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Kenya lays measures to protect economy

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 9 – The government said on Monday that it is undertaking a number of measures to ensure that businesses in the country survive the negative impact of the on-going global economic crunch.

Trade Minister Amos Kimunya said that these measures include the recent cabinet approvals allowing the transformation of Kenya’s Export Processing Zones into all inclusive Special Economic Zones in accordance with Vision 2030.

He said the government began by trying to understand where the country’s businessmen are most vulnerable before embarking on trying to establish the most appropriate measures to take.

“We can’t stop the crunch from affecting us but what we can do is to mitigate on the effects on our people, by finding out… where are they most vulnerable? Do they have the information on how to react? What are the safety nests?” he said.

Speaking during a seminar on doing business in Sweden, Kimunya cited the event as part of a government initiative to ensure business thrives in the country, despite the crunch.

However, a number of businessmen who spoke to Capital Business from different sectors in the country said the government is not yet doing enough.

A businessman in the tourism industry blamed the government of being “reactive as opposed to active” in trying to steer business forward in the country, while an official in one of the government’s business arms accused some ministers and politicians of being stumbling blocks in this initiative.

However, Minister Kimunya expressed optimism that the increased activity between the government and its trade partners which have seen a number of trade delegations visit the country in the recent past, is a positive sign.

He called on Kenyan businessmen to take full advantage of these opportunities to seek partnerships that will grow their businesses.

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“The trade balance between Kenya and Sweden is in favour of Sweden. I don’t see why we cannot work together to bridge this gap and become equal partners,” the Trade Minister said.

In 2004, imports from Sweden to Kenya stood at $27.2 million and rose to $62.19 million dollars in 2007.

Swedish Vice Minister for Trade Gunnar Wieslanader, who is in the country, said opportunities for increased trade between the two countries existed in areas such as pyrethrum, coffee, fish products and cut flowers among other products.

“A Swedish cannot survive without taking tea or coffee. We are actually the second largest consumers of coffee in the world, and Kenya has some of the greatest tea and coffee.” Mr Wieslanader said.

Mr Kimunya pointed out that Kenya’s coffee production is lower than those of her competitors in the Swedish market.

“We can therefore expand our export volumes significantly,” he said.

Mr Wieslanader is heading a trade delegation from Swedish companies on a three day business visit in Kenya.

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