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The majority of Kenyan products go to Europe, with more than Sh130 billion worth of Kenyan goods being sold in the European Union each year.
The appetite of Europe’s 500 million consumers for Kenyan flowers, tea and beans has created hundreds of thousands jobs in Kenya, and represents more than a quarter of the country’s thriving export economy.
Since arriving in Africa some eight years ago I have seen a continent on the rise, participating in and benefiting from an accelerating global exchange of ideas, talent and goods. We welcome Kenya’s intention to strengthen its economic relations globally.
The European Union, together with its twenty-eight member states, is not only the largest purchaser of Kenyan goods, it is also Kenya’s most generous development partner. Those economic relations form the bedrock of our partnership for Kenyan prosperity.
Sustaining this partnership requires continued mutual respect and trust to ensure tomorrow’s jobs, exports and growth.
Kenya’s partnership with Europe remains dear to us, and is deep-rooted.
The combined GDP of European Union member states is among the highest in the world and many Kenyan exporters have their production processes, customer contacts and supply chains set up to cater for the European market.
At the same time, Europeans comprise half of the one million tourists that visit the country each year to see the beautiful wildlife, pristine beaches, and to soak up the East African culture and sun.
Next April’s Europe-Africa summit will be an important opportunity for deepening the relations, nurturing private sector investment and promoting jobs creation.
Long-term financing from the European Union at attractive rates, blended with grants in aid, will enable much larger development projects to get off the ground.
In soft loans, equity and grants, Europe is providing more than half of the financing for the new Lake Turkana wind project which will greatly enhance Kenya’s sustainable energy supply.
Innovation drives progress and is vital to help Kenya overcome future challenges.
For decades, the European Union has supported research and new approaches to increase food security for those in drought-prone areas and to help expand the supply of affordable energy around Kenya.
Long-term investment has changed the face of Kenya’s agriculture by producing drought-resistant cassava, innovative animal vaccines and by the eradication of the devastating rinderpest disease.
And much more can be achieved.
From animal skins to fish, Kenya and Africa can grow further by adding value to its production processes so it is exporting more than just natural resources and raw goods.
Kenya’s investment in political reform will pay enormous dividends, as we saw when peaceful elections boosted international confidence in Kenya.
Companies from Europe are amongst the top taxpayers to Kenya. European companies have stepped up their investment in the continent with an influx of regional headquarters and staff coming to Nairobi.
The European Union is steadfast in supporting African initiatives and African institutions to enhance Kenya’s and the region’s stability.
We are encouraged by Kenya’s leadership in the region and by the growing influence of IGAD, EAC, Comesa and the African Union.
The Economic Partnership is good for trade and investment in Kenya, and for Kenyan growth. It will ensure that Kenyan goods continue to enter Europe duty free and quota free.
And it will give Kenya legal certainty.
But the remaining details of the agreement need to be thrashed out urgently or else Kenyan producers risk missing out on an offer not matched by any other trading partner.
Today’s many talented and dynamic Kenyans are an inspiration.
They are looking forward, not back and know that Europe is a trusted, proven companion for the journey ahead in forging increased democratisation and, its close brother, economic prosperity.
Mr Briet is the European Union ambassador to Kenya
– Business Daily