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Kibaki, Kagame to forge closer ties

NAIROBI, November 17- Kenya and Rwanda are expected to strengthen their bilateral relations when President Mwai Kibaki and Paul Kagame meet this week.

President Mwai Kibaki will on Tuesday begin a three-day state visit to Rwanda during which several Memoranda of Understanding will be signed.

“During the visit a number of agreements will be signed in the spirit of the East African Community,” a statement from the Presidential Press Service said.

The two countries are expected to also sign other pacts on Tourism, Wildlife and Forestry to cater for training of the Rwandans in the hospitality industry as well as in the field of forestry and wildlife management.

Kenya will also provide training for medical personnel once the two Heads of State sign an agreement on health, while a revision of the agreement on Agriculture and Livestock to provide for research and exchange programmes through institutes like the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute; the Kenya Medical Research Institute and veterinary institutions is also expected.

“Rwanda has asked Kenya to provide English teachers under a technical assistance and exchange programme after Rwanda adopted English as the official language,” the statement further said.

Being a landlocked country, Rwanda relies heavily on the Port of Mombasa for its importation and exportation of goods. With the Kenya Ports Authority operating on a 24-hour basis, the volume of trade with Rwanda is expected to increase which will in turn spur activity at the port.

Rwanda is also of strategic importance to Kenya. The proposed extension of the Kenya Pipeline from Mombasa to Rwanda and the proposed railway line are projected to provide easier access and communication to the Great Lakes Region and the hinterland.

Kenya’s exports to Rwanda include petroleum products, assembled trailers, footwear, plastic piping, leather, newsprint and iron sheets among others. The balance of trade is still in favour of Kenya although there has been tremendous growth in investment opportunities between the two countries.

The growth has been attributed to the Public Private Partnerships that have been entered into by the two countries over the last few years.

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Despite the development however, government officials and the business community have conceded that more efforts need to be made to address the issues that hinder the smooth running of business and trade.

They say that the two governments should provide an enabling environment for the private sector to operate in.

Both Kenya and Rwanda have expressed their commitment to partner with other EAC member states to market themselves as a regional bloc that will fully enhance their competitiveness, improve their ability to deal with common challenges as well as negotiate as for better terms.

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