Ukraine has historically considered Kenya as one of her most important bilateral and trading partners in Africa since the two countries first established diplomatic relations in May 1993. And now Kyiv wants to deepen these relations further.
Kenya exports tea and coffee, tropical fruits, flowers to Ukraine. In return, Nairobi sources grains, ferrous metals, organic oils and fats, including sunflower oils, from Kyiv. However, the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 marked the beginning of a decline in the volume of trade with Kenya.
The volume of foreign trade between the two countries decreased from 55,86 million USD (about Sh5,7 billion) in 2015 to 38 million USD (about Sh3,8 billion) in 2016.
In December 2016, the first Trade mission from Ukraine visited Kenya to establish direct contacts with the Kenyan government and business.
Consequently in 2017, the trade turnover significantly increased, with exports from Ukraine to Kenya rising to 79,9 million (about Sh8,2 billion) and imports from Kenya standing at 7,9 million USD (about Sh825 million).
The reason behind the rise, officials say, was the adoption in March 2017 by Kenya of a specialized duty-free import procedure for yellow maize to combat drought and boost food security.
In just three months Ukraine supplied more than 180,000 tons of grains, including the yellow maize worth about Sh6,6 billion. This comprised around 80 persent of Ukrainian exports to Kenya in 2017.
In 2018, after the cancellation of the duty free import scheme the trade turnover decreased, with exports from Ukraine to Kenya standing at about Sh6,18 billion and Kenyan imports to Ukraine at about SH879,4 million.
Officials say there is potential for improved trade given the current cooperation between the two countries.
Opportunities in the agricultural sector were especially highlighted during the official visit to Kenya by the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pavlo Klimkin, in May 2018.
He became the first Foreign Minister of Ukraine to pay a visit to Kenya since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Ukraine’s Ambassador to Kenya, Andrii Pravednyk, says that Ukraine possesses strong agricultural and manufacturing capacities and, with 70% of arable lands and 33% of world’s reserves of rich black soil, and could assist Kenya to address her perennial food security challenges.
To put cooperation between Ukraine and Kenya on a stronger footing, the Ukrainian side in September 2017 proposed to conclude the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministries of Agriculture.
Ukraine suggested setting up quotas on the export and import of certain agricultural products with Kenya on a reciprocal basis. It also proposed exchange programme on agro- sciences and aquaculture, including training of Kenyan specialists.
Both sides are working on a number of bilateral agreements.
“Strengthening political ties is an integral part for developing our trade and economic cooperation with Kenya and I am pleased to observe that our bilateral dialogue has steadily grown, with several recent high-level meetings and visits,” Pravednyk said.
“We believe that the upcoming visit to Ukraine by Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Monica Juma, will become a platform for cementing our goals.”
Another potentially-beneficial areas of cooperation is education, with Ukraine keen to bring more Kenyan students to its universities. Today, foreign students have an opportunity to study in more than 240 universities in Ukraine for undergraduate degrees in ICT, engineering, medicine and other fields. An agreement on education is currently under consideration by the Kenyan Side.
“We are also interested in concluding Air Services Agreement with Kenya which we believe would greatly contribute to the establishment and promotion of direct person-to-person and business-to-business contacts, will boost educational and tourism sectors, as well as create an alternative route for Kenyans to travel to Europe,” says Mr.Pravednyk.
“Right now we are elaborating the issue of concluding Partnership Agreement between the city of Odessa – the maritime gates of Ukraine, and the city of Mombasa – the maritime gates to Kenya and the whole region of East Africa.”
Kyiv is equally keen to bolster cooperation with Nairobi in defense, which might help Kenya’s effort to maintain peace and security in the East African region and beyond.
Ukraine is also interested in supplying Kenya with its newest generation of AN-158 medium-range aircraft family which include passenger, transport, VIP and military modifications. Ukraine is considering a demonstration flight of AN-158 aircraft in Kenya which is planned for the first half of 2020.
Ukraine might soon become a popular tourism destination for Kenyans as well. The procedure of obtaining visas was simplified and the amount of consular fee was reduced. Ukraine has introduced system of online appeal and registration and opened a visa center Nairobi.
Ukraine is also interested in developing cooperation with Kenya in the IT sector. One of the vivid examples of our bilateral fruitful cooperation in this sphere was signing in July 2019 of the Memorandum of Understanding between Blockchain Associations of Ukraine and Kenya.