Kenya has announced plans to lobby for closer bilateral ties with African countries in the wake of falling total exports to African countries which have been in a steady decline for the past five years.
The country’s exports blueprint will be revealed during the Intra-African Trade Fair which will be held in Cairo, Egypt from December 11 to December 17.
Speaking during a press conference in Nairobi on September 26, Exports Promotion Council (EPC) CEO Peter Biwott said that Kenya will lay special emphasis on Tanzania and Uganda in an attempt to improve trade with the East African countries which has largely been affected by trade spats.
“We will be seeking to see how many markets we can reach so that we can be able to sell our products. We want to focus more on trade within Africa. We invest a lot in finding markets for our products and that was the main reason that as a government we signed the Africa Continental Free Trade Area treaty in March,” said Biwott.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics Economic Survey 2018 shows that Kenya’s exports to Tanzania reduced to Ksh28 billion in 2017. The figure was a significant decline of Ksh6.3 billion from Ksh35 billion in 2016.
According to the survey, Kenya also recorded reduced exports to Uganda in 2017 by Ksh400 million to Ksh62.3 billion.
Exports to Rwanda also plunged by a similar rate to Ksh 17.2 billion in 2017 from 17.6 billion in 2016.
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Trade between Kenya and Tanzania has been affected particularly since President John Magufuli assumed office in 2015.
Within a period of four years, Magufuli has put in place policies seen as reining on Kenya’s economic dominance of East Africa.
Kenya’s trade woes with its neighbours
When he assumed office, he ordered officials not to import anything from Kenya that can be produced in Tanzania before upstaging Kenya on a Ksh400 billion pipeline deal with Uganda in October 2015. The pipeline which will now run through Tanzania would have seen a reduction in Kenya’s operational costs.
In March 2016, Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter and his delegation travelled to Tanga to rescue the deal, their passports were seized effectively denying them access to the port of Tanga. Interestingly, the Ugandan delegation led by Energy Minister Irene Muloni were allowed to proceed with their journey.
Shortly after the Kenya-Tanzania diplomatic grandstanding, Rwanda added insult to injury in May 2016 by pulling out of the flagship infrastructure project on the Northern Corridor by announcing that it would be building its railway through Tanzania and not Kenya.
In November 2017 Tanzania auctioned 1000 cattle belonging to Kenyan pastoralists for grazing in Tanzania’s fertile fields.
On February 24 this year, Uhuru and Magufuli ordered an urgent meeting between the two countries’ ministers to end the trade wars. On July 6 Kenya announced an end to the trade spat after a meeting between Trade Principal Secretary Chris Kiptoo and his Tanzanian counterpart Elisante ole Gabriel.