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Why UAE Targets New Kenya Trade Deals

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) plans to sign a comprehensive economic partnership agreement with Kenya to consolidate its position as a gateway for global trade and investment.

The UAE said this week the deal with Kenya, alongside six other countries including India, Indonesia, Turkey, UK, Israel, South Korea and Ethiopia will widen its access in the emerging markets.

“These comprehensive agreements will help us get wider accessibility to those markets. We are talking about 10 per cent of the global trade and 60 percent of the global populations of those eight countries,” said Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade in a statement.

“These countries were chosen on the basis of a few criteria, including knowledge-based economy, domestic consumption, international businesses in those countries, and their historical relations with the UAE.”

Kenyan trade officials could not immediately be reached for comment on details of the pact.

But Dubai said the Arab emirate, which has successfully ploughed oil wealth into other sectors from tourism to real estate, wants to double non-oil trade and investments with Kenya.

Dubai, as the commercial and trading hub of the Middle East, has long been regarded as the gateway of trade between Kenya and the rest of the world.

But the relationship between the two countries has been marked by huge trade imbalance in favour of the UAE.

Dubai business leaders told Business Daily earlier that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has singled out Kenya — East Africa’s largest economy — as “one of the most promising business partners for Dubai” in the coming years.

“We are looking for a win-win partnership with Kenya,” said Hamad Buamim, president and CEO of the Dubai Chamber, in 2019. “We believe Dubai holds the key to unlocking Kenya’s economic potential.”

Kenya is also pursuing a new bilateral trade deal with the UK post-Brexit. It hopes that new deal would cushion her from potential hits after partner States of the EAC failed to conclude an Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU.

Separately Kenya is hoping to conclude a free trade agreement with the US.