President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday night held a State banquet for the visiting Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema at State House Nairobi, a high-profile ceremony also attended by Azimio-One Kenya flagbearer Raila Odinga.
Kenya and Zambia have agreed to work together towards removing barriers that hinder trade and investment between the people of the two countries.
President Kenyatta said his discussions with visiting Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema on Wednesday focused on opportunities to harness the strong bonds of friendship as well as the business and economic ties including the removal of obstacles to trade.
“In this context, we have agreed to address the prevailing bottlenecks, including addressing ourselves to a few tariff and non-tariff barriers that bar our people from enjoying the freedom of trade amongst themselves,” President Kenyatta said.
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President Kenyatta pointed out that he had also agreed with President Hichilema that the ministers responsible for trade of both countries will work together to expeditiously address the outstanding tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade.
“So this visit (by President Hichilema) is nothing more than a visit to reinforce and enhance the cooperation between our two countries as we seek to deepen that partnership for the mutual benefit of our respective people,” President Kenyatta said.
Noting that Kenya and Zambia were amongst the first two countries to sign and ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), President Kenyatta affirmed Kenya’s commitment to working with Zambia and other African countries in improving the ease of doing business.
“And I want to assure you that the Kenya Government will continue to work with its partners in Zambia and across the African continent to continuously remove barriers to trade, continue to improve the ease of doing business, continue to open our borders to our brothers and sisters across the continent,” the President said.
He encouraged Zambian investors to not only make Kenya their investment destination of choice but also to look to their Kenyan counterparts as their investment partners of choice.
On his part, President Hichilema concurred on the need for Kenya and Zambia to work together in eradicating obstacles to trade and investment between the two countries.
He said time has come for the two countries to trade directly between them instead of passing through a third party.
“…how strange it is that sometimes we (Zambia) trade in goods from Kenya through Europe and vice versa. Really? Does that make sense? Absolutely not. That’s what we want to fix.
“So President Kenyatta, thank you for giving us this opportunity to advance that path walked by those who came before us. We know you are doing it for the people of Kenya, the people of Zambia and for Africa,” President Hichilema said.
The Zambian leader emphasized the need to ensure that the agreements and MOUs signed were implemented as the two countries move to redefine the way they work with each other to lower the cost of doing business between them.