President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed landed in Moyale in Marsabit County on Wednesday to open a one-stop border post (OSBP) in efforts to boost economic ties between Kenya and her northern landlocked neighbour.
Dr Abiy inspected a guard of honour mounted by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) after which he toured the facility along with Mr Kenyatta.
The border post is part of the planned Mombasa-Nairobi-Addis Ababa corridor linked by the 502-kilometre Hawassa-Moyale road project in Ethiopia, and the Isiolo-Moyale road in Kenya.
PM Abiy said the inauguration of the OSBP is a clear demonstration of the commitment to enhanced trade by both countries.
"By aligning the working days and hours, procedures and formalities as well as through the development and sharing of common facilities and joint controls, the border post will reduce the time taken and costs incurred to clear good across both borders," he said.
"Bringing under one roof essential trade services of both countries, revenue and customs authorities, immigration, security, trade plus many other services demonstrates the capacity for enabling economic transformation," PM Abiy added.
Border conflicts, Lapsset
Dr Abiy's visit is also expected to focus on the shared border between the two countries and the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) corridor.
The Ethiopia-Kenyan border straddles over 830km of its territory, yet has only one OSBP in Moyale, Marsabit.
An OSBP is a border crossing point where migration officials of both countries operate under one roof to facilitate trade and ease the movement of goods and people.
It was hoped that the border post would be commissioned last year after construction was completed in 2018 at a cost of over Sh800 million, but due to tensions at the border, this was postponed.
The perennial conflicts in the area is one of the significant talking points that the two leaders are expected to focus on in their meetings.
Other areas marked for OSBPs include Siftu in Wajir, Markamari, Rhamu in Mandera, Todunyang in Turkana.
After the border visit, President Kenyatta and the Ethiopian PM will visit Lamu County at the coast to inspect ongoing construction of the new Lamu Port, an anchor project of the Lapsset infrastructural undertaking.
Launched in 2012, Lapsset will also include an oil pipeline that would run from the Kenyan port of Lamu to Addis Ababa, among other major infrastructure projects aimed at improving connectivity and boosting bilateral trade in the region.
Kenya and Ethiopia signed an agreement for preferential access aimed at fostering economic co-operation in 2012, emphasising on trade, investment, infrastructure, food security and sustainable livelihoods.
The two countries also established the Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) tasked with driving bilateral ties, in addition to more than 30 agreements and MoUs spanning nearly all economic, social and political spheres including security, defence and trade, movement of people, transport, and culture.
Last year’s entry of Equity Bank into the Ethiopian market, four years after KCB became the first Kenyan bank to open a representative office in Addis Ababa, is also seen as a huge boost for Kenyans eyeing the huge market.
Mr Kenyatta visited Ethiopia in March 2019 and his host flew him to the city of Hawassa to tour the city’s industrial park where 22 leading manufacturers in textile and apparel are currently operating, employing 25,000 employees.
The two leaders, while presiding over the official opening of a two-day Kenya-Ethiopia high-level trade forum in Addis Ababa, pledged to deepen trade and economic ties between the two countries.