President Uhuru Kenyatta has sought to dispel fear that the ongoing trade talks between Kenya and the United States will undermine the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Uhuru said Kenya’s trade deal with the US would instead assist the continent by creating a reference upon which other African nations will negotiate bilateral arrangements within the AfCFTA framework in future.
“Kenya will be the first under the new AfCTA, so we are going to be trailblazers in this and we hope that others will also follow,” he said.
Uhuru spoke on Thursday at State House, Nairobi, in a webinar hosted by the Atlantic Council under the theme “Strengthening US-Africa ties through trade.”
The Atlantic Council is an American think tank whose mission is to promote constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs. It regularly hosts world leaders to discuss subjects of public interest.
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The President said a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US would reposition Kenya as a gateway for American investments in Africa.
“The essence of an FTA is investment. Ultimately, I believe, Americans themselves will be able to say: Why can’t we invest in Kenya and not only take advantage of Kenya but the region?” he said.
In the negotiating the FTA, Uhuru said Kenya was going for a win-win arrangement that would benefit both countries.
“We believe that all trade negotiations are based on a win-win. We believe that’s the intention of the United States, just as much as it is our intention,” he said.
Commenting on Africa’s response to the Covid-19 health crisis and the recent China-Africa Summit, the President said Africa’s foremost concern was to protect its population from the virus.
“Coronavirus is mainly a health issue and our key focus is ensuring that we keep our people safe,” the President said.
On the negative economic impact of Covid-19, the President said Kenya and several other African countries working under the auspices of the African Union (AU) had put together stimulus packages to support sectors that were badly affected by the pandemic, such as tourism and aviation.
He reiterated AU’s call for more international support to the continent to free up finances that the continent needs to respond to the pandemic.
“Without doubt, Kenya like many African and global countries, is also under fiscal pressure. We need fiscal space so that we are able to re-engage,” he said.
On the revitalisation of the East African Community (EAC), the President regretted the slow pace at which the integration process was unfolding, saying he was committed to a more cohesive and prosperous region.
He cautioned against “historical suspicions and barriers”, which he blamed for derailing the EAC integration process.
The President also spoke about Kenya’s Building Bridges Initiative, saying the process was meant to create national cohesion.
“We want to transform our politics and make our politics much more inclusive,” he said.
On police brutality, Uhuru acknowledged the presence of wayward personnel in the police service, saying his administration would continue to empower oversight institutions to enable them to take decisive action against rogue officers.