Thursday, October 22, 2020

Kenyan President bemoans declining Botswana, Kenya trade

Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta expressed concern over the declining levels of trade between his country and Botswana. 

Speaking at a Business Forum organised by the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) last week Tuesday, Kenyatta openly mused the regrettable declining trade deals between the two countries but said he is committed to ease the course of doing business between them. Botswana and Kenya enjoy historical and cordial relations dating back from 1996.

In his address, Kenyatta detailed the countries efforts aimed at cutting back on whatever signs of misfortunes that hamper an upward trajectory of imports and exports. 

Though business confidence is portrayed to be waning, the relationship has been favourable to Kenya, as reflected by official statistics. In 2014, Kenya realised its highest value of exports at about US$ 8.34 million, according to the Kenya Revenue Authority Customs Department (KRACD). By 2015, the figure saw a giant slide to US$ 4.51 million. 

In 2010 Kenya imported goods worth US$ 0.29 million, arguably the highest value from Botswana. Four years later, imports would tumble to a value of US$ 0.12 million and uptick to US$ 0.19 million in 2015. KRACD however said imports are prone to fluctuation. 

Kenya mainly imports electrical apparatus, material of rubber, worn clothing, furniture, household electricals, television receivers and pottery from Botswana.

Exports constitute medicaments (including veterinary medicaments), prepared additives for mineral oils, fruit juices, instruments and appliances, lighting and fittings, destined to Botswana. 

Observers were fairly unsettled by the uncertainty between both markets and called on the leaders to promote trade deals. The heart of Kenyatta’s speech and his 3 days visit would later be understood as an injection of fresh impetus to trade deals.

Kenya has committed to eradicating infrastructure backlog that the president said frustrated Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and slowed down capital inflows.  Since the beginning of his tenure, Kenyatta has been spearheading infrastructure constructions from transport to energy sectors, which has resulted in over 2.1 million of the population being connected to the electricity grid. 

The east African country is currently growing its single turbine geothermal plant and a railway connection, the largest single investment since the state’s independence.  Most of the projects are expected to be completed the coming year which will increase investors’ confidence and boost FDI.

Last year, the country received its highest recipient of FDI reflecting their efforts, the president noted. Kenyatta is now eyeing intra-African trade deals to multiply capital inflows and excite investors for as many sectors.

The country has seen enviable success and growth in the service, agriculture, agribusiness and manufacturing sector which observers say Botswana has been struggling to penetrate. Investment and trade ministry has expressed a drive to develop the same sectors amongst others which will pave way for profitable partnerships and exchange of information between the countries’ business communities. “I would like to challenge Botswana and Kenya companies to engage with one another to fully exploit the immense business opportunities on offer from both countries,” Trade Minister, Vincent Seretse, said when he was officiating the forum. 

There was a general feeling that private companies are hesitant to setup business in both countries for undisclosed reasons, inevitably missing out on the crucial transfer of expertise and skills. Business Botswana (BB), an advocate representing private companies contends that the exchange will propel the drive of diversifying and growing the economy. “I therefore would like to see Kenyan industrialists also take part in our Special Economic Zone (SEZ) through direct investment and sharing of lessons and experiences. Kenya has a lot to share in this area because you have been operating SEZs in one form or the other for some time,” Lekwalo Mosienyane, President of BB said. 

“The fact that your country is the powerhouse of East Africa is no coincidence but a direct result of pro-business policies. For us the size of the population in East Africa is attractive and presents a lucrative to expand our business,” he further said. President Kenyatta also expressed interest to benchmark on Botswana’s mining industry. 

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