With the aim of improving bilateral trade relations, both, the UAE and Kenya have been actively pursuing trade and investment opportunities. We got the opportunity to talk to H. E Mohamed Gello, Ambassador of Kenya to the UAE, to know more about the history, present and future of trade relations between these two countries.

Kenya and UAE have enjoyed significant trade relations over the years. Last year bilateral trade amounted to USD 2.5 billion. Kenya’s exports have increased significantly over the last three years almost doubling from USD 120 million in 2009 to USD 220 million in 2010.

“Kenya’s exports to UAE include tea, meat products, fruits, nuts, fish, coffee and vegetables, while UAE exports to Kenya include petroleum oil, automated data machines, textiles, furniture, motor vehicle spares, electronics and processed foodstuff among others,” according to Ambassador Gello.

Talking about how the trade relations have evolved over the years, he added, “In the past, trade relations mainly favoured UAE with little growth in Kenya’s exports to UAE. However, UAE has now emerged as one of the leading export market for Kenya exports and this trend will likely continue over the foreseeable future. This is because Kenya has comparative advantage in agricultural products for which it intends to position itself as a reliable source market. In this context, Kenya has and will continue to participate in major food exhibitions such as the Gulf Food Exhibition in Dubai and SIAL Exhibition in Abu Dhabi to showcase its products to UAE and other regional markets in GCC.”

When we asked him what advice he would give to UAE investors interested in Kenya, he was quick to point out, “My advice to investors in UAE is that Africa has emerged as one of the fastest growing regions in the world despite the weaker global economic environment. Kenya’s economy is projected to grow by 5.6% in 2013 up from 5.1% in 2012. Kenya’s stock market is one of the best performing globally driven by strong institutional demand. The Government continues to encourage the exploration of oil and gas and there is optimism that the recent finding of oil will be commercially viable for extraction.”

“With a population of 40 million people and a member of the East Africa Community and the Common Market of the Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) comprising of 21 countries with a combined population of    400 million people, Kenya offers a unique location for UAE investors to penetrate this important emerging market which according to recent reports, may enjoy renewed economic growth fueled by new oil and gas findings in the Eastern Africa region,” he added.

According to the Ambassador, for investors interested in Kenya, there are opportunities in oil and gas exploration and extraction, mineral mining, opportunities in food and agribusiness especially in irrigation, water harvesting and storage and food processing. There are also opportunities in infrastructure development, both national and regionally oriented projects including the planned road, rail, oil pipeline and new port that will link Kenya to Ethiopia and South Sudan billed to be the largest investment ever in Africa.  Opportunities exist in the ICT and energy infrastructure development with special emphasis on the proposed development of an ultra-modern ICT city on the outskirts of the city of Nairobi. Other areas that require investment include property development and in the tourism sector.

Talking about Kenya’s presence in the UAE, he opined that there are about 200 Kenya companies in UAE dealing mainly in logistics, printing and trading. “Kenyan companies are keen on exploring opportunities in UAE and the GCC region generally. They have been participating and attending almost important exhibitions in UAE with the aim of expanding their markets.”

There are incentives and benefits that are extended to foreign investors in Kenya and they include:

Investment Incentives

  • 100 to 150% investment allowance
  • Capital goods are zero rated
  • Duty exemption and VAT waiver for machinery and equipment
  • EPZ programme
  • 10 year tax holiday
  • Exempt from withholding tax and stamp duty

Tax Structure

  • Corporate tax is 30% (resident), 37% (nonresident)
  • Income Tax graduated upto 30% of income
  • VAT is 16% standard rate
  • Withholding tax 10% (non-resident) 5% (resident)
  • Duty ranges from 0– 25%.

Investment Guarantees

  • Foreign Investment Protection Act
  • Kenya Constitution guarantees against expropriation of private property except for purposes of public use or security
  • Removal of exchange controls guarantees investors repatriation of capital, profits and interests.
  • Member of the Multi-lateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), an affiliate of the World Bank that insures foreign investments against non-commercial risks
  • Kenya is a member of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) which arbitrates cases between foreign investors and host governments
  • The country is also a member of the Africa Trade Insurance Agency (ATIA) which insures investors against political risks

When we asked him what, in his opinion, is the future of Kenya-UAE bilateral relations, he was extremely optimistic. “It is instructive that Kenya-UAE relations have enjoyed very strong commercial ties to the extent that UAE has emerged as the leading trading partner of Kenya. We expect this trend to continue in the future and indeed expand as both countries consolidate their positions as regional trade, investment and aviation hubs.  The two countries have signed several agreements to bolster bilateral relations; the last one on Avoidance of Double Taxation was signed in November, 2011.”

On that note of optimism, we hope that the coming years will witness growing trade relations between the two nations.



Adelle Geronimo is the Editorial Assistant for Trade and Export Middle East magazine. She graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication at the University of the City of Manila, Philippines (Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila) in 2012.