Kenya said it had secured safeguards to protect its primary industries from the European Union (EU) taxes after it ratified a trade deal with Brussels allowing continued unrestricted access of its exports to the bloc.
The signing of Economic Protection Agreements (EPA) with the EU provides for duty- and quota-free access for products to the EU market for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries that have negotiated Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU.
The agreement that Kenya ratified also protects sensitive products such as dairy products, fruits and vegetables, fish, textiles and clothing, footwear, and vehicles from competition from EU exporters for 15 years. Other products excluded from liberalization include chemicals, plastics, wood-based paper, ceramic products, glassware, articles of base metal, and wines and spirits.
The deal signed by Kenya offers insights to other East Africa Community (EAC) members, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania, which have hesitated to sign the EPA for fear that it could impact their economic growth.
Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, which are classified as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), already have duty-free and quota-free access to the EU under the Everything But Arms agreement, so they are not in a hurry to sign the EPA.
Tanzania has refused to sign saying the EPAs could have serious consequences for its revenues and growth of its industries, while Burundi said it would not sign the trade deal given its fading relationship with Europe. Rwanda has signed the EPA agreement but is yet to ratify it, while Uganda has only expressed a commitment to sign.
Kenya, which is considered a developing nation, would have seen its preferential market privileges to the EU withdrawn, had it not signed the agreement last week. A statement by Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that with the ratification of the agreement, the country will continue to benefit from access to EU markets.
On another front, Kenya announced last week that its Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives (MTIC) had also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) to formalize a partnership to promote trade and investment with the United States.
The CCA is a membership organization which serves as a trusted intermediary connecting its member firms with the essential government and business leaders in Africa. It was established in 1993 and its member firms account for 85 percent of US investment in Africa.
The MTIC is the foremost Kenyan government agency mandated to facilitate investment in Kenya. The newly signed MoU covers a 2-year period and encompasses business collaboration activities between Kenya and the U.S. The ministry will work with CCA to promote Kenyan business and investment opportunities, in the US, and will share information on the latest investment opportunities.
Kenya is seen by many CCA member companies as a priority country since it is one of the largest and fastest growing economies on the continent. The Kenyan government and its robust private sector have also changed the way business is done in Africa, with Kenya leading the way in innovation in sectors such as agribusiness and in finance, with mobile money payments.