High Commissioner of Kenya talks to Centreline & DNA, Ansar Mahmood Bhatti, Let Us Begin With Pakistan, Kenya Relations. How Would You Describe Political, Economic And Cultural Relations Between The Two Countries?
Kenya and Pakistan are good friends. Our relationship started long before we forged diplomatic ties. The two sides have long followed the principles of sincere friendship and mutual respect. Kenya and Pakistan have for long been collaborating in various fields of development. There is however a strong feeling that Pakistan’s presence in Kenya is marginal. It is high time that Pakistan reached out to Kenya and Kenya is ready to embrace Pakistan. To realize greater and enhanced relations between Pakistan and Kenya, Pakistan could consider engaging Kenya’s business community through credible institutions like Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
We have specific mandate to improve bilateral relations, and strengthen trade, cultural and political relations with this great nation of Pakistan. Our relations have been cordial before and even after inception of Kenya High Commission in 1984. Bilateral trade has risen over time from 200 million dollars ten years ago to over 650 million dollars in 2015
Are You Satisfied With The Current Trade Volume Between The Two Countries? How Can It Further Be Improved?
The current trade volumes (approximately USD 650 million) as indicated are far from satisfactory. We have launched plans bilaterally and at firm level to double the volume of trade to over 1 Billion USD in 5 years. Some of the undertakings to this end include:
Aggressive campaigns online and print media to engage inform and promote products that are easily available in Kenya besides tea. They include: coffee, horticultural produce-fruits, vegetables and flowers, edible oils among others
The Mission has a transformative agenda to enhance exchange of trade delegations, attendance of shows and exhibitions in each others’ countries
On a bilateral level, Pakistan will be hosting the Joint Ministerial Commission in April, 2017 here in Islamabad. During that forum, a number of MOUs, bilateral agreements are expected to be signed.
On the side lines of the JMC, we also intend to have the first ever, Kenya trade & investment Conference in Pakistan. A lot of people to people contacts and B2Bs will be held. Presentations will be made by senior Government Officials. It is an important Forum through which clarifications, deals and enhanced relations can sprout.
Kenya has relaxed the visa regime. Pakistanis get visa at port of entry. Even better still, one can get it online by simply visiting the websitewww.immigration.go.ke
Can You Share With Our Readers Your Personal Efforts That You Have Made To Strengthen Pakistan-Kenya Relations
We want to aggressively engage with the Pakistan Business community. This year alone I have visited more than 5 branches of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry and a lot more individual Companies in sectors of interest to Kenya: Rice, surgical instruments, textiles, Pharmaceuticals etc.
We are at an advanced stage of preparations for Kenya’s participation in the first Kenya Pakistan Trade and Investment Conference to be held on the sidelines of the Joint Ministerial Commission, early 2017. All these are efforts aimed at strengthening the bilateral relations.
How Do You See The Business Climate In Pakistan? What Do Think The Government Needs To Do To Further Make The Investment Environment Conducive For Foreign Investment?
The Business environment in Pakistan has been improving over time. However, a lot still needs to be improved. It would include improvements in regulatory and procedural hiccups. The visa regime is still too inflexible for Kenyans travelling to Pakistan. Visas take a while before final approval. It would be inappropriate and inconvenient for Kenya to mount reciprocal action on Pakistanis going to Kenya who ordinarily get visa on arrival.
The country’s tax regime is still too prohibitive especially on value added imports.The terrorism threats have also been rearing the ugly head over time. We appreciate the efforts the Government has put in fighting this menace. With time, this should be eradicated. This would built the investor confidence in the interest of the nation
What Prospects Pakistan Businessmen Would Have In Case They Invest In Kenya?
Kenya has been aggressive in the region in terms of opening up the trade environment for business. It has the following benefits for investors:
- The Export Processing Zones Authority extends all benefits that accrue to investors in the zone including tax free holidays
- A wide market access with total population in the country (44 million people) and 140 million people in the East Africa Community countries or COMESA total population of 470 million people
- Preferential trade treatment: Kenya has bilateral and multilateral trade agreement with several countries and regions. An investor in Kenya will therefore have access to accessing the EAC, COMESA and AGOA markets with goods and services
- The above regional economic communities should eventually integrate into one free trade area thus realising the dream of Africa being a single market and one economy. As this huge market shapes up Pakistan should be an active participant
- Kenya is politically stable country with five year term of regular elections. The environment is therefore predictable and good for investors
- The Presence of County Governments-47 in total avails a ready internal market for investors for investors who wish to invest in the country’s regions.
- Kenya constitution guarantees against expropriation of private property and there are no foreign exchange controls on repatriation of capital, profits and interest
- All the above are instruments and tools that the Government of Kenya lays at the disposal of investors who wish to take advantage to invest/trade
- Kenya is strategically located. By investing in Kenya, one is able to access the countries in Kenya’s hinterland: Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Dr Congo, among others
We Believe Many Kenyan Students Come To Pakistan For Higher Education. Can You Share Some Details About Educational Links Between The Two Countries?
Kenya is a beneficiary of Pakistan Technical Assistance program scholarships offered by the Government of Pakistan. There are about 100 Kenyan students studying in Pakistan I the fields of: Medicine, Engineering, and pharmacy. We have engaged the Pakistan Government with request to enhance the numbers.
Kenya Happens To Be A Favourite Destination For Tourists When It Comes To Safari, Why?
Kenya is a land of the safari. It is home to the big Five: The lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo.
Tourism is a top foreign exchange earner for Kenya, actually only next to tea. We have special offers for tourism for those interested in visiting Kenya. The country has something special for every visitor ranging from: Premium wildlife safaris especially the great wildlife migration in August/September, Pristine tea plantations, beaches, trekking, and conference tourism, sporting, cultural among others. Nairobi for instance is the only capital city in the world where you will find a game park less than 5 kilometers from the city centre
What Are Your Impressions About Pakistan?
Pakistan is a great country and what the media says about it is not true. It is a peaceful country full of opportunities. It is rich in culture, Music, art, poetry. The real treasure in Pakistan is in its warm, hard working, friendly and welcoming people.
Whereas peacekeeping and peace enforcement should remain the primary responsibility of the United Nations, peace is a collaborative effort and closer co-operation between regional organizations should be encouraged. In this regard, Kenya recognizes Pakistanis contribution in conflict prevention, management and resolution. Kenya appreciates the large Pakistani presence of peace keepers in several countries of Africa. Like Pakistan, Kenya supports the principle of multilateralism through the United Nations (U.N.) and believes that the latter should play a central role in all issues related to the maintenance of global peace and security. On regional issues, Kenya supports Pakistan in its efforts of peaceful resolution to the Kashmir issue.
Pakistan is faced with a lot of challenges, especially terrorism related ones. Peace and stability does not come easy. But Pakistan is a valued world partner in the fight against the global threats of terrorism. Kenya has all the confidence in Pakistan Government’s capability to overcome these challenges. We shall in this regard continue to work for peace, security and socio-economic development of Africa and Pakistan so that our people can live in respect and dignity.
It is and has indeed been an honour to work in Pakistan as we engage to raise the bilateral relations.