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Build on Modi visit to strengthen ties with India

EDITORIAL
By The Standard | July 10th 2016

Kenya will host India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi from today with expectations that the two countries will strengthen economic and cultural ties. They will also firm up new bilateral agreements to serve their mutual interests. Modi’s visit will be significant in many fronts and will build on the historic ties of the two countries that have been intricately intertwined since 22,000 Indian coolies travelled to Kenya to build the metre gauge railway line from 1896. Most of these coolies settled in the then British protectorate establishing businesses, some which still have a presence in Kenya today.

The historic ties have positioned India as one of Kenya’s biggest trading partners thats export steel, pharmaceuticals and machinery, then imports tea and soda ash. There are currently more than 40 companies incorporated in India that operate in Kenya and bring to the domestic economy about Sh350 billion.

The local business community will therefore have great expectations of Prime Minister Modi’s visit — the community’s larger interest will be to secure more attractive provisions to export their products to the sub-continent, and ensure their imports from India are competitively priced.

The Kenya government must therefore press to cater for these interests and negotiate a more agreeable balance of payment position which currently favours India. These are some of the discussions we expect to drive future engagements when the Prime Minister and his entourage confer with experts from Kenya’s Ministry of Trade.

The India High Commission has already indicated that tomorrow’s bilateral meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Modi could culminate in half a dozen substantial agreements in health, trade, education defence and security.

Of interest to many patients will be India’s involvement in constructing what health experts call multi-speciality hospitals to handle complex medical procedures often conducted by better equipped hospitals abroad which are out of reach for majority of Kenyans owing to the high cost of treatment.

India has become a prime health tourism destination for Kenyan patients with about 5,000 visiting specialised facilities in the sub-continent to get treatment at a much more affordable price.

It is, therefore, expected that the proposed two multi-speciality hospitals will limit the number of patients who have to travel abroad for long periods to get treatment, away from their families and divorced from a social environment they are familiar with.

A visit such as Modi’s can only do so much for traders, even if a more favourable balance of payment position can be negotiated. Ultimately Kenyans who want to export goods and services must improve the quality of their offerings to be more competitive on the global stage.

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