President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday directed Kenyan Government officials to be at the forefront in facilitating trade to give the country a comparative advantage as an investment destination of choice.
The President, who invited Gulf investors to set up shop in Kenya, said the country needed to adapt to what investors wanted and remove the bureaucratic red tape that undermined trade.
“We need to be the welcoming party. We are here to listen. We are here to facilitate. We are here to do what these investors require from us in order to come into our country to bring their investment, to help us create jobs and to help us develop our economy,” President Kenyatta said.
The Head of State spoke at the opening of the Kenya-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states business forum in Dubai on the first day of his working visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Captains of industry and business executives from both Kenya and the Gulf region among other delegations attended the high-level business forum held on the margins of the Expo 2020 Dubai.
President Kenyatta emphasized that Kenya seeks to strengthen its trade with the UAE, noting that a wide range of goods and services that the UAE imports from other parts of the world could be produced and supplied by Kenya.
“These include services such as hospitality and tourism, banking and financial services, ICT and data processing.
“With respect to goods, we have animals and animal products, gold, cut flowers, fish, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, textiles and apparel, vegetables and fruits that the UAE could procure from Kenya at competitive prices,” President Kenyatta said.
The President said enhancing trade between Kenya and the Gulf countries would help to address the urgent need for jobs and economic opportunities for young people.
He especially urged business leaders from the private and public sectors to develop a special trading framework that will give preference to small and medium enterprises in the East African Community and the GCC.
At the same time, President Kenyatta expressed the need to develop a long-term solution to the many tariff and non-tariff barriers that curtail trade between Kenya and the Gulf region.
“Towards this end, I propose we consider initiating discussions on a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council under the framework of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement,” the President said.
On sports tourism, President Kenyatta said Kenya is ready to avail its training grounds and coaches to nationals from the GCC states.
“Allow me to use this opportunity to invite the nationals of the Gulf Cooperation Council states to come and experience our world-famous tourist attractions. We have a long history of trade, culture, and travel relations between the coast of eastern Africa and this region, and we are always ready to welcome you,” he said.
President Kenyatta thanked His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nayan, the President of the UAE and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, for inviting him to attend the Expo 2020 Dubai – one of the largest global events to take place during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Expo 2020 Dubai has brought renewed optimism to the world and provided us with a platform to explore new opportunities to promote trade and investment.
“Kenya is participating in the Expo to sell its brand and has come with high expectations to build new business partnerships with the nationals of this country and the close to 20 million visitors that will participate in the expo,” President Kenyatta said.
Responding to trade concerns raised by the Kenya business delegation, UAE Under Secretary of Economy Abdulla Alsaleh assured that the Gulf nation is working to remove any obstacles that hinder trade between the two countries.
At the high-level event attended by several Cabinet Secretaries, business executives and agencies from Kenya and the Gulf region, several pacts were concluded including agreements in services, tourism, goods, logistics and investments.