Kenya commits to becoming Africa’s gateway to free trade
The Star | 5th June 2023
By Alfred Onyango
Kenya has committed to becoming the preferred gateway to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The continent is seeking to drive up regional trade which still lags behind at 17 per cent compared to other regions. This is compared to 40 per cent in Asia, 60 per cent of the USA and 70 per cent in Europe.
Speaking during the Kenya International Investment Conference on the prospects of unlocking the continent’s gateway, state department for Investment promotion PS Abubakar Hassan said the country is well positioned and focused on becoming more investor-centric.
"In terms of investor package, Kenya has an attractive package that is robust, youthful, affordable, well-educated, highly skilled and creative," Hassan said.
He added that last year, the country was ranked as the most innovative nation in the continent by the World Economic Forum, a remedy to a positive impact on business and society at large.
"The country also ranks second in the continent in terms of venture capital deals and third in terms of ease of doing business," he said. "Nevertheless, Kenya ranks position one in financial inclusion ratings."
His sentiments were echoed by Equity Bank Group Managing Director and Group CEO James Mwangi who said the country’s infrastructure has put it in a prime position for trade as it remains interconnected with countries across the region.
"We need local and regional supply chains hubbed by a country with diversified capabilities. In Africa, Kenya suits that bill. Kenya has the best logistic and infrastructure development support," Mwangi said.
He added that Nairobi has an international diversity of communities making it a rainbow when it comes to doing business.
Due to this diversified business landscape, he notes that Kenya serves as an excellent gateway to the African Continental Free Trade Area.
"For instance, Kenya’s trade market comprises of 30 per cent Asian community, 30 per cent European and 40 per cent African," Mwangi said.
Kenya is also a member of the East African Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) which presents common markets for the promotion of trade and investment within the continent.
This could mean a large market space for products and services in Kenya as the membership could spur the market size to almost 700 million, according to Mwangi.
However, the country was challenged by UAE Trade Center CEO Walid Hareb Al Falahi, to bolster its investment map to make it easier for incoming investors in terms of making investment decisions to save on time and capital.
"Improving and diversifying the investor map could prop up the country’s investment attractiveness index, and at large, boost the continent’s investment likelihood to about 10 times better compared to other regions," Falahi said.