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Kenya and DR Congo to sign accord by end of 2014

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo could sign a bilateral trade agreement by the end of 2014, a government official said Tuesday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director of International Trade Nelson Ndirangu said in Nairobi that talks between the two nations began over two years ago.

“We are waiting for the DR Congo to sign the agreement so that it ratified by Kenya’s parliament,” Ndirangu said during a retreat on Kenya economic ties with the Great Lakes Region.

The day-long conference brought participants to strategize on ways of increasing Kenya’s trade in the region. He said that a trade agreement will offer Kenya preferential access to the Central Africa state.

Ndirangu said that DR Congo, with approximately 90 million people, is a net importer of agricultural and manufactured goods and therefore offers Kenya a huge market.

He said that trade between the two nations is low due to the high trade taxes.

Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho said that Kenya is seeking to exploit the untapped markets of the Great Lakes Region. The region comprises of Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Kenya, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

The PS said that the region has a Gross Domestic Product of about 341 billion U.S. dollars. “It should be one of our focus areas for trade, investment and trade opportunities,” he said.

Special Adviser to the UN Special Envoy of the Secretary- General to the Great Lakes Region Modibo Toure said that Kenya is the most advanced economies in East and Central Africa.

“It is increasingly assuming a prominent role in resolving regional conflicts,” he said.He said that the region’s business community needs to play a role in ending the recurring cycle of violence in the region.

“Shared prosperity is one way of ensuring long term stability,” Toure said. The adviser said that the World Bank has set aside funds to assist businesses in the region to increase investments and trade.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director of National Coordinator of the Office of the Great Lakes Region Ken Vitisia said that as military conflict in the region reduces, economic activity begins to pick up.

He noted that the countries of the Great Lakes Region are of great economic importance to Kenya as they are the country’s main trading partners.

According to Kenya’s Economic Survey 2013, Kenya’s value of exports to Africa remained at 48 percent of Kenya’s total exports.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers Head of Policy Phyllis Wakiaga said that Kenya’s key exports to the region include tea, iron products, palms oil, medicaments, beer and cigarettes, sugar and confectionery.

She added that imports include machinery parts, raw hides and skins, unmanufactured tobacco, wood, maize and copper wire.

KAM said that the key critical areas that need to be addressed in the region include health financing, education services and hydroelectric projects.

“This can contribute to peace as well as the revitalization of economic development,” Wakiaga said.

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