Delegates from Kenya and Nigeria discussed the possibility of a duty-free zone for the importing and exporting of goods between the regions in the hope of opening up trade in Africa.
These discussions happened as Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s three-day trip to the East African country drew to a close.
“We have agreed that we will improve the data gathering in terms of the trade and investment going on between the two countries, that derives directly from there being a focal point – we would like to see that we have as much accurate information available to us so we can know whether the interaction at a higher level is being realised on a business to business frontier,” said Kiprono Kittony, Kenya Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Kittony broached the issue of the ban list in Nigeria and how it limits the possibility for trade between the countries but was somewhat dismissed by Sani Dangote, Group Vice President at Dangote Industries Limited.
“Instead of focusing our time on the ban list, why don’t we look at providing some bilateral agreement between the two countries to create some kind of duty-free zone between the two countries, whereby good manufactured in Nigeria can come into Kenya duty-free so goods manufactured in Kenya should go into Nigeria on a duty-free level – this could be the incentive to drive business communities to do much better,” said Dangote.
Buhari addressed the need to prioritise manufacturing and agriculture.
“As you all know a country that cannot feed itself is a poor country and without manufacturing and manufacturing development there is no way we can break even and compete favourably in an ever growing competitive global environment,” said President Buhari.
The Nigerian president also quoted Thomas Jefferson in his speech, “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness”.
He said this referring to the diversification of Africa’s focus, prioritising agriculture, manufacturing, and in infrastructure development.
Kenya’s President Kenyatta said he was “excited” to hear what Dangote had to say and that they would see how they would come to a status agreement between Kenya and Nigeria that will drive the merging of East and West.
“On my part I will ensure that I do everything possible to push my officials to ensure that those issues that you see as barriers towards being able to effectively work and partner together are removed and I am certain President Buhari will also commit to the same,” said President Kenyatta.
“I look forward, at an appropriate time, to visit Nigeria and by the time we sit again we want to see that some of those things have also been cleared.”