Kenya, South Africa to remove trade barriers, strengthen security ties

South African President Jacob Zuma (left) with President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi

Kenya and South Africa today agreed to enhance cooperation in trade and security with the Presidents of both countries committing to forge stronger ties between two of Africa’s biggest economies.

 The announcement was made at State House, Nairobi, after President Uhuru Kenyatta and President Jacob Zuma held bilateral talks.

 The two leaders agreed to progressively remove all trade barriers to enable the two countries to benefit from their untapped trade potentials.

President Kenyatta and his South African counterpart, who is on a three-day State Visit to Kenya, said the first measure to expand their trade and economic ties is to enable the free movement of people.

 They directed the respective ministers responsible to work out the plan to reduce visa restrictions for Kenyans visiting South Africa.

“This is a privilege that Kenya already extends to South African nationals.   In our view, there is no reason why both our countries cannot agree on exemption of visas for each other’s citizens,” said the President.

 President Kenyatta said they had agreed to increase the trade between the two countries by progressively removing all barriers to trade starting with non-tariff barriers that prevent Kenya from exporting agricultural produce to South Africa.

 “South Africa understands the anxiety about non–tariff barriers that prevent us from exporting tea, coffee or soda ash. Mr. President, I applaud your commitment to urgently resolving this outstanding matter,” said President Kenyatta.

 As part of the efforts to expand the economic and security ties between the two countries, the two Presidents oversaw the signing of six bilateral agreements.

The signed MOU’s are on Police and Defence Co-operation, Trade and Investment, Visa Exemption for holders of Diplomatic and Ordinary/Service Passports and MOU on Cooperation in the Field of Biodiversity, Conservation and Management.

The fifth agreement was on South African investment in the development of the LAPPSET project.

President Kenyatta said the commitment of South African investment in LAPPSET, a pivotal project for Kenya and the whole continent was encouraging.

“Investment in Africa by Africans is critical to the growth of intra-Africa trade and investment,” said the Kenyan Head of State.

The two Presidents agreed to establish a strategic framework which would be used to implement signed MOU’s to deliver optimal benefits for the citizens of the two nations.

The two leaders agreed to broaden counterterrorism partnership to focus on new areas such as cyber security, financing of terrorism and stemming radicalization.

President Zuma, who is the first State Visit by a  South African Head of State to Kenya, said Kenya and South Africa need to work together more closely in order to benefit their citizens and also other African countries.

“We are working for a strategic partnership anchored on trade and security,” he said, adding that stronger ties between Kenya and South Africa are beneficial to the two countries’ neighbours.

President Zuma said they had, during the bilateral talks, discussed security issues in South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi and DRC.

He said they oppose, in the strongest terms possible, calls for violence in South Sudan and urged former Vice President Riek Machar to go back to the country and participate in its reconstruction instead of calling for war.