Exhibition enhances private cooperation between China and Kenya

By LUCIE MORANGI in Nairobi, Kenya| (chinadaily.com.cn )| Updated : 2019-09-12

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Lyu Wei, deputy director of commerce in Shandong province, made a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the industrial expo in Nairobi on Sept 11. [Photo by Liu Hongjie/China Daily]

The second Kenya International Industrial Expo and Kenya-Shandong Business Forum took place on Wednesday in Nairobi, an event to increase private to private partnerships between Chinese and their east African counterparts.

The three-day event, expected to attract hundreds of people from the region, centers on agricultural cooperation. About 80 exhibitors from China participated, a twofold increase over last year.

The event builds momentum on agreements signed last year during the China International Import Expo in Shanghai. Of particular interest is the Phytosanitary protocol, which is geared toward expanding market access for Kenyan agricultural products to the Chinese market.

Betty Maina, the principal secretary of industrialization ministry, said that Kenya had further signed export protocols for stevia, frozen avocado and donkey skins since then. Arrangements were underway to finalize the protocol on additional products including legumes, flowers, vegetables and fruits among others.

"I hope this forum today will further provide an opportunity of partnerships towards increasing the volume of exports from Kenya to China in an effort to bridge the gap between export and imports between the two countries," said Maina.


The Kenya-Chinese (Shandong) Economic and Trade Cooperation Import and Export Forum was held during the opening ceremony of the industrial expo in Nairobi on Sept 11. [Photo by Liu Hongjie/China Daily]

The deputy director of commerce in Shandong province, Lyu Wei, said Chinese investors were keen to increase their imports from Kenya.

Kenya's global exports of avocado constituted a market share of 2.1 percent of total exported avocados, making it seventh in the world and first in Africa.

Economists believe that the exhibition was an effort by the two countries to not only bridge the trade imbalance but also support sustainable trade.

Rajnesh Bhuee, a consultant in Nairobi, noted that such events create opportunities to stimulate more private sector engagement supported by already existing infrastructure, such as the standard gauge railway.

"Despite ongoing plans to build an ecosystem around these mega infrastructures, such as industrial parks, their viability will be determined by the level of private participation in the manufacturing sector," Bhuee said. She said that this would also decrease the appetite for sovereign debt.

Some local private players are eyeing these opportunities. Gorsiya Arvind, director of G.A. Consultants Ltd in Kenya, said his company has launched the Kenya-Shandong Industrial Park. Although not complete, the director said at least 80 percent of the tenants are from China.

"We are providing a launching pad for these firms that are targeting emerging markets in China, following the signing of the Continental Free Trade Agreement. Most of them are looking for local partners," said Arvind.

Zhou Runcheng, the co-organizer of the event, said the Chinese exhibitors are pursuing strategic cooperation with their Kenyan counterparts. He explained that the increase in the number of businesses from Shandong is an indication of the market's potential.

"Private sector is the pulse of the Kenyan economy. Chinese entrepreneurs are interested in participating in its growth especially in the agricultural sector, which is core of Kenya's Big Four agenda at the moment," he said.

Kenya is ranked 61 out of 190 on the 2019 World Bank Ease of Doing Business. The performance has been supported by market reforms aimed at making the market conducive for foreign investments.