, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 28 – While growing up, Sidi Aliyu from Nigeria thought all that existed in Kenya was animals and parks. Nothing close to any serious business like manufacturing.
“But I was shocked when I came to Kenya for the first time and got to realize what actually Kenya is all about. The diversity here is amazing. I mean, you have a lot of products being manufactured and spread across the East African region and it’s high time they start being sold more in Nigeria. Nigeria is a heavy importer,” says Aliyu who is the Director of the Nigeria Export Promotion Council.
I speak with him on the sidelines of a business forum in Nairobi, attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his visiting Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari.
And just like he was, many Kenyans and Nigerians don’t understand what business potential the other country holds but have lived to stick to beliefs.
“A lot of us still rely on the stereotyping that has been made to create a sort of a hindrance to our common unity in terms of economy. But for the few businessmen from Kenya who are in Nigeria you can hear a lot of success stories, and vice versa. A lot on barriers can be dealt with and I believe these conversations will take us to the right direction,” Aliyu says.
While addressing the forum which included the business community from the two countries, President Buhari noted the need to hasten and deal with all the non tariff barriers adding that it was time to start benefiting from the already passed crucial bilateral trade agreements.
“Although I am in the land of Uhuru, I doubt if it is yet Uhuru for our prospective business people who still encounter some business restrictions as well as registration of their businesses,” President Buhari said amidst laughter from the audience, “Our business people should be allowed to operate under the ambience of law.”
President Kenyatta on his part pledged to work with the private sector and deal with their challenges and help open the markets.
He mentioned that it was time the two countries helped connect businesses not only between Kenya and Nigeria but West and East African continent.
“We hope that following your engagement with the Kenyan business community during my last visit to Nigeria in 2014 and during this event, there will be tangible benefits that translate into real business. It is important that private sector plays its rightful role while the government delivers on policy,” Kenyatta said.
Kenya and Nigeria have agreed to establish the Joint Trade Committee, which will address issues affecting the trade relations.
Kenya’s exports to Nigeria in 2014 were worth Sh2.4 billion ($26 million) while imports were worth Sh698 million ($7.4 million) in the same period.
It exports to Nigeria include tea, soap, jute, medicaments, automatic data processing machines, paper and paper products, textile, Electrical machinery and medicaments.