Kenya is looking to increase its exports to Benin which stood at almost four million dollars in 2015 and to expand the products from the current offering of medicines, sugar confectionery, jute and other textiles to include coffee, tea and fresh produce.
President Uhuru Kenyatta pitched for the expansion during talks with Benin’s President Patrice Talon focused on deepening economic ties between Kenya and Benin.
Kenyatta urged the expansion of intra-Africa trade including through improved air services to better link African cities.
“Key to decreased dependence on western markets is optimal utilisation of our domestic markets thus boosting intra-African trade,” he said.
Current trade between Kenya and the West African nation is limited due to the geographical distance between them and absence of direct transport between the two countries.
Imports from Benin, which include liquefied propane, butane and paper, are very minimal.
Noting that it is easier to fly to France from Cotonou than it is to fly to neighbouring Niger, President Talon encouraged President Kenyatta to lead a continental campaign for greater access into African cities by African airlines.
“We need one to three strong African airlines to be allowed to make these inter-city connections. Like Kenya Airways, like Ethiopian Airlines. This is important for our continent,” he said.
Kenya’s national carrier already flies thrice weekly between Nairobi and Cotonou.
The two leaders explored other ways of enhancing bilateral relations between their countries, agreeing to cooperate in the areas of training and capacity.
President Talon is in Kenya to attend the African Trade Insurance Agency’s (ATI) Fourth Roundtable and Annual General Meeting scheduled for 10 and 11 May in Nairobi.
Foreign Ministry officials from both countries will meet in the coming weeks to work on a framework for the formation of a joint commission of cooperation.