NAIROBI: Kenya and Nigeria are seeking to establish a duty-free trade zone between the two countries. This comes following trade talks between Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta.
Buhari, who is accompanied by more than three dozen business leaders and investors, winds up his three-day visit today with President Uhuru Kenyatta expected to visit Nigeria in six-months’ time. “We have agreed to have a unit in Kenya and Nigeria that will be concerned with facilitating all interactions concerning trade between these two countries,” said Mr Kiprono Kittony, the chairman of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI).
In Kenya, the unit will be housed under the KNCCI’s Nigeria-Kenya business council and chaired by Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi while in Nigeria it will be chaired by Sani Dangote, brother of Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote and vice president of the Dangote Group.
“We’ve identified several areas in agro-processing including cotton, tea, horticulture and dairy products that both Nigeria and Kenya can work together in expanding trade between the two countries,” said Mr Dangote. “East Africa is a market of about 150 million people and we have ECOWAS which is more than 350 million-strong and we want the Kenya-Nigeria business council to have its own office so that it can be dedicated to collecting data and facilitating interactions on this agenda,” he said.
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Kenya’s business community on the other hand expressed the need for policy makers in Nigeria to ease the cost of doing business and barriers to entry for Kenyan firms.
Data from the Kenya Revenue Authority’s customs department indicates that trade between Kenya and Nigeria has remained constant over the last 10 years with Sh1.7 billion average trade balance over the last half decade in favour of the former.
Kenyan traders exported about Sh11 billion worth of goods and services to Nigeria while Nigeria’s exports to Kenya over the same period totalled Sh2.6 billion.
“We have agreed that we will improve the data sharing agreements between the government agencies, investment and revenue authorities between the two countries to facilitate an easy environment to trade between us,” explained Mr Kittony.
Both presidents urged the business communities from both sides to follow through with already signed MOUs even as new agreements are hammered.