The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has closed its embassy in Nairobi indefinitely on undisclosed reasons as exports from the Middle East nation continue to shrink.
The closure comes months after the emirate announced plans to upgrade its Nairobi mission to the largest in Africa.
“They informed us of the closure about a month ago,” said Beldina Nyabochoa, an office administrator of Middle East division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
She declined to offer details behind the closure and the Business Daily was unable to reach UAE for comment.
Kenyans seeking UAE visas will be served by a contractor Global Visa Services — which is based at Anniversary Towers in Nairobi.
The UAE’s exports to Kenya have shrunk from Sh199 billion in 2011 to Sh103.2 billion last year, says data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).
The drop allowed the US to topple the emirate from the top three trading partner position it occupied last year, having dropped as the main seller of imported goods to Kenya in 2012.
The KNBS has linked the falling fortunes of UAE as Kenya’s top source of imported goods to last year’s closure of the country’s sole refinery — which was buying most of its crude oil from the Middle East nation.
Oil marketers now buy refined products from a wide range of traders in the Middle East, India, Mauritius and South Africa.
Kenya’s exports to the Middle East nation dropped to Sh20.1 billion last year from Sh25.1 billion in 2013 and Sh19.9 billion in 2011.
Nairobi exports avocados, black tea, cut flowers, carbonates of metals and sugar confectionary to Abu Dhabi.
Foreign Affairs secretary Amina Mohamed could not be reached for comment as she was reportedly attending a meeting at the State House. But the relationship between Kenya and UAE has not been free of controversies.
In 2010, the UAE imposed tough visa rules for Kenyans travelling to the oil-rich state including having a minimum of university degree to gain entry. This was in retaliation to the deportation of four UAE citizens suspected to be terrorists.
The emirate later relaxed the requirements after intense lobbying by government officials.
Nairobi has signed deals UAE and Qatar to offer jobs to Kenyans and help deal with the growing crisis of youth unemployment.
Dubai has emerged as Kenya’s favourite, with locals targeting the country’s hospitality industry.
About 36,000 Kenyans were working in the UAE in 2010, notably in building and hospitality industries, according to the Immigration department.
The figure is estimated to have currently hit 50,000.
UAE accounts for about 10 per cent of the country’s total monthly remittances from Kenyans working in the Middle East nation.