Chinese and Kenyan traders have launched a chamber of commerce in Nairobi, seeking to connect their scattered operations in the two countries into a lobbying machinery.
And the Kenyan government says the move to create the Kenya-China Chamber of Commerce will be an arena for businesspeople to learn from one another and cut out suspicions.
Trade Principal Secretary Johnson Weru said the Chamber, which will include registered Kenyan and Chinese firms, will be part of a long-term goal of improving contacts between the two sides, beyond government channels.
“This institution will further promote the friendship and deepen exchanges and cooperation,” he said after the organisation was launched in Nairobi on Wednesday.
“Together we have embarked on a distinctive path of win-win cooperation. Our cooperation has set a good example for building a new type of international relations.”
The Chamber, which follows two other similar lobbies created between Kenya and the US, and Kenya and the UK means trade could also boost cultural connections, according to the PS.
The Chamber’s inaugural chairman Tim Chen said that the non-profit organisation will be the centre of “friendship and cooperation” between Chinese and Kenyan traders.
“More specifically to strengthen our communities and bind us together, facilitate business cooperation between the two countries, accelerate trade and encourage investment in Kenya to increase local employment,” said he told an audience at the Serena Hotel on Wednesday.
Trade between the two countries has improved over the past decade, but Chinese exporters have been the largest beneficiaries. Worth about Sh400 billion a year, Kenya only exports only a tenth of this value to China, a problem attributed to lack of diverse products, little value addition and the stringent conditions Beijing imposes.
According to the Chinese Embassy’s corporate social responsibility prospectus, though, China’s more than 500 firms operating in Kenya have created more than 130,000 jobs for locals. The Embassy says that has been crucial in helping achieve some of the economic targets set locally.
“We would like to welcome all Kenya businesses that do trade with China to join us, so that they can reap from this business member group. We are here to represent you, and also to support your enterprises grow,” Mr Chen said.
With a Chamber of Commerce created, officials say it could be helpful in bringing exporters and importers closer, away from the usual government bureaucracies.
Mr Chen said the Chamber will provide information to members on business contacts, opportunities and policies useful to foster trade, as well as be a go-to organisation for government officials when seeking views on policy issues.