In a bid to enhance trade relations between Kenya and Europe, the nominees for diplomatic postings appointed by Kenyan President William Ruto have expressed their commitment to prioritize the export of Kenyan agricultural products to European markets.
The nominees, who have been undergoing vetting by parliament since last week, aim to address the longstanding trade imbalance between the two regions.
Europe has traditionally served as a crucial market for a variety of Kenyan produce, notably including cut flowers, coffee, and tea. However, the diplomatic nominees recognize the need to tackle this issue, which is not only an economic concern but also a politically charged topic.
By focusing on expanding the export of Kenyan agricultural goods to European markets, the nominees hope to tap into new opportunities and strengthen trade ties. This endeavor aligns with President Ruto’s vision of boosting Kenya’s economy and promoting the growth of the agricultural sector.
Kenya’s nominee to France Betty Chebet said that Kenya will in December this year sign an economic partnership with France, a pact which she said will open the French market to Kenyan agricultural products thereby increasing the country’s foreign exchange.
“I will use my foreign expansive experience in foreign service to reduce the trade imbalance. My focus will be on three areas, healthcare, infrastructure and food insecurity,” Ms Chebet said.
President Ruto had, defying expectations, delayed appointing his new team of diplomats and chose to stay on with those appointed by his predecessor. Still, key positions in Europe will be manned by new envoys should MPs endorse them.
Currently, Kenya only exports French beans and flowers to France with the nominees expressing optimism that more products could soon be included in the list.
Mr Fred Matwanga who has been nominated to serve as ambassador in Italy told the committee that he will leverage on Italy’s vintage economic position in Europe to ensure that Kenya benefits.
Italy has the third largest economy in Europe and 8th globally and a member of the European Union.
“I will lobby on how they can support our economic agenda that is being pushed by our President,” Mr Matwanga said.
Stella Orina nominated to serve as ambassador in Germany said she willemploy a comprehensive strategy, do market surveys and customise Kenyan products to market demands in European countries.
“I will also ensure that there is value addition to our products before exports,” Ms Orina said.
Ms Narimas Ole Sein who has been nominated as Kenya’s next ambassador to Spain decried that Kenyan supplies to foreign markets are below the market demands saying there is need to upscale the export in order to satisfy the demands.
Ms Ole Sein pointed out that currently, Kenya is only able to supply 0.2 percent of the coffee that is needed in Spain and only 25 percent of avocado.
“I will get into bilateral agreements to be able to access the Spanish market. I will aggressively market our products there by attending trade fairs and exhibitions,” Mr Ole Sein told the lawmakers.
She pointed out that she will also do market intelligence to find out why Kenyan goods are not making it to the market.
“I don’t know why our goods are not making it there because the market is actually there and there is demand,” Ms Ole Sein said.
For Angeline Kavindu who has been nominated to serve in Sweden told MPs that herfocus if approved by the committee and the whole House will be on trade and investments, focus, youth and employment and climate change.
She said Kenya exports coffee, fruits and vegetables, apparels, tea and nuts to Sweden but decried that the market share is still very low.
For instance, she pointed out that coffee and fruit export stands at 3.7 percent while the rest of the products are below one percent.
Overall, she said Kenya earns only Ksh3.3 billion ($21.9 million) from her exports to Sweden while uses Ksh5.7 billion ($37.8 million) to import products from the same country.
“When you look at the statistics, we are already disadvantaged by Ksh2.4 billion ($15.9 million).
The committee which has retreated this weekend to write a report on the 27 nominees that it has been vetting for the last two weeks is set to present its report next week to the House for approval.