Kenya will host an East African Israeli trade and cultural Expo next month aimed at improving existing ties between Israel and the regional economic bloc, a Kenya’s senior official said .
Trade Minister Ali Mwakwere said the Expo will provide a platform to link Israeli investors and traders with their counterparts in the East African region.
“The Expo will strengthen the already existing cordial relations between Israeli and East Africa and particularly Kenya as it will provide a window to what investment opportunities are currently available,” Mwakwere told journalists in Nairobi.
The three day Expo is expected to attract over 10,000 visitors from all over the East African community bloc.
Mwakwere said that bilateral trade between Kenya and Israel in 2011 stood at $150 million but it’s heavily in favour of Israel. “Due to the fact that Kenya exports are mostly primary products, Kenya’s share of the trade is only 20 percent of total trade,” he said.
He added that Kenyan exports mainly consist of fish products, wool, fruits, leather and tea while imports from Israel comprise of finished goods such as agricultural machinery, irrigation equipment, textile, chemicals, aircraft parts and
medicine. The trade minister said the Expo will be used to tackle existing bottlenecks that Kenya faces in its quest to increase exports to Israel.
“Our main challenge is the poor communication links between the 2 nations especially the lack of direct flights connecting the countries and little knowledge about each other’s markets,” Mwakwere said.
“We have had cases where trade in perishable goods especially fruits has been hampered due to long transportation times which involves detours through other nations,” he said. “Kenya Airways is currently carrying out preparations in order to meet requirements to begin direct flights to Israel in order to reduce transportation hurdles,” Mwakwere said.
“It will help forge closer links as investors from Israeli and East Africa will form partnerships in order to increase trade volume,” Haskel said. “The Israeli government is also considering giving incentives to Kenya so that it can increase its exports in order to bridge the trade deficit,” he said. Haskel added that approximately 4,000 Israelis visited Kenya in 2011, “but the number should increase when direct flights are established,” he added.
“The Expo will communicate what Israel has to offer to the East African region and what opportunities are available in Israel,” he said. The envoy added that over 60 percent of his country’s exports are with its traditional partners, U.S. and Europe, but the Israeli government has made a decision to diversify its exports to emerging nations including Kenya.
“We hope to tap into the region’s growing middle class who present a huge opportunity in terms of trade and cultural exchanges for both nations,” Haskel said. He added that plans are at an advanced stage to form the Kenya - Israeli Chamber of Commerce in order to increase the volume of trade between the two countries.
Kenya’s Ambassador to Israel Lt General Augustine Njoroge said that Israel has excelled in many fields including agriculture and technology which could be adapted by Kenya.
“The Expo will expose Kenyan investors to the latest technology which Israel has used to leverage its limited natural resources to make the country a high income country,” Njoroge said. “Kenya will learn modern technologies especially in agriculture, dairy farming, medical and security in order to harness Kenya’s largely untapped resources,” the envoy added.
“Already, fish farming which has taken root in Kenya’s hinterlands was borrowed from Israel,” he said. Njoroge said that Kenya is positioning itself as an economic hub of the East African region by investing heavily in infrastructure such as roads and energy. He added that Christian pilgrims from Kenya visiting Israel have cemented the close the cordial relationships existing between the two countries.