Kenya Signs Trade Deal with the EU to Strengthen Continental Ties

Kenya and the European Union have inked a trade agreement, a significant achievement for Brussels as it aims to strengthen economic ties with Africa in the midst of competition from China.

President William Ruto presided over a ceremony in Nairobi on Monday 19th, to formally conclude the negotiations for the EU-Kenya Economic Partnership Agreement. Also in attendance was the Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua Trade CS Moses Kuria and the EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis.

Once ratified and implemented, the deal will grant Kenya tariff-free and quota-free access to the EU, which is its largest market, accounting for approximately one-fifth of its total exports.

“Today is a very proud moment for Kenya, and I believe a very proud moment for the European Union,” Trade CS Moses Kuria said after signing the accord with EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis.

Kenya primarily exports agricultural goods, including vegetables, fruits, tea, coffee, and cut flowers, with more than 70 percent of its cut flowers destined for Europe.

President Ruto highlighted the EU’s significance as a development partner for Kenya and expressed optimism that the agreement would provide a stable market and opportunities for the country’s farmers.

“It ensures a stable market for industrialists, for our farmers, and also industrialists in the European Union,” said Ruto.

This trade deal is the first comprehensive agreement between the EU and an African nation since 2016, as the EU seeks to counter China’s expanding Belt and Road initiative, including increasing investments in Kenya through its Global Gateway initiative.

Dombrovskis expressed that European Union (EU) companies have allocated 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) towards investments in Kenya over the last ten years. However, he emphasized that there is a significant desire and enthusiasm to expand business activities further in the country.

“With this deal in place, we have the right platform to do so,” he said.

In recent years, Western partners have been actively courting African nations as Russia and China gain increasing influence on the continent. The European Commission’s Executive Vice President, Dombrovskis, praised Kenya as a symbol of vitality and opportunity, recognizing its relative stability within a turbulent region.

This agreement between Kenya and the EU is the culmination of trade discussions that began around ten years ago between the EU and the East African Community (EAC). In 2014, the EU and the EAC, comprising Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and Tanzania at the time, concluded negotiations for an economic partnership agreement, but only Kenya ratified it.

However, Dombrovskis stated that the agreement remains open for other EAC members, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan to join.