SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY HON. UHURU KENYATTA, C.G.H., PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA AND COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCES AT THE INAUGURAL CHINA INTERNATIONAL IMPORT EXPO AT THE SHANGHAI INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION CENTER, CHINA ON 5TH NOVEMBER, 2018
Your Excellency, Xi Jinping, President of The People’s Republic of China,
Your Excellency, the First Lady, Madam Peng Liyuan,
Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government Present,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to join you for the opening of this historic China International Import Expo. Let me start by expressing my appreciation to you, Your Excellency, and the Peoples’ Republic of China for the warm welcome accorded to me and my delegation since our arrival in Shanghai.
This Expo brings together over one hundred and thirty (130) countries, two thousand eight hundred (2,800) enterprises and more than 150,000 buyers who will use this platform as a medium to advance trade interests, and build networks for future business partnerships.
I thank Your Excellency, for your commitment to economic cooperation and readiness to open up your market to the rest of the world. This aligns well with the vision of shared prosperity.
This Expo is a fitting launch-pad for growing trade cooperation between China and Africa. It is an important signal to the world that China remains open for business despite the growing wave of trade protectionism.
The Expo comes at a time when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is facing unprecedented challenges. I congratulate you, President Xi Jinping, for your leadership in advocating for strengthening of rule-based global trade.
The relationship between Africa in general and Kenya in particular, and China dates back to the silk-road and the expedition of Admiral Zheng He. In the recent past, this relationship has grown in important ways. Kenya is a part of the One Belt, One Road Initiative, and China is a key partner that is supporting my administration in building strong foundation for accelerated growth.
It is this strong partnership that made the historic Standard Gauge Railway a reality in Kenya. Our natural deep-water sea port of Mombasa is now connected to the hinterland by the Standard Gauge Railway, making the transportation of produce from production to markets, seamless. We look forward to a continued partnership that facilitates the extension of the SGR to the rest of East Africa. This will make the transportation of goods and services from East Africa to and from China seamless.
While Kenya, and the rest of Africa welcome partnerships in all areas, we seek to give priority to trade and investment opportunities. We also seek to participate in global trade as a means to grow our industrial and technological capacity, to create jobs and to achieve the continental growth ambitions articulated in the Africa Union Agenda 2063.
I am delighted that Chinese companies are increasingly growing more confident and taking up opportunities that Africa presents. That is the way to go. Yesterday, Mr. President, I had occasion to meet representatives from a number of companies that are in the process of setting up in Kenya. One of these, the Guangdong Silk-Tex Group seeks to start a silk industry in Kenya, right from farming and producing the silk, to adding value, and export. This investment will create 300,000 jobs and initiate cocoon farming covering more than 200,000 acres.
Such investments offer mutual benefits: they generate jobs, create a value chain and guarantee favourable returns on investment. I urge you, Mr. President, to strongly support these win-win ventures.
China now ranks as the number one trading partner with Kenya accounting for 17.2% of Kenya’s total trade with the World.
Between 2007-2017, total trade between Kenya and China grew more than eighty-fold from USD 471.6 million in 2007 to USD 3.88 billion in 2017. But the trade is heavily skewed in favor of China. In 2017, Kenya exported goods worth USD 96.88 million to China and imported goods worth USD 3.79 billion.
It is important to correct the existing trade imbalance to enable a fairer share of the benefits of trade. Africa welcomes this EXPO as an important step towards closing the gap in this imbalance.
I am happy to inform you that I am accompanied by a business delegation of more than one hundred persons seeking to tap into the opportunities presented by this Expo. We have brought some of Kenya’s best products to this Expo. I invite you to visit our pavilion and sample our fruits, vegetables and our world-renowned coffee and tea as well as some of our crafts.
Allow me to share a few suggestions on how we can boost Sino-Africa trade and embrace a win-win framework where the benefits of international trade are shared between China and Africa.
Africa needs a reduction or elimination of tariffs to enable access of our products to your market.
We would like to propose an initiative that is designed to give preferential access to African goods, as a means to stimulate the growth of Africa’s export industries. Such an initiative could begin with a few countries on a pilot basis.
To facilitate increased exports for African Agricultural products, China may consider providing technical assistance to Sanitary and Phyto Sanitary (SPS) Institutions in Africa to enable these countries comply with Chinese SPS standards and other international requirements.
China could also support trade promotion initiatives aimed at exposing African exporters to the Chinese market.
This will allow for business networking, enable African companies to showcase and demonstrate their latest products and services, and also enable them to meet with industry partners and customers. In this context, I am pleased to confirm that my delegation will participate in the International Horticultural Exhibition that will take place in Beijing from 29th April to 7th October, 2019.
One of Africa’s greatest assets is its bio-diversity. A deliberate effort should be made to encourage increased tourism by Chinese nationals to the continent’s numerous holiday destinations. Besides leisure, tourism offers opportunity for cultural exchanges between our peoples; and will be a tangible quick win that is mutually beneficial for our trading relationship.
We would like to see Chinese firms manufacturing in Africa and exporting to the rest of the world.
I am very pleased to acknowledge and appreciate the more than 200 Chinese companies with investments in Kenya.
I would like to encourage more firms to establish joint ventures with Kenyan entrepreneurs and to increase the content of locally produced goods and services in their projects and industries. This will lend support to my Governments’ Big 4 Agenda that seeks to boost investments in manufacturing, food security, affordable housing and universal health care.
As I conclude, I wish to thank China for its strong and growing support to Kenya. I wish to assure you and the Chinese people that Kenya is open and safe for business and investments. Kenya has a diversified economy and there are limitless opportunities to invest and do joint ventures in construction, agriculture, infrastructure, ICT and financial services. In addition, Kenya has one of the most conducive business environments in Africa.
Since 2014, Kenya has leapt from position 136 in 2014 to position 61 in 2018, out of 190 countries in the World Bank ranking in the Ease of Doing Business. This constitutes a rise of 75 positions in 4 years. It is an ideal private-sector driven investment destination and a gateway to the rest of Africa.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my sincere hope that this Expo will lead to a significant increase in trade flows between our countries, and provide an opportunity for all of us to learn from China’s remarkable growth experience. I also hope that business delegates will finalize business deals, sign joint venture agreements and undertake several other trade collaborations.
We look forward to great engagements, great partnerships and increased trade with you all as we seek to meet the aspirations and dreams of our people.