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Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn assured the Kenyan business community of deepening trade and investment between the two countries. The meeting followed a Special Status Agreement signed Wednesday between the two governments. Hailemariam said the agreement signed should take effect immediately in order to see trade between the two countries materialize. The Prime Minister said Kenya and Ethiopia have a huge potential in their young population and it was time to engage them, especially focusing intensively on the industrial sector, to compete in the global market. He noted that focus should be especially on textile, raw material from agriculture, food complexes as well as value addition through putting up industries themselves instead of relying on other countries. “We should invest in value addition so that instead of, for example, importing edible oil from Malaysia we should grow palm oil since we have the land to do so”, Hailemariam said. He said priority should be given in areas of input production especially in seed and fertilizers for the farmers, horticulture and floriculture, since it creates jobs. The Prime Minister further said that the hospitality industry is also a priority area to focus on, saying they need a lot of five star hotels to be built in the area, but added that there has to be a proper incentive package for investors. The Prime Minister noted that the energy sector in Africa is a big challenge and governments should invest in it and take risks by supporting manufacturers with energy costs which will be a good incentive for investors to invest in the manufacturing industry. On the issue of tourism and of the Visa and Private Charter that proves to be expensive for the industry, the Prime Minister said they will set up a committee from the Ethiopian side to meet with its Kenyan counterpart and discuss on the way forward regarding these issues. Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Ongeri said that trade between Kenya and Ethiopia has been registering steady growth over the years although there remains a huge unexploited potential. Last year, Kenya’s exports to Ethiopia stood at 56.4 million dollars while imports from Ethiopia were worth 4.3 million dollars. Ongeri named agri-processing, financial services, distributive trade, science, technology and innovation and higher education as some of the areas that need to be exploited. He said that Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan are jointly developing the economic and transport corridor comprising of a standard gauge railway line from Lamu Port to Addis Ababa and Juba saying that, once completed, will enable Ethiopian products to reach the sea and outer markets. The Minister noted the strategic decisions by the Ethiopian government to grant special and preferential treatment to investors from Kenya saying that the government is committed to the process of increased trade between the two countries.
(Kenya broadcasting corporation)