While Least Developed Countries (LDCS) enjoy duty-free access to export markets, Kenya has been competing for the same markets without the same advantage, this is soon set to change.

News following Kenya’s maiden participation in four-day 10th Coffee Expo 2021 in Seoul, South Korea in July indicate that the country could soon enter into a deal similar to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the UK out of the engagement with South Korea.

The trade deal is expected to see reduction or complete removal of duty on exports to the Asian country. The goods likely to benefit from this new development are exports including coffee, the current leading export to South Korea, tea, mate and spices, which attract an eight per cent duty. Under LCDs. Neighbouring countries of Uganda and Ethiopia are already enjoying duty free access to the South Korean market.

According to Trade, Industrialization and Enterprise Development Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina the two countries have also agreed to fast-track pending issues on market access of Kenyan produce including fresh avocados into the South Korean market with a solution expected before year end.

Currently, trade balance between the two countries favours South Korea, and the new development is expected to improve the trade balance. More news indicate that the value of trade increased from Kshs.8.47 billion in 2008 to Kshs.22.82 billion in 2020, a 169.42 per cent growth in a period of 13 years.

Apart from coffee and tea, Kenya also exports copper, live trees, plants, cut flowers, aluminum, furniture, wood and articles of wood, precious stones, metals, coins and articles of apparel. Targeted for increase is export of agricultural products mainly fresh produces to the Asian country.

The Trade Ministry is however working closely to ensure Kenya’s products reach and adhere to international standards, and weed out “unethical practices” as many countries adhere strictly to phytosanitary standards, which are set as requirements for trade in the international markets.

The bargaining point is that as a market, Kenya has a population of 50 million people, and is a base to access the East African Community, 500 million people in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and a billion people in the whole of Africa.

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