US-Kenya trade pact won’t affect AfCFTA: Kenyatta

Friday February 07 2020

US President Donald Trump walks with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the White House in Washington, DC, on February 6, 2020. PHOTO | NICHOLAS KAMM | AFP

By Allan Olingo

Kenya has moved to allay fears that it’s new trade agreement with the US will undermine the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) of which it is a signatory to. 

Speaking in Washington after meeting US President Donald Trump on Thursday, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said the proposed new trade arrangement would in no way undermine Kenya’s commitment to the continental economic bloc.

“I want to put away a few doubts because there has been a feeling that by Kenya engaging with the US to have a trade arrangement, we are running away from our commitment to the African Continental Free Trade arrangement. I want to assure you that there can be nothing further from the truth as that is definitely not the case,” said Kenyatta. 

Kenya was among the first countries to sign and ratify the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

Mr Kenyatta said that Nairobi’s commitment to the agreement is steadfast, adding that Kenya needs to move fast, and set the pace for other African countries in formulating new trade and investment arrangements with the US as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) comes to an end in 2025. 

“There are some of us like Kenya who feels that we are ready to move forward and let the rest of the continent see us as pacesetters. Let them see us as the people who are clearing the field for future negotiations with the rest of the African continent because Kenya feels ready for this arrangement,” Kenyatta said.


During the bilateral trade talks, the US Chamber announced the launch its US-Kenya Trade Working Group, which will bring together business executives to exchange ideas, build mutual trust, and seek common ground on key trade priorities with US and Kenyan trade officials. The working group will provide recommendations on enhancing cross-border trade flows and on improving efficient trade practices. 

The US Chamber has been engaging with the Kenya government for more than a decade to increase commercial cooperation between the two counties.

In September last year, it hosted a high-level business roundtable with Mr. Kenyatta on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

At the White House meeting, Presidents Kenyatta and Trump said a new trade agreement would help increase volumes of trade and investment between Kenya and the US. 

“A new trade agreement presents the two countries a rare opportunity to explore ways of deepening Kenya-US economic and commercial ties. We now look forward to negotiating and concluding a comprehensive, high-standard agreement with Kenya that can serve as a model for additional agreements across Africa,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said. 

It is now expected that the Mr Lighthizer will now officially notify Congress of the US government's intention to start trade negotiations with Kenya, in line with the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability law of 2015. 

A US, Kenya free-trade agreement would be the first such agreement with a sub-Saharan African country. The last time the US concluded a free-trade agreement with an African country was with Morocco in 2004. 

Currently, trade between Kenya and the US stands at about $1 billion a year, with over 70 per cent of Kenya's export into the expansive American market in 2018, worth $466 million, entering under Agoa.