Kenya and South Africa have faced diplomatic tensions due to strict visa regulations; however the recent launch of the Kenya/South Africa joint business council is seen as a step towards enabling relations between the two countries.
“The relationship has been there but [the] business partnership has not been very strong,” says Laban Onditi, vice- national chairman at the Kenya National Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
He elaborates that the chamber will give Kenyan and South African business people access to each other.
Onditi added: “The role of the chamber is to enhance investment and trade, and where the difficulties come is because of the trade barrier, that is where the governments come in, the main core issues of the business council are to address barriers existing in the business community.”
For instance South Africa had only been issuing visas for one month single entry and according to Onditi that was not conducive for a business environment hence that was discussed when the agreement was signed.
“From now on, South Africa will be issuing one year double entry to three years, depending on the potential of businesses that are carrying on within; this is going to open the continuous movement of people.”
The vice-national chairman is pleased with how the visa issue was resolved and how this will allow for faster movement of parcels and goods as anybody who is doing potential business in South Africa can now go to the Kenyan chamber and get a recommendation where the individual will get one year - double entry as opposed to the one month single entry.
“The listed some of the issues that we would like to be addressed because it is our greatest partner in terms of doing business and they [South Africa] have done well in terms of value chain in the agribusiness and which Kenya we have not been doing good,” said Onditi.
The areas of investment they have identified are: agribusiness, energy, tourism, technology transfer and innovation.
“In Kenya there is less participation of the university and the success in innovation that can be commercialised to enterprise, there must be serious linkage within the private sector and the university so that any innovation realised can be taken for deeper research.”
The countries also discussed the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area which was launched in June, an integrated market across Africa for trade. Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are the largest economical communities on the continent.