President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged Kenyans and Japanese to engage more in joint ventures to cut the trade imbalance that heavily favours the Far East nation.
He said Japan should increase its imports of Kenyan flowers by dealing directly with Kenyan investors as opposed to going through European auctions, which leads to delays in getting the flowers to their market.
“I am happy to note that Kenyan flowers are gaining popularity in Japan, because of the longer shelf life,” the President said.
The President was addressing the Kenya-Japan Business Forum in Tokyo on Monday as he concluded his five-day visit to Japan. Some 100 Japanese companies, some of them in the Fortune 500 list, attended.
Speaking at the event, Japanese business leaders voiced their increasing appetite to invest in Kenya, given the conducive business environment created by the Government of Kenya.
They cited Kenya’s location and the improved infrastructure as some of the incentives drawing them to Kenya.
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Vice President Hiroshi Kato said Japan engagement with Kenya is alignment with Vision 2030 and focuses on infrastructure development, agriculture, education, health and environmental conservation.
President Kenyatta underscored the need to have direct flights between Nairobi and Tokyo to boost of bilateral trade and tourism.
Japan has granted Kenya landing right at Haneda International Aiport.
“Our two governments will need to address the matter, if we are to enhance our business engagements,” the President said.
As the gateway to East and Central Africa, President Kenyatta said Kenya occupies a special position in Japan’s diplomatic relations with Africa.
“We have accessible transport connectivity; diverse skills and expertise; and we are at the centre of a wide and expansive market in East Africa — over 130 million people — and in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region, which is home to more than 410 million people,” he said.
The President encouraged Japanese investors to explore mutually beneficial opportunities in the ICT sector.
He informed the business forum that other investment opportunities in Kenya exist in the manufacturing, agriculture, financial services, transport, energy and infrastructure sectors, especially the Lamu Port Sudan South-Ethiopia Transport corridor Project (LAPSSET).
With the discovery of oil and gas deposits in Kenya, the President invited Japanese companies to invest in the sector either through joint ventures with Kenyan companies or Public Private Partnership.
He assured investors that Kenya safe for business and investment, given the Government’s business-friendly reforms.
Trade between the two countries grew from $557million in 2008 to $1.1 billion in 2013.
Kenya’s main exports to Japan include tea, coffee, fruits, and nuts, fresh and frozen fish, fresh cut flowers, raw tobacco, sisal and textile fibres, handicrafts, semi-precious stones and soda ash, while imports from Japan include motor vehicles, auto parts and engines, iron and steel products, machinery and rubber tyres.
The President said while Kenya and Japan are already trading in various goods and services, there was room for expansion of business and investment opportunities.
He said the Japanese partnership with Kenya has been strengthened by recent initiatives such as the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), which has been an engine of growth as it promotes trade and investment in the priority areas of infrastructure and agriculture.
President Kenyatta said TICAD also encourages the active engagement of the private sector to stimulate the creation of regional value chains, employment, and the exchange of technology and know-how, as well as to strengthen sectors with strong potential, such as tourism, to support Africa’s sustained economic growth.
“We welcome proposals on how we can improve the current level of support to the private sector. We stand ready at all times to facilitate trade enquiries, product promotion fairs and investment forums,” President Kenyatta said.
Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed outlined ongoing efforts to bridge the trade imbalance between Kenya and Japan. The CS said some of the areas include value addition of Kenya’s agricultural produce through heavy investment in local manufacturing industries.
Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat Acting Director-General Gituro Wainaina discussed investment opportunities in Kenya’s mega infrastructure projects.
President Kenyatta later held a series of meeting with senior Government and business leaders. He held talks with JICA’s President Akihiko Tanaka, KEIDANREN’s Co-Chair of Sub-Saharan Africa Mr. Yutaka Kase and Mitsui Company’s CEO Mr. Tatsuo Yasunaga.
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