Barbados will be widening its areas of cooperation with Kenya as both nations seek to create economic opportunities for citizens, and enhance people to people relations.
President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, along with their delegations, held extensive bilateral talks at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Thursday.
The leaders witnessed Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Dr. Jerome Walcott and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Monica Juma sign two Memoranda of Understanding – one to establish a Joint Commission for Cooperation, and the second on political consultation.
Speaking to the media after the signing, both leaders outlined education, tourism, renewable energy, the blue economy, investment and trade, and health as areas of cooperation where immediate gains could be derived.
Prime Minister Mottley pointed out that Barbados has a large network of treaties, double taxation agreements and bilateral investment treaties that could be of benefit to the East African nation, as this island could host Kenya’s corporate domiciles.
“We will never be able to host mass based manufacturing or industry, but Kenya does have that capacity. Indeed, in a world where trade wars are abounding, and with the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Agreement in Africa, the opportunities for Kenya to be able to expand its production capacity and industrial base are significant.
“But we can add value by being that location from which the returns on investment can be greater because of the domiciling of the enterprises in Barbados and be able to reduce their levels of taxation while affording the level of protection in terms of investment,” the Prime Minister explained.
In the area of health, Barbados and Kenya will have greater collaboration in medical training, so Kenyans could benefit from pre-clinical education in Barbados, while Barbadian student doctors could intern at the East African nation’s hospitals.
“Our constraint for medical training in Barbados has always been, and will always be the capacity for internships because internships depend on a ratio to hospital beds. Kenya’s population is 46 million, and there are far more opportunities for clinical training. We believe we can specialize in pre-clinical training with the existing medical schools we have on the island,” Ms. Mottley elaborated.
Tourism has also been identified as an area for training partnerships, product development and investment. With both countries being mature tourism destinations, she stated that investment should not be restricted to large or wealthy investors alone.
Noting that Nairobi, Kenya was the location for the last general assembly of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Ms. Mottley said both parties discussed the possibility for substantive administrative and logistical cooperation since Barbados is slated to host UNCTAD in October 2020.
The Prime Minister also called for both countries to develop new financial instruments since Kenya has led the world in financial inclusion with digital money, while Barbados has led the region in financial inclusion with its credit union system.
“If we can leap frog into a digital framework, we can at the same time create the instruments for the export of capital for investment,” Ms. Mottley stated.
The Prime Minister added that both parties also discussed establishing direct airlinks between Kenya and Barbados.
In turn, President Kenyatta pointed out that there were many similarities between Barbados and Kenya, and noted that an “abundance of opportunities exist”, if both countries worked closer together.
The East African leader stressed that economic collaboration was critical to deepening people to people engagement, and called for cross investment between the nations.
“How do we get our business people to do more trade with one another? If we were to succeed in that, we have actually succeeded at joining our two regions at the hip,” he opined, adding that both sides also discussed shipping logistics, and how they could take advantage of each other’s location to boost business.
President Kenyatta further insisted that young Barbadians and Kenyans should be able to attend learning institutions in each country and participate in internships to develop practical expertise.