NAIROBI, Kenya, May 9 – President Uhuru Kenyatta has reached out to Benin in his latest quest to expand the export market for Kenya’s products, including coffee, tea and fresh produce.
The President pitched for the new market for Kenyan exports when he held talks with President Patrice Talon of Benin that focused on deepening economic ties between Kenya and the West African nation.
He also spoke strongly on expanding intra-Africa trade, including through improved air services to better link African cities.
President Kenyatta met President Talon – who is on an official visit – at State House, Nairobi, and expressed the need for the two countries to increase their bilateral trade.
President Kenyatta has cultivated close working relationships with leaders from all corners of the continent to boost the integration of Africa. The meeting with the Benin leader is part of President Kenyatta’s Pan African focus to accelerate intra-Africa trade.
“Key to decreased dependence on western markets is optimal utilisation of our domestic markets thus boosting intra-African trade,” President Kenyatta said.
Currently, trade between Kenya and Benin is limited largely due to the disadvantage of geographical distance and absence of direct transport between the two countries.
President Talon said he wanted President Kenyatta to lead a campaign for greater access by African airlines into African capitals, saying it was easier to fly to France from Cotonou than to fly to neighbouring Niger.
“We need one to three strong African airlines, to be allowed to make these inter-city connections. Like Kenya Airways, like Ethiopian Airlines. This is important for our continent,” President Talon said.
Kenya Airways, the national carrier, already flies thrice a week between Nairobi and Cotonou.
In 2015, Kenya’s exports to Benin were valued at Sh377,354,552 while imports recorded from Benin were minimal.
Kenya’s major exports to Benin include; medicines, sugar confectionery, jute and other textiles. Imports from Benin include liquefied propane and butane and paper.
The two leaders also discussed ways of enhancing the bilateral relations of the two countries and agreed to cooperate in areas such as training and capacity.
“Africa does not have to rely on other continents for its development,” President Kenyatta said.
President Talon is in the country on an official visit that will see him attend the African Trade Insurance Agency’s (ATI) Fourth Roundtable and the agency’s Annual General Meeting in Nairobi on May 10 and 11.
President Kenyatta said he fully backed Benin’s desire to host ATI’s regional office in Cotonou.
Foreign Ministry officials from the two countries will meet in the coming weeks to agree a joint commission of cooperation, under which areas of bilateral interest will be pursued.