The EU has imposed punitive trade barriers on Kenya in recent years.
This is part of an EU strategy to force Kenya to accept a trade deal which requires a massive liberalisation of the Kenyan economy in exchange for enhanced trade access with the EU. Some people argue that this is a classic EU move of playing ‘hard ball’ with weaker economies, which ultimately keep them poor.
There are huge opportunities for Kenya when the UK leaves the EU.
Kenya is already a major trading partner in a couple of key areas: fresh vegetables (80% of Kenya’s exports go to UK) and black tea (also 80% of Kenya’s exports to UK). But, other industries are blocked by the EU. For example, Kenya is unable to sell beef directly to the EU. Brexit could offer Kenya access to a major beef-consuming market, if Kenya could ensure that it meets the safety standards which the UK government would set.
But more importantly, Brexit enables us to break out of the EU’s old-fashioned viewpoint about trade with Africa, which based almost entirely on commodities, to exploring much more diversified relationships with African countries viewed as partners in science and technology, entrepreneurship, education, tourism, finance, manufacturing, etc.
The EU discourages industrialisation by imposing tariffs on processed products, for example. This means the incentive is only to cultivate raw goods, rather than, say, manufacturing or higher level production.
At the moment, many African countries are looking to China as a trading partner, but Chinese projects have often been criticised for not taking notice of fair labour or environmental standards.
The UK could be a positive force in the region, helping sustainable and responsible use of natural resources, while respecting and empowering local populations — in line with both the UK’s trade and international development goals. For example, as we take back control of our own waters, the UK could assist Kenya in managing better its own coastal resources.