President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday met Prime Minister Theresa May and sought an agreement to guarantee access of Kenyan exports to the United Kingdom market after the country exits the European Union.
At a meeting at Number 10 Downing Street, President Kenyatta also spoke strongly about strengthening bilateral relations with Britain, and closer security cooperation, especially in regard to Somalia.
President Kenyatta arrived in Britain on Wednesday night to attend the Third London Conference on Somalia, and to meet the British prime minister on deepening bilateral relations for one of the country’s long-term allies. The President will also meet Prince William at Buckingham Palace on Friday.
It was the first meeting between the Kenyan leader and the British prime minister. The UK is Kenya’s third most important export destination after Uganda and the United States, and the leading source market for Kenya’s lifeblood tourism sector.
There are hundreds of UK companies doing business in Kenya.
The President’s agenda is about ensuring a conducive environment so businesses can thrive in order to provide much-needed jobs, and deepen security in Kenya and the region in order to foster growth and inclusive prosperity.
“It is Kenya’s desire to continue having seamless trade relations during and after Brexit. We wish to continue accessing the UK market duty-free and quota-free after the UK exits the EU,” President Kenyatta said.
President Kenyatta and Ms May agreed on creating a working group to examine a new framework for bilateral and economic relations between the two countries to ensure predictability and continuation of the existing market conditions after Brexit.
The two leaders also discussed Kenya’s counter-terrorism programme in the context of deepening the security architecture for Kenya and the region, and the prime minister made a commitment to support the programme.
President Kenyatta also pressed for the re-establishment of a UK visa processing centre in Nairobi to serve as a regional office for Eastern and Central Africa. Currently UK visas for the region are processed in the South African capital Pretoria.
He praised the PM for lifting the travel advisories that had hurt tourism in Lamu and Manda Island, saying that would lead to a significant increase in the number of visitors from the UK.
He reassured Ms May that the government had taken extensive measures to bolster security in the area.
The meeting between President Kenyatta and Ms May was the latest in high-profile meetings between the two countries.
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson visited Kenya last year while President Kenyatta met then UK Prime Minister David Cameron on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2015.
Miraa (khat) also featured in the London talks. President Kenyatta asked Ms May to extend technical cooperation and financial assistance to areas growing the crop to enable residents there to find other ways of earning a living and to minimise the negative effects of the export ban the UK imposed three years ago.
President Kenyatta also spoke of the benefits of mutual legal assistance to both countries, saying it had led to the tracing and repatriation of funds acquired fraudulently by Kenyan officials and stashed away in Jersey accounts.
On Thursday, the President will separately meet Britons investing in East Africa.