President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to Jamaica has opened a window for trade that is so far non-existent between the two countries.
There is no official data on trade and investments between the two countries.
However, Kenya and Jamaica are now exploring opportunities in import-export market, investment, tourism, agriculture and financial services.
This will be supported by four key MoU signed during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s three-day visit to Kingston, Jamaica.
They include an MoU on cooperation in tourism, Mou on political consultation and corporation and Mou on corporation in sports, culture and heritage.
The Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) and Jamaica Chamber of Commerce and Industry have expressed interest in deepening trade ties.
Jamaica continues to lag behind the rest of the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region when it comes to trading across borders.
It ranks 27 of 32 economies in LAC and 134 out of 190 economies in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report for 2019. Kenya is ranked 61 in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business (2019).
“We have looked at our numbers and realised that trade is almost non-existent. We need to deepen our economic relations” President Uhuru said during a forum in Jamaica yesterday.
The two governments have agreed to hold regular dialogues on trade, agriculture, tourism and health. Kenya is also keen on partnerships in the blue economy and air transport.
“We are equally confident that with the signing of these MoUs, the relations between our two countries will be stronger and advanced,” Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness said.
Kenya targets to secure an export market for tea and coffee in Jamaica and the Caribbean, while peanuts stand as a top import from Jamaica.
Jamaica’s current trade environment is characterized by complicated and inefficient procedures that lead to high costs and delays.
Furthermore, Jamaica exports far fewer goods and services ((35.1 per cent of GDP) than other countries in the region, such as Aruba (70.8 per cent ) and Grenada (55.8 per cent), World Bank data shows.
Yesterday, President Uhuru fronted Kenya as one of the largest economies in Africa and a hub for logistics, air travel,financial services and ICT.
He also noted Kenya Airways’ wide reach including the direct flights to the US as an opportunity to open more partnerships and routes.
“We encourage Jamaican and Kenya investors to come together through our respective chambers and take advantage of the opportunities our two countries offer for further economic intergration,” he said.
The President affirmed Kenya’s strong support for the South-South Cooperation arrangements within the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) states.
While the government has been investing in infrastructure and reforms to ease doing business in the country, Jamaica is still struggling with high costs of doing business, attributable to among others, high levels of physical inspections, high and multiple taxes and fees and lack of coordination among agencies.
Others are multiplicity of licenses, permits and certificates, absence of an integrated and harmonized framework for border agencies, prevalence of manual processes, and low capacity at the firm level to implement international requirements.
China dominates as Kenya’s biggest trading partner in the global scene with Uganda topping the East Africa region.
By Martin Mwita