Kenya has signed three bilateral agreements with Nigeria in a fresh campaign to expand its export markets to western and northern Africa.
Foreign affairs cabinet secretary Amina Mohamed and Nigerian counterpart Olugbenga Ashiru agreed on a Joint Commission for Cooperation plan, a protocol on trade consultations and an MOU on mutual cooperation between the Foreign Service Institute of Kenya and the Foreign Service Academy of Nigeria.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Nigerian counterpart Goodluck Jonathan who witnessed the signing of the deals on Tuesday at State House Abuja, Nigeria said they would boost ties between the two countries.
The agreements, coming after weeks of strained diplomatic relations over drug trafficking claims, cover diverse areas deemed to be of mutual interest such as trade, tourism, education, technical cooperation and high level diplomatic engagements.
The deal comes just weeks after Kenya’s exporters asked President Kenyatta to lead diplomatic missions to northern and western African states in search for new markets.
“We have seen a big potential for our coffee and tea in West and North Africa which could only be unlocked through bilateral agreements,” Polycarp Igathe, chairman of Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) said at this year’s exporters’ forum which was attended by Mr Kenyatta.
Kenya’s trade with Nigeria is still minimal with official figures indicating that exports has fallen from a peak of Sh3.2 billion recorded in 2008 to Sh2.9 billion last year.
Over the same period, imports from the western African nation has dropped from Sh169.8 million to just Sh48.6 million last year. Last year, KAM officials led its members to a market hunting mission to West Africa.
Apart from Nigeria, the team also pressed for similar high-level missions to Ethiopia, Morocco and South Africa.
On Tuesday, President Kenyatta separately held talks with Ethiopian Premier Hailemariam Desalegn and Vice President of Ghana Kwesi Amissah-Urthur on the sidelines of the Abuja +12 Summit at Abuja International Conference Centre.
In a communiqué read by Mr Ashiru, Presidents Kenyatta and Jonathan committed to further develop and strengthen relations between the two countries.
The two leaders pledged to start off by pursuing strategies aimed at promoting intra-Africa trade and investment in their respective countries including in the areas of agriculture, tourism, minerals exploitation, financial services, education and energy.
The two leaders said harnessing potential in these sectors would facilitate job creation and sustainable business opportunities.
President Kenyatta and his host also waded into the touchy issue of drug trafficking that has strained the diplomatic relations between the two countries in recent weeks.
Last month, Kenya’s move to expel Nigeria businessman Anthony Chinedu over drugs claim created a diplomatic spectacle after officials who executed the directive were detained for several days.
On Tuesday, the two presidents agreed to establish structures to manage information and encourage more direct contact between authorities in the two countries to combat international terrorism, drug trafficking and money laundering.
The two presidents also vowed to support each other’s position at the international arena. To this end, Kenya pledged support for Nigeria’s candidature for the position of non-permanent member of United Nations Security Council for the period 2014-2015.
Nigeria on her part undertook to support Kenya’s candidature for the same seat for the period 2017-2018.