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Kenya urged to embrace COMESA

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 21 – Kenya should exploit opportunities that exist in the wider Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region to cushion it from the losses and challenges that are being presented by the ongoing global recession.

Trade Minister Amos Kimunya said on Tuesday that with a membership of 19 countries and a population of over 500 million, COMESA presents an expanded market for Kenyan goods and services.

“Our region has not been affected as much by the global economic downturn, so if we can think of exploiting that extra market within the wider COMESA which right now we are not doing very well, then we would be able to shield ourselves from the recession that has hit the UK (United Kingdom) and the US,” he reckoned.

The minister revealed that the COMESA member states were actively pursuing the merger with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which would also provide an opportunity for Kenya to diversify her exports.

Addressing members of American Chamber of Commerce of Kenya, Mr Kimunya expressed confidence that the country’s economy may recover quickly and surpass this year’s under three percent growth projections.

While acknowledging that the financial crisis would slow down Kenya’s growth rate, he was optimistic that the country was in a strong position to weather the downturn and continue with its positive growth that was witnessed a few years ago.

The government estimates that the economy will grow at between two and three percent but the African Development Bank (ADB) has reviewed that figure upwards to 5.5 percent.

“I am seeing signs of earlier recovery. ADB has started re-evaluating those targets and we hope that as the markets pick up elsewhere we might just be lucky especially with more penetration within the region, then we might actually see better times than the two to three percent,” he added.

At the same function, the minister disclosed that preparation for the eighth forum of the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), which will be held in Kenya between August 4 and 6, were in top gear.

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Mr Kimunya said a steering committee, composed of various stakeholders in the government and the private sector has been formed to deal with the several aspects of the preparations of the meeting.

“The committee has been meeting since November 2008 and has had sittings with representatives from the US government,” he said adding that had been developed to provide information on the AGOA forum to all concerned parties.

The Act was launched in October 2000 and offers duty free and quota free market access to the US market through 6,000 product lines. Kenya was one of the first countries to be granted eligibility to export to the US under this facility.

However, it has only been able to export a few products specifically textiles and handcrafts due to demand and supply constraints.

The meeting will provide an occasion for government officials, private sector representatives and the civil society from the US and the 38 AGOA eligible countries to interact and exchange ideas on how best the opportunities created by AGOA can be fully exploited.

“Additionally, an exhibition will offer both the US and AGOA countries the chance to showcase their products with a view to concluding some business deals,” Mr Kimunya hoped.

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