Kenyatta seeks post-Brexit trade pact with UK during London visit

Theresa May and Uhuru Kenyatta
Theresa May and President Kenyatta on the steps outside Number 10 Downing Street. Photo: Twitter/PresidentKE

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday met Prime Minister Theresa May and sought a pact to guarantee Kenyan exports accessed the UK market on a duty-free quota-free basis after the country exits from the European Union.

At a landmark meeting at Number 10 Downing Street, President Kenyatta also spoke strongly about strengthening bilateral relations with Britain, and closer security cooperation, especially in regard to Somalia.

President Kenyatta and his wife Margaret were greeted by Baroness Buscombe, Conservative member of the House of Lords, on their arrival in Britain on Wednesday night.

Uhuru Kenyatta in London
Baroness Buscombe greets President Kenyatta on his arrival in the UK. Photo: Twitter/PresidentKE

The President was in the UK to attend the Third London Conference on Somalia at the famed Lancaster House, and to meet PM May on deepening bilateral relations for one of the country’s long-term allies. He will also meet Prince William at Buckingham Palace on Friday.

It was the first meeting between the Kenyan leader and the British Prime Minister. The UK is Kenya’s third most important export destination after Uganda and the United States, and the leading source market for Kenya’s lifeblood tourism sector.

There are hundreds of UK companies in Kenya, valued in the trillions.

Uhuru Kenyatta and Theresa May
President Kenyatta with Theresa May inside Number 10 Downing Street. Photo: Twitter/PresidentKE

The President’s agenda is about ensuring a conducive environment so businesses can thrive in order to provide much-needed jobs, and deepen security in Kenya and the region in order to foster growth and inclusive prosperity.

“It is Kenya’s desire to continue having seamless trade relations during and after Brexit. We wish to continue accessing the UK market duty-free and quota-free after the UK exits the EU,” President Kenyatta said.

Uhuru Kenyatta and Theresa May
The walls of the staircase in Number 10 Downing Street feature portraits of former British Prime Ministers. Photo: Twitter/PresidentKE

Prime Minister May and President Kenyatta agreed to create a working group to examine a new framework for bilateral and economic relations between the two countries to ensure predictability and continuation of the existing market conditions after Brexit.

The President and the Prime Minister, who were joined in the meeting by former UK High Commissioner to Kenya Dr Christian Turner, also discussed Kenya’s counter-terrorism programme in the context of deepening the security architecture for Kenya and the region, and the Prime Minister made commitment to support the programme.

Uhuru Kenyatta and Theresa May
President Kenyatta and Theresa May during discussions at Number 10 Downing Street. Photo: Twitter/PresidentKE

President Kenyatta also pressed for the re-establishment of a UK visa processing centre in Nairobi, to serve as a regional office for Eastern and Central Africa. Currently UK visas for the region are processed in the South African capital Pretoria.

The Kenyan President also praised the PM for lifting the travel advisories that had adversely affected Lamu and Manda Island — which he said would lead to a significant increase in tourist arrivals from the UK. He reassured her that the government had taken extensive measures to bolster security in the area.

Theresa May and President Kenyatta
British Prime Minister and President Kenyatta shake hands on Downing Street in London. Photo: Twitter/PresidentKE

The meeting between President Kenyatta was the latest in high-profile meetings between the two countries. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson visited Kenya last year while President Kenyatta met then UK Prime Minister David Cameron on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2015.

Miraa also featured in the London talks. President Kenyatta asked PM May to extend technical cooperation and financial assistance to Miraa growing areas to enable diversification and to minimise negative effects of the export ban to the UK imposed three years ago.

President Kenyatta also spoke of the benefits of mutual legal assistance to both countries, saying it had led to the tracing and repatriation of funds acquired fraudulently by Kenyan officials and stashed away in Jersey accounts.

The President also thanked Britain for continued development aid through the UK agency DFID. He committed to continued transparency in the utilisation of resources from both government and lending agencies.

During his visit, Mr Kenyatta will separately meet British investors in East Africa, representatives of Kenya’s large UK diaspora.