Saturday August 25, 2018
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
President Uhuru Kenyatta leaves Nairobi for Washington DC Saturday. PHOTO | PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta has turned a blind eye to the political
problems facing US and UK leaders in their backyards as he prepares to
meet them next week in part to cement trade and diplomatic ties between
Kenya and the two nations.
Diplomats told the Nation
that the President in his visit to Washington tomorrow will be seeking
better access to markets and support for smallholder producers in Kenya
as part of the country’s ambition to improve its manufacturing.
Monday, President Kenyatta is scheduled to meet US President Donald
Trump in the White House, the first ever bilateral meeting in the US
between the two. The President will later host UK Premier Theresa May in
Nairobi on Thursday. Both meetings have prioritised trade, investments
and regional security co-operation.
Trump is facing a political storm in the US over a range of issues,
from separating migrant children from their parents, investigations into
the conduct of the election which he won, his relationship with Russia
and frosty ties with the media. Ms May is also embattled after a string
of top level resignations from her government as she negotiates a deal
for the UK to exit from the European Union.
fact, former British Premier David Cameron cancelled his intended trip
in Nairobi in 2016 to deal with the referendum. He lost, and quit the
statement on the White House website said the meeting between
presidents Kenyatta and Trump "will reaffirm the long-standing
relationship between the United States and Kenya as a cornerstone of
peace and stability in Africa and the broader Indo-Pacific region.”
Kenyatta is seeing the meetings as a chance to strengthen relations and
business ties between Kenya and the two nations. Foreign Affairs CS
Monica Juma told reporters that the talks with the US, the UK and later
Chinese leaders make a part of the “Big Three” which she said showed
Kenya’s strong standing in the community of nations.
On the US trip, diplomats told the Nation
that Kenya is focusing on improving trade through the African Growth
Opportunity Act (AGOA), a policy set up more than a decade ago to
facilitate access to US markets by African producers. Other issues
targeted include security co-operation on terrorism, support against
poaching, mapping of tourism sources to improve arrival numbers and
opening up investments to US companies.
trade is at the heart of the agenda with Kenya using the talks to
market the direct Kenya Airways flights due to start in October. Dr
Juma, who is already in the US, on Thursday addressed a gathering of the
American Society of Travel Agents where she made a case for the
importance of “people-to-people exchanges”, loosely translated to mean
cultural tourism, adventure or business.
AGOA, in 2017, Kenya sold goods worth Sh45 billion to the US, mainly
apparels, and bought goods worth Sh57 billion from America. That means
the US was the third largest destination for Kenya’s exports and the
seventh largest source of its imports, according to data from the Kenya
National Bureau of Statistics. The trade favours the US.
this trip, diplomats say, Kenya will pitch for further opening up of
the US market to address the deficit, and bank on the co-operation of
African nations under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) as a
policy on engaging in trade with the US, mainly because the US is
likely to engage with African governments on similar trade terms once
AGOA expires in 2025. International trade experts have said that Kenya
should ask for ways of localising US technology to improve quality of
President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) greets US
President Donald Trump during the G7 Summit in Italy on May 26, 2017.
President Kenyatta visits the White House this weekend. PHOTO | FILE |
on how Kenya can take advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity
Act (AGOA) to drive the ‘Big Four’ agenda on expanding the manufacturing
sector, through increased exports, will assist in creating jobs for the
youths,” said Mr Benard Ayieko, an economist and commentator on trade
and investment in Nairobi.
the visit may indicate that President Kenyatta is making new friends
without dropping old ones. But at a time of criticism on mounting debt —
currently standing at more than Sh5 trillion — experts have cautioned
that he should now go for opportunities that will boost local ventures
as a way to reduce debt.
the UK though, Kenya enjoys a better deal ahead of President Kenyatta’s
fourth meeting with Ms May. At least 100 British companies have
invested in Kenya and about 170,000 British tourists visited the country
last year. Kenya exported goods worth Sh38.6 billion last year, mainly
fresh flowers, tea and beans and fresh vegetables, according to the
Trade Ministry. It imported goods worth Sh30 billion during this time.
with Britain exiting the European Union, Kenyan officials argue it also
presents fresh opportunities for the two countries to explore new
economic ventures and a stronger deal on trade that will address Brexit