Kenyan traders have obtained easier access to China after the world’s second-largest economy reopened its borders to foreigners for the first time in three years since the Covid-19 pandemic erupted.
Beijing on Tuesday allowed all categories of visas to be issued to foreigners.
The announcement is seen as a boon for Kenyan traders and manufacturers who previously faced travel hurdles at a time when China has cemented its position as the largest source market for Kenya’s imports.
The ease of travel is expected to boost trade between the two countries, Kenyan traders and business lobbies, reckoned yesterday.
"The removal of travel restrictions in China could have several benefits for economies like Kenya, including increased trade, tourism, availability of the dollar, and economic growth," said Richard Ngatia, the president of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) in response to queries by Standard Business.
"The removal of travel restrictions in China could lead to an increase in face-to-face meetings between Chinese and Kenyan business people, which could facilitate trade deals and improve business relationships. This could help to increase the volume of trade between the two countries."
Kenya imports a wide range of raw materials and finished consumer goods from China with electronics such as mobile phones topping shipment orders.
Others include clothing, kitchenware, furniture, machinery, and optical and medical equipment.
In addition to its low labor costs, China also known as "the world's factory", has become popular with Kenyan importers and traders, because of its strong business ecosystem, lack of regulatory compliance, low taxes and duties, and competitive currency practices, according to analysts.
Kenya looks set to surpass the 2021 figures of imports from China in 2022 with the country having reported importing Sh342 billion in goods from China according to available figures from the three first quarters of the year.
It signals the imports remained resilient despite the visa curbs underlining the dependence of Nairobi on Chinese imports.
Areas in China that required no visas before the pandemic will revert to visa-free entry, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Tuesday, according to a notice issued by Chinese authorities.
The removal of this last cross-border control measure imposed to guard against Covid-19 comes after authorities last month declared victory over the virus.
“The announcement that China will resume issuing nearly all types of visas for foreigners from this week is welcome for Kenyan traders and businesses,” said Ian Njoroge a Kenyan trader.
He said the ease of the travel restrictions will allow Kenyan business people who would like to travel here to visit their China-based teams, customers, and suppliers and to explore new business opportunities.
“Most of the communication has been virtual but we can now be able to visit,” he added.
The visa curbs forced many traders in the global supply chain to source goods from alternative costlier markets.