An interview with High Commissioner of Kenya
Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
High Commissioner of Kenya Prof. Julius Bitok gave an exclusive interview to Centreline and Diplomatic News Agency (DNA). The high Commissioner talked about a variety of issues including trade, economy, culture, tourism etc. He especially talked about his stay in Pakistan. Here are excerpts from his interview.
1: 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 established first diplomatic ties. The two sides have long followed the principle of sensor of friendship in mutual respect. Kenya and Pakistan have been collaborating for long in various fields of development.
Pakistan needs to further reach out to Kenya and engage the business community through institutions like the Chambers of Commerce and industry.
We have specific mandate to improve bilateral relationship and strengthen trade cultural and political relationship with a great nation of Pakistan.
A relationship has been cordial before and even after inception of Kenya High Commission in 1984 bilateral trade has risen over the time for 200 million USD 10 years ago to over 650 million USD in 2018.
2: Are you satisfied with the current trade volume between the two countries? How it can further be improved?
The current trade volume as indicated is quite impressive and we have launched plans to double the volume of trade to 1 billion USD in 5 years. Some of the undertaking to this end includes aggressive campaign online and print media to engage, inform and promote products that are easily available in Kenya which include coffee, horticultural products, fruits, vegetables, flowers, edible oil among others. Kenya and Pakistan held a Joint Ministarial Commission in 2017 in Islamabad. During the forum a number of MOUs and bilateral agreements were signed. First ever trade and investment conference was held in Karachi in May 2018, which proved to be a great success.
3: Can you share with our readers your personal efforts that you have made to strengthen Pakistan-Kenya Relations?
We want to aggressively engage with Pakistan business community. This year I personally visited 7 chambers of commerce and industry in sectors of interest to Kenya namely rice, surgical instruments, textiles and pharmaceuticals. I am also closely in contact with Pakistani authorities for direct flights of Kenya Airways (KQ) to Karachi.
By looking at the success to first Pakistan Kenya trade conference, we intend to hold such conferences each year on a regular basis.
4: How do you see business climate in Pakistan? What do you think government needs to do to further make the investment environment conducive for foreign investment?
The business environment in Pakistan has been improving over time. Although it is moving at a slow pace, things still seem to be hopeful. Improvements are required at regulation and procedural ends. Among other things, Pakistan still needs to make its visa policies more flexible for Kenyan nationals visiting Pakistan. The countries tax regime is still prohibitive especially on value added imports.
The efforts of the Government of Pakistan in fighting terrorism and corruption menace have been commendable. This can increase direct foreign invest remarkably.
5: What prospects Pakistani businessmen would have in case they would like to invest in Kenya?
Kenya has been aggressive in the region in terms of opening up the trade environment for the business. The following benefits for investors accrue:
- The export processing zones authority extending all benefits that accrues to investors in the zone including tax-free holiday.
- A wide market access with total population of 47 million and 170 million people in the East Africa Community or COMESA are 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 market with goods and services.
- Sub-regional economic communities like EAC, SADC, ECOWAS, COMESA etc are driving towards integrating into one free trade area thus releasing a dream of Africa being a single market and one economy.
- Kenya is politically stable country with 5 years term of regular elections. The government is therefore predictable and good for investor.
- Kenya constitution guarantees against expropriation of private property and there is no foreign exchange control on repatriation of capital profits and interest.
- All the above instruments and tools that the government of Kenya lays on disposal of investor who wish to take advantage to invest and trade.
- Kenya is strategically located. By investing in Kenya one is able to access countries in Kenya’s Hinterland: Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, South Sudan.
6: We believe many Kenya students come to Pakistan for higher education. Can you share some details about educational links between the two countries?
Kenya is beneficiary of Pakistan Technical Assistance Program and scholarships are offered by the government of Pakistan. There are about 100 Kenyan students studying in Pakistan in the fields of medicine, engineering pharmacy, business and law.
- Your impressions about Pakistan?
Pakistan is a great country and what the international media says about it is just not true. It is a peaceful country full of opportunities. It has rich culture, music, art and poetry. The real treasure in Pakistan is its warm, hardworking, friendly and welcoming people. Pakistan is faced with a view challenges related to peace and security but Pakistan is a valued world partner in the fight against Global threat of terrorism. Kenya has confidence in Pakistan’s government capabilities to overcome these challenges. We shall in this regard continue to work in peace, security and socio-economic development of Kenya and Pakistan so that our people can live in respect and dignity.
It is indeed a great honor to work in Pakistan as we engage to raise the bilateral relations.