending the range of UK Visa services offered to customers across Kenya.
Before the year 2016, UK was Kenya's number one source of international tourists for almost a decade. In the year 2011, about 200,000 visitors to Kenya were from UK.
However, owing to the reduced number of charter flights and security hitches, the number declined towards the end of 2016 and UK became number two source of international tourists.
The government has admitted Mombasa has been hit by low international arrivals due to fewer charter flights from Europe.
Hailey said UK is committed to ensure the numbers rise back again.
Vital work on security and infrastructure improvement courtesy of partnership with UK will help restore the numbers, he said.
Coast BCCK chairman David Mackay said Kenya is most exiting country to trade with compared to others in Eastern and Western Africa.
UK left EU citing lots of restrictions on business and being charged 'exorbitantly' on annual membership fee for meagre returns. UK also wanted to control its borders. A referendum was held on last June, to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the EU. Leave won by 52% to 48% in a 30 million vote cast.
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