Ethiopia and Kenya are indeed close when it comes to commitments and partnerships having a history that dates back to the time of Jomo Kenyatta and Emperor Haileselassie I. They enjoy a high level of special status agreements. But this has not translated into higher level of cooperation as aspired long-ago, allowing the two countries to have open borders and free movement of people and goods. And the business community is not close enough to take-up bigger initiatives of cooperation between the two neighboring countries either. Yet, this week, the two countries had once more a do-over to reconfigure their economic and business ties at the Kenya-Ethiopia Trade and Investment Forum held in Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia and Kenya are indeed close when it comes to commitments and partnerships having a history that dates back to the time of Jomo Kenyatta and Emperor Haileselassie I. They enjoy a high level of special status agreements.
But this has not translated into higher level of cooperation as aspired long-ago, while the idea of regional cooperation came into consideration which would have allowed the countries to have open borders and free movement of people and thriving border trade. And the business community is not close enough to take-up bigger initiatives of cooperation between the two neighboring countries of the east African community.
This was brilliantly observed by James Mureau, the vice chairman of the Kenyan Chamber of Commerce as, “Paul Tergat and Haile Gebreselassie did contribute more to the economies than we the business community did. It is time to play our part and it is a really good opportunity for us to enhance our relationships.” This statement was made in the Kenya-Ethiopia Trade and Investment Forum being held in Addis Ababa yesterday, with a target to reverse this and enhance the relationships between the two countries.
The opening session was graced by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) in the Skyline Hotel on March 1, 2019. The Forum attracted hundreds of participants from the business community, out of which more than 100 were members of delegation President Kenyatta led to Ethiopia.
Speaking at the opening session, Workneh Gebeyehu (PhD), the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, said that, this forum and high-level commitments create more relationships of trade, investment and tourism by capitalizing on the strong relationship that exists between the two countries. He also said that there is an interest of creating people to people relations with a special attention to enhance business relations hoping that the discussion between the two leaders will be fruitful in realizing this.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), on his part, stressed that the two countries have and will continue to enjoy a strong socio-economic identity which is manifested through a deep sense of understanding and solidarity.
“Over the past 10 months, we have been working diligently to sustain our economic growth,” Abiy said adding that, “The two countries can grow faster if they cooperate and much is expected from both countries to leverage our strength. We need to work in unison to forge a formidable trade and investment engagement. At the heart of this engagement should be people centered economic ties that fit our citizens.”
He also said that over the past 10 years, significant steps have been taken to strengthen bilateral relations in the area of cross-border trade, infrastructure development, transport and energy.
“Our strengthened collaboration in cross-border trade and investment is crucial for the overall environment. In light of this, we need to aspire to an enhanced transformation in the Moyale region into a commonly administrated economic hub of East Africa…. Furthermore, we need to strengthen our pursuit of development in the Lamu port, South Sudan, Ethiopia’s transport corridor.”
He also called upon Kenyan investors to grab the opportunity of investing in the energy, textile, agro-processing, garment and aviation sectors in Ethiopia.
Uhuru Kenyatta, on his part, noted that this high-level mission is timely and appreciated PM Abiy for his leadership which Uhuru has described as transforming the country in terms of politics and the economy.
Inviting Ethiopian investors to go and navigate opportunities in Kenya and partner with Kenyan businesses, Kenyatta said that the Moyale and Isiolo highway as well as a one stop shop solution planned in Moyale will enhance trade and investment relations.
He expressed his hope for a unique and valuable agreements to emerge out of this specific engagement, Kenyatta reiterated that the four focus areas of the expected partnerships are in the fields of trade, investment, food security as well as sustainable development.
This Forum aims at establishing a joint technical committee to steer the relation between the two countries especially in enhancing a cross-border trade.