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Letters

LETTERS: Market access key to manufacturing revamp

cargo ship
A cargo ship at the port of Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya seeks to spur economic growth and development through the Big Four. When a country seeks to spur manufacturing output to Sh2.2 trillion in five years, it becomes a necessity for all of us to make our contributions felt in support of the Big Four.

It is expected that exports worth Sh 1.8 trillion should be exported by 2022 to enable the Country to attain surplus trade needed to enhance foreign exchange reserve.

Kenya has access to markets in the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the US and the EU worth Sh2.9 trillion that Kenyans can explore.

One of the historical truths on economic and industrial transformation of a country is that, the citizenry rally behind their leaders, and contribute to development aspirations of a State. Sometimes at initial stages of industrialization pay a higher cost as competitiveness is created.

For a market economy like Kenya, while the Government works to open markets, create local opportunities for economic transformation including expanding infrastructure, access to government procurement opportunity (AGPO), Kenyans need to increase their contributions by working hard, differently, and be a part of economic transformation in large numbers.

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With market access milestones achieved in these markets, Kenyans are called upon to take up the numerous export opportunities. The combined market potential for China, the UK and the US is massive. A single African market would make the continent a more attractive investment destination for foreign direct investors, since the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) would mean that an investor in any African country would potentially be able to sell to or invest in the entire African market.

The Harmonised Rules of Origin (RoO) and elimination of African countries’ non-tariff measures such as Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (SPS) under the AfCFTA may make it easier for foreign direct investors to invest in Kenya and trade both within Africa and into US, UK and China.

To realise the Big 4 Kenya needs both local and foreign direct investments. Inclusive growth and development would require more Kenyans to form a pool of domestic direct investors to take advantage of market access opportunities presented to us.

Currently, Kenya qualifies for duty free market access until 2025 into the US market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act but only less than 20 Kenyan products qualify for export (includes textiles, apparels, tea, coffee, vegetables and handicrafts).

These are few, in relation to over 6,400 Agoa eligible products. The President’s visit to the US and China, and the visit by UK Prime Minister has opened an opportunity for the expansion of the manufacturing sector envisaged in his Big 4 Agenda.

There will be value addition for Kenya’s agricultural export products with target markets within the African region and the US. Our UK trade relations have been balanced, but the volumes show very low bilateral trade. Over the last decade, Kenya’s exports trend to the UK have been declining characterized by a narrow range of products mostly comprising of low value raw or semi-processed products, while imports from UK are diverse high value products.

Value addition and manufacturing present an opportunity for increased returns in forex earnings, the ultimate answer to the objective to grow our economies that have impact on the livelihoods of the citizens. This will form main area of engagement during the upcoming Intra Africa Trade Fair in December 2018, where Kenya is seeking to use Government to Government (G2G) as well as Government to Business (G2B) as a platform to ensure over 22 AfCFTA member states ratify the free trade protocols to enable citizens realise free trade and invest within the Continent.

This would enhance the Country’s and the Continent’s ability to retain high earnings by becoming an equal partner with similar bargaining power and economic force to reckon with.

With Kenya market access exploits, our Country will greatly benefit from exports with an aggressive uptake by Kenyan companies with strong partnerships between small, medium and large enterprises to sell the Made in Kenya brands.

Peter Biwott, chief executive officer, Export Promotion Council.

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