Uhuru targets security, trade deals from Israel visit

Tuesday February 23 2016

President Uhuru Kenyatta is received by senior Israeli government officials when he arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Agriculture and security will dominate President Uhuru Kenyatta's visit to Israel, that also marks the first tour by a Kenyan sitting head of state in the Middle East country.

Kenyan Ambassador to Israel Mr Agostino Njoroge says Kenya will be angling for Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Israel that will see more traders access the Israeli market.

Mr Njoroge said the number of Kenyans in the Middle East state has reduced by over 90 per cent on the last ten years.

"Because of the security challenges Israel ejected all aliens who had to register afresh, there were over 2000 Kenyans but right now there are about 200 only," Mr Njoroge told the Nation at the Kenyan embassy yesterday.

He said with an MoU Kenya can negotiate to export labour to Israel over short periods like the Philipinos and Thais who are allowed to recruit farm workers for Israel over 5 year stints.

Mr Njoroge also said that Israel was committed to direct flights which was only held back by financial troubles at Kenya Airways.

The National carrier had scheduled to fly the Tel Aviv route in March last year when it was hit by financial woes that saw it declare a monumental Sh25.7 billion loss.

"Kenyans mainly export perishables like fish and flowers, the lack of a direct flight affects the perishable business," Mr Njoroge said.

Israel has harnessed the turmoil from all around her borders and the desert environment to yield a spectacular combination of top notch security technology and training and efficient agriculture.


He said the direct flights would help re-balance Kenya's trade with Israel which was lopsided on a ratio of 1 to 9 with Kenya importing electronic and security equipment from the Jewish state.

The President's visit that kicks off today in bilateral talks with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu will also focus on security and agriculture.

The Cabinet Secretary for water and Irrigation Eugene Wamalwa will be leading a Kenyan delegation on food security to tour irrigation infrastructure in Israel.

The state of Israel is funding a food security project in Galana-Kulalu through a Sh7.5 billion loan to set up an experimental farm over 10,000 acres.

Israel is also sponsoring Kenyan students studying desert irrigation agriculture through a Sh3 billion grant.

President Kenyatta will meet 25 of the first batch during his state visit as well as 50 students from Jomo Kenyatta University and Egerton studying agro-systems in Israel.

The Cabinet Secretary for Interior Joseph Nkaisserry will also lead a steering committee to renew an MoU on security while President Kenyatta will tour surveillance installations in Israel.

The President will also meet security firms to inspect hardware and equipment that have kept the Jewish state safe amidst turmoil in the Middle East.