Kenya says it is ready to meet the standards of Saudi Arabian authorities, in a bid to reclaim one of the lucrative markets in the Middle East.
President Uhuru Kenyatta told his guest, visiting Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, of Kenya’s intention to increase meat exports to the Gulf country.
A dispatch from State House on Wednesday indicated that President Kenyatta invited Saudi Arabian investors to help build Kenya’s infrastructure, under the Public-Private Partnerships (PPP), Nairobi’s strategy to avoid public debt. The President also said Kenya will be ready to export more meat to the Middle East country.
“Kenya is an ally of the future. We share various interests in a number of issues, especially regional security and trade. We can work on a business forum to bring together our business community as we work together and support each other,” President Kenyatta proposed, according to State House.
The pledge on meat came just two days after the re-launch of the once-dead Kenya Meat Commission (KMC), now run under the Department of Defence. At the relaunch in Athi River, Machakos County, the President said the government stepped in to protect the factory from greedy middlemen.
“The sector is the source of livelihood for millions of Kenyans and the market forces have not lived to our expectations especially in times of drought and therefore, it was necessary to get the government involved as a driver together with existing private sector players,” he said on Monday.
Efficiency will just be one hurdle the KMC must meet to earn from the promising Saudi Arabian market. Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, had in the past banned Kenyan meat exports citing sub-standard hygienic conditions. The ban was lifted in 2016, but Kenya could still not meet the conditions set. An earlier report from the Ministry of Agriculture indicated that Kenya could sell as many as 2.5 million goats to Saudi Arabia during the months of Haj pilgrimage. The opportunity was however lost to rivals like New Zealand, Australia and Djibouti. In 2019, Kenya earned Sh7 billion selling to other markets in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
The visiting Saudi Foreign Minister also toured Tanzania where he met with President Samia Suluhu. In Kenya, the Prince had earlier met with Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo and discussed the possibility of signing a non-double taxation agreement.
A dispatch seen by TheNation indicated that a non-double taxation agreement should help both countries cut red tape on business transactions as well as enable investments. The agreement on taxation is, however, yet to be drafted, meaning officials will have to meet under the Joint Commission on Cooperation to agree on the terms.
Kenya is planning to host a business forum with Saudi business people later in the year to present the idea of Public-Private Partnerships, the dispatch said. The two countries are however expected to sign an agreement on political cooperation soon.
Some 30,000 Kenyans live in Saudi Arabia, working both as skilled and semi-skilled labourers. Riyadh has previously come under spotlight for doing little to protect domestic workers, following reports of mistreatment. At State House, President Kenyatta called for a forum of investors from both sides to work “together to secure their shared interests.”
“We need to look at different partnerships to be sure we do not lose out. We are grateful for the development support Saudi Arabia gives us. We need to strengthen our partnerships in trade, business and investments. We also need to establish excellent initiatives, have outstanding agreements and strengthen our political network to enhance our bilateral relations,” the President said.
The Saudi Minister was accompanied by Dr Sami Abdullah al-Saleh, the Deputy Minister of State for African Countries Affairs.