Museveni visit heralds wide-ranging boon

President William Ruto and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni at State House, Nairobi. [PCS]

It may have eluded many but Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni’s recent State Visit to Kenya, yielded a number of gains that deserve a pen portrait.

Aside from embellishing bilateral relations and strengthening mutually beneficial partnerships between Kenya and Uganda, a number of trade-related airlocks with welcome and far-reaching implications were addressed during that visit.  

In the East African region, the economies of Kenya and Uganda share a significant degree of interdependence marked by longstanding trade ties and geographic proximity.

However, beneath the surface of this economic symbiosis has been a nagging layer of unresolved issues that have strained bilateral relations between the two neighbouring countries and hindered the full potential of their partnership.

In this mix, cross-border trade and movement of goods between the two nations have suffered the most. The most prevalent of non-tariff barriers between Kenya and Uganda that Presidents Museveni and Ruto sought to contain are mainly regulatory in nature.

They include — but are not necessarily limited to — the imposition of varying sanitary and phytosanitary standards, arduous certification requirements and vexing bureaucratic red tape.

That state of affairs has led to delays or even obstruction of goods movement across the Kenya-Uganda border. The lengthy and cumbersome process of obtaining certificates of origin and other documentation necessary for cross-border trade and movement of goods will soon be a thing of the past.

Moving forward, the promise of streamlining administrative procedures and enhancing cooperation between relevant authorities in the two countries will alleviate non-tariff barriers and facilitate smoother trade flows.

On the whole, the airlocks related to tariff barriers and non-tariff barriers, which have in the past affected the seamless flow of goods and services across the Kenya-Uganda border will benefit from the recent agreements arrived at during President Museveni’s State Visit to Kenya.

In the foreseeable future, citizens of Kenya and Uganda should expect a more harmonious and mutually beneficial trade relationship.

The decision to address the need for ease of importation and transit of refined petroleum products through Kenya to Uganda tabled during the talks was a huge achievement with regard to strengthening the relationship between Kenya and Uganda. This has been a key area of concern given that Uganda’s seafront is in Kenya.

Another boon registered during the bilateral talks of the State Visit is the signing of the MoU on Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. Forthwith, there will be enhanced exchange of information, technical, scientific and legislative expertise available in the two entities, the envisaged result being to promote and further develop the MSME sector in both countries.

It has been proven that MSMEs make for one of the most reliable vehicles of weaning whole citizenries from poverty.

Investing in them in a collective manner can only yield greater good for the people of Uganda and Kenya. As they say, well-off neighbours can only be a blessing to one another. 

That both President Museveni and President Ruto weighed in on the need to respect and fully implement both the EAC Customs Union Protocol and the Common Markets Protocol.

Their joint call on the abolishment of quotas on goods originating from within the EAC member states jurisdiction will open up multiple trade opportunities from thousand of our people across the borders.

Once in effect, it will free trade in poultry and poultry products, dairy and dairy products, cereals, sugar, juices, pishori rice and furniture. Besides, the two Heads of State also encouraged the expansion of economic engagements to other significant regional bodies such as IGAD. Again this will broaden the space of economic gain for entrepreneurs of Kenya and Uganda alike.

In sum, Kenyans have a chance to reap many benefits heralded by the recent talks between Presidents Museveni and Ruto and by extension broaden bilateral, regional and multilateral relations of both Kenya and Uganda.

-The writer is Investments, Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary