By Marlon Madden
The local business community has identified several hindrances to trade between Barbados and Kenya which must be addressed as a matter of urgency as efforts intensify to increase trade and investment between the two countries.
President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Anthony Branker highlighted the challenges on Tuesday, while agreeing with others about the tremendous opportunity that exists for trade and investment in both countries.
He was speaking during the first dialogue series hosted by the BCCI and the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) under the theme Demystifying Barbados and Kenya Markets.
Branker said while Kenya was a “promising” market for Barbados due to its large market size and legal system, there were still some barriers limiting the trade of goods and services from Barbados into that market.
“Barbados and Kenya currently lack a preferential trade agreement, nor is there a long-established relationship of trading between the two countries. Hence, there are key challenges to be addressed if we are to advance trade,” said Branker.
Indicating that both the business community and policymakers had a role to play, Branker said there was a need for raising awareness of the culture, legal system, business practices and business environment of both countries among their business communities.
“We need to raise awareness of the trade and investment-related policies, legislation and standard of each others’ countries, especially those sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards, technical barriers to trade and other technical standards,” he added.
“We need to ascertain the Barbados Chamber’s members’ export and import interests in Kenya’s market. We have to openly discuss and bring some level of clarity around perceptions of corruption in Kenya. While there is no visa required for Kenyans to visit Barbados or vice versa, the lack of direct airlinks might be a disincentive for travel for leisure or business,” he said.
Branker said the lack of mutual recognition agreements meant it would not be easy especially for service providers in the professional services sectors to ply their trade in each other’s country.
He said accessing trade financing to facilitate export to Kenya or to invest there might also prove challenging for business operators in Barbados.
“There is no double taxation agreement in place between Kenya and Barbados, nor is there a bilateral investment treaty. So those are some of the challenges that upfront, we at the Chamber perceive at this time,” said Branker.
He was however quick to point out that an exchange of ideas under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the two chambers last year, would help to address some of the challenges. He explained that the dialogue series was also meant to help bring about greater clarity on the path that could be taken for entrepreneurs and business officials to take advantage of the business opportunities.
In addition to information sharing, the approximately 100 registered participants from a range of sectors in Barbados, Kenya, other parts of Africa, the US, UK and Canada, had the opportunity to engage investment and promotion officials in Barbados and Kenya on areas of concern and opportunity.
The event was also designed to raise awareness and understanding of the business environment and cultural practices in Bridgetown and Nairobi.
Second Vice-President of the KNCCI Fatma Elmaawy described the virtual event as a first step towards the enhancement of trade between the two countries while agreeing that it was now up to the business community and policymakers to get things going.
She said the next step should include the business community working with technical teams to advise the countries’ governments on the areas where they can create opportunities and the necessary policies needed to enable trade and investment.
She said Kenya’s population size, diverse economy, location, highly-skilled labour force and economic growth were main reasons for Barbadian business operators to enter the Kenya market.
Sandra Husbands, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and Business Development, said the government was committed to ensuring that the right platform was in place to encourage enhanced trade of goods and services between Bridgetown and Nairobi and other African countries.
She welcomed the dialogue series, saying that in addition to the political cooperation, the work by the business communities would be critical to the process.
“We have neglected our trade with Africa and it really is incumbent on us that we begin to make trade with Africa a priority for us both here in Barbados and across the region,” said Husbands.
“Distance will no longer be an issue since we have the air services agreement, and we are continuing to look within the region at the logistics as our business people seek to engage each other,” she said.