Five months after agreeing to pursue a Free Trade Agreement with the United States, Kenya has a gentleman’s agreement with the United Kingdom to start negotiations for a post- Brexit trade agreement, a move that is likely to draw silent criticism from other African countries which have accused Kenya of pursuing its own agenda which goes against the spirit of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
On Saturday, State House announced talks between President Uhuru Kenyatta and British Premier Boris Johnson who are expected to finalize the trade talks ahead of the UK’s exit from the European Union (Brexit) on December 31, 2020.
“The talks will be conducted within the Kenya-UK Strategic Partnership Framework established by the two leaders in January 2020 and the East African Community (EAC) parameters in order to enhance regional integration,” State House said in a statement.
But there’s one problem, both the EAC and the AfCFTA agreements discourage members from pursuing bilateral trade deals with third parties, although Kenya has downplayed these concerns, Kenya’s trade dalliance with Western countries is likely to impact heavily on intra-African trade as well as the country’s influence across the continent.
“Kenya will be the first under the new AfCTA so we are going to be trailblazers in this and we hope that others will also follow-through,” President Uhuru said on June 19 while making light work of concerns over possible friction with African trade partners over Kenya’s trade strategy.
Kenya’s geo-strategic location in East Africa presents an attractive proposition for Western interests looking to expand their influence in Africa as well as the fight against global terrorism.
Kenya- British Ties
In the telephone conversation, President Kenyatta and Prime Minister Johnson also discussed several Kenya-UK bilateral interests among them the two nation’s response to the global COVID-19 health crisis.
President Kenyatta thanked the British Government for extending visa over-stay amnesty for Kenyan nationals in the UK who cannot travel back due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions until May 30, 2020.
The visa amnesty, President Kenyatta noted, had enabled Kenyans especially students and workers, to apply for long-term visa renewal in the UK without having to travel back to Kenya as has been the norm.
President Kenyatta further thanked the UK Government for supporting Kenya’s Worker Protection Scheme which he said will benefit garment and horticultural sectors so as to avoid massive staff layoffs during the current COVID-19 global economic disruption.
Uhuru also thanked Prime Minister Johnson for his country’s endorsement of Kenya’s successful bid for the UN Security Council elections, the two leaders also affirmed their strong support for the Commonwealth and committed to working together to ensure stability, continuity and the deepening of solidarity among Commonwealth nations.