Kenya To Boost Exports Through Economic Diplomacy
Earlier this month, more than 200 investors from Kenya visited the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC) for a two-week benchmarking on economic opportunities, with an aim of implementing the country’s new economic diplomacy agenda.
The trade mission took the investors through Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Goma, and Mbuji-Mayi.
This was facilitated and organized by the two governments in collaboration with the Equity group.
This is Kenya’s latest push in economic diplomacy agenda across the region as it seeks to secure a foothold within the East African Community (EAC).
“We are no longer engaged in the traditional political diplomacy, but what we’re looking at here is everywhere we have a vision, what are Kenyans going to get from there? As the government, our main role is to facilitate trade and industrialization, but the real people to do that work are the private sect,” explained Cabinet Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development Lawrence Karanja.
Among the factors that have prompted Kenya’s latest regional diplomacy drive is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The trade pact aims to establish Africa’s largest free trade area, which will eliminate barriers for the more than 800 million consumers from Cape Town to Cairo.
Kenya was the second country to approve the agreement and its strategic position in the East African region has given Nairobi fresh impetus to expand its economic agenda.
According to Robert Mudida, a researcher at the Central Bank of Kenya, the current trends of economic diplomacy in developing countries have been sparked by the failure of previous attempts to yield fruits.
Prof Mudida says the current push, such as Kenya’s, stems from the need to install development that is characterized by growth plus change.
Previous attempts that have focused too much on physical capital at the expense of human capital, as well as government policies dictated by the aid conditions from the Breton Woods institutions, have both fallen short of addressing the challenge.
“Neither the first nor second generation of development thought delivered any real value to African states,” he explained.
Safaricom, which is Kenya’s leading telecommunications operator is part of a consortium set to launch commercial operations in Ethiopia in a few months’ time after the Ethiopian government awarded the Telco the country’s second mobile operating license.
The current operating license, however, is only for communication services and does not include mobile money like M-pesa. This is according to the moratorium by the Ethiopian government barring foreign companies from operating mobile money services.
Safaricom is expecting to spend between Sh166 billion and Sh222 billion in capital investment in Ethiopia in the next five years and plans to recruit 1,000 employees next year, including 150 graduates.
DRC is set to join the EAC, a move that is expected to expand Kenya’s regional consumer market, riding on Congo’s more than 100 million residents, a majority of whom are below the age of 25 years.
According to Equity Group Chief Executive James Mwangi Kenya’s economic sectors has matured to the level of exporting goods and services into regional economies.
“There is a commitment that where our country is now, it can only be transformed by the private sector, and this requires doors to be opened through bilateral agreements with friendly countries so that our goods and services can find it easy to make headway,” he explained.
Mr. Mwangi says that Kenya’s transformation into a regional financial hub as well as investments in healthcare, telecommunications, and education has boosted the country’s services of exports.
Covid-19 has affected the global supply chain, meaning African countries that depend on imports from the United States and European markets have had to substitute with local supplies.
Joss Dijimba, founder and CEO of Dijimba, a company that produces packaging materials said the pandemic has clearly highlighted the effects of depending on foreign direct investment from the West.
“It feels good to have African investors come to African countries to invest because we are used to people from outside the continent coming in, but oftentimes, they do not know the nuances of the local markets,” said Mr. Dijimba.
A week before the Kenya-DRC trade mission President Uhuru Kenyatta was in South Africa to open a business forum between the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The one-day forum led to the elimination of trade barriers between the two countries.