DIPLOMACY

Ukraine buoyant about enhancing economic ties despite Covid-19

Ambassador Andrii Pravednyk sees expanded possibilities in direct trade, realising the Big Four agenda, cooperating in IT, education, space exploration

In Summary

• Covid-19 is much more than a health crisis. By stressing out countries, the pandemic has the potential to create devastating social, economic and other consequences.

•  To further invigorate our trade relations in the post Covid-19 environment, we need to enhance our business, people-to-people contacts and cooperation in tourism.

Ukraine Ambassador Andrii Pravednyk and Foreign Affairs CS Raychelle Omamo on December 2, 2019
COOPERATION: Ukraine Ambassador Andrii Pravednyk and Foreign Affairs CS Raychelle Omamo on December 2, 2019
Image: COURTESY

Ukraine’s strong support for Kenya’s bid for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council is one of the latest vivid examples of our dynamic bilateral relations.

However, while the cooperation in the political area has continued to improve for the last decade, there are also vast opportunities for expanded mutual economic and trade growth that can be developed for mutual benefit.

The celebration of Ukraine’s Independence Day on August 24 is an occasion to lookinto our growing trade and economic ties, including in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Ukraine considers Kenya as an undisputed leader in trade and economic cooperation in East Africa.

Out of all African countries, Kenya is among the top 10 most important consumers of Ukrainian goods. What makes Ukraine an important and promising partner is that our products meet Kenyan needs and standards, prices remain affordable, while the quality-price ratio is competitive. Kenya itself is increasingly taking on the role of the East African economic hub.

Ukraine's State Statistics Service data (as of April 2020) show bilateral trade reached $30.44 million (Sh3.28 billion).

For instance, this year Ukrainian exports to Kenya increased rapidly to $25.27 million, more than 10 times compared to the same period of 2019, while imports to $5.17 million.

Local trends show one of the important factors for Ukrainian companies planning to enter the Kenyan market is not only willingness to sell, but also to ensure their readiness for future permanent presence by creating production facilities here.

The implementation of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda provides for enhanced manufacturing, food security and nutrition, universal health coverage, and affordable housing.

It creates promising opportunities for Ukrainian companies to participate in the projects through the establishment of joint ventures or bringing their representatives for active involvement in the local labour force.

 

There are prospects to expand cooperation in agriculture by supplying light and medium agricultural machinery, fertiliser, equipment for water treatment, and purification facilities.

In the energy sector, we can build new facilities and enhance existing ones to expand energy generation capacities.

We are also interested in developing mutually beneficial relations in the IT sector. In 2019, an MoU between the Blockchain Ukraine Association and the Blockchain Association of Kenya was signed. It laid the foundations for further cooperation between Ukrainian and Kenyan IT companies.

Another area is cooperation in the peaceful exploration of outer space and the establishment of direct cooperation between the space agencies of our countries.

We are equally keen to bolster cooperation in defence, which might help Kenya maintain and guarantee peace and security in East Africa and beyond.

We believe the development of trade and economic cooperation will be a two-sided, and we expect reciprocal steps and initiatives from Kenya.

Ukraine is convinced Kenyan companies should establish more links with their Ukrainian counterparts to organise and/or increase direct exports from Kenya - in particular fresh flowers and tropical fruits (avocados, mangoes), macadamia nuts, coffee, and tea, which are increasingly in demand in Ukraine, but mostly imported through third countries.

We hope for the renovation and relaunching of the Council of Exporters and Investors under our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was recently initiated by Foreign Affairs minister Dmytro Kuleba and supported by President Volodymyr Zelenskyi. We are confident this will help us further develop our trade relations.

On strengthening these trade relations, the development of the legal and treaty foundation in this sphere is key.

We are actively working on a partnership agreement between the city of Odesa – the maritime gateway of Ukraine - and the city of Mombasa – the maritime gateway to Kenya and the EAC region.
 Andrii Pravednyk

We are confident that a conclusion of the agreement on the establishment of the Joint Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation with Kenya is of the utmost importance.

To finalise the text of the draft agreement, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have recently proposed virtual meetings of experts. We also support the conclusion of an agreement on avoidance of double taxation and the mutual protection of investments. The draft agreements are under consideration by Kenya.

To provide for mutual supplies of agricultural products on a steady and preferential basis, we have also proposed the conclusion of a Memorandum of Cooperation between Ukraine's Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food and Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture.

COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic is a global crisis and I believe it has gone far beyond the limits of just healthcare. As the huge burden of Covid-19 creates enormous pressure on countries, the pandemic has already caused social challenges and economic decline globally.

In this regard, Ukraine is always ready to contribute to food security in the world, of course, including Kenya. We have supplied more than 100,000 metric tonnes of maize to Kenya.

However, to further invigorate trade relations post-Covid-19, I believe we would need to enhance our business, people-to-people contacts, and cooperation in tourism.

We are actively working on a partnership agreement between the city of Odesa – the maritime gateway of Ukraine - and the city of Mombasa – the maritime gateway to Kenya and the EAC region.

We are also organising the exchanges of the Ukrainian and Kenyan National Chambers Commerce and Industry delegations as well as mutual visits of sectoral business delegations.

Following the successful visits and participation in trade exhibitions of Ukrainian companies in 2019, we will provide them further assistance to enter the Kenyan market as soon as regular international flights resume.

We are ready to provide any possible assistance and call upon Kenyan companies to participate more actively in trade exhibitions in Ukraine, particularly in tourism, horticulture, food, etc. We are regularly circulating relevant information.

EDUCATION

In education, Ukraine also has much to offer.  First, studying and living in Ukraine is quite affordable for international students and our degrees are highly valued worldwide, especially in engineering, medicine, and IT.

Kenyan students increasingly choose Ukraine for studies. We so far have 132 students in Ukrainian higher educational institutions studying medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, oil and gas engineering, and various construction fields.

Apart from professional knowledge, studying abroad is always first of all about cultural exchange. Thus, students who come to Ukraine also learn about Ukrainian history, culture, and even master the Ukrainian language. In turn, Ukrainian youth also enrich themselves through direct communication with international students.

Such multicultural interactions benefit both societies by developing cultural diversity and enhancing the intercultural dialogue. Besides, students' friendship grows into strong and trusting ties between professionals.

 Andrii Pravednyk is the Ukraine Ambassador to Kenya