KENYA – Kenya has shipped its first consignment of value-added tea, produced by Kenya’s oldest tea blending and marketing company, the Kenya Tea Packers (Ketepa), to Ghana under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
The East African nation is among the six countries selected to participate in the pilot phase of the AfCFTA Initiative on Guided Trade, formulated on realisation that no trading was taking place one-and-a-half years after the launch of AfCFTA preferential trading on 1st January, 2021.
AfCFTA is deemed to be the largest free trade area in the world in terms of the number of countries covered, presenting a market of 1.2 billion consumers.
According to reports by Soko Directory, implementation was derailed as problems regarding rules of origin remained unresolved and that each trading bloc currently present in the region has its own Common External Tariff, which it charges on goods coming outside a given area.
Other nations that were selected under the pilot program are Tanzania, Tunisia, Cameroon, Egypt, Mauritius, and Ghana, who have identified products that can access the markets under the initiative.
Through an Ad Hoc Committee formed to spearhead this initiative, Kenya has identified several products including tea, batteries, confectionery, leather bags, incinerators, beaded products, vehicular filters, textiles, sisal fibre, avocados and fresh produce.
AfCFTA Secretary General Wamkele Mene said the partnership between Kenya and Ghana was a step in the right direction as it has set the continent towards industrialization and economic prosperity.
He said, “What Kenya and Ghana are doing is to give commercial meaning to Africa Union’s project of integrating our markets and economy as a continent.”
The initiative will expand Kenya’s tea markets to West and Central Africa which have been mostly carried out under private treaty.
Data from TBK states that only Nigeria and Ghana are among the top 10 African countries that import Kenya tea. For example, in May 2022, Nigeria imported 864,455 kilogrammes of tea and Ghana bought 19,200kgs in the same period.
While flagging -off the consignments, Kenya’s Presiden William Ruto lauded the initiative saying it marks the first step in a journey that will liberate the country from export of raw products to value added ones.
“The first step is historic because the one billion market in Africa is now available.
“Today’s action confirms that Kenya believed in AfCTA from Day One. We ask fellow Africans to use this platform to actualise Africa’s dream in trade and business,” President Ruto said.
He expressed optimism that the infrastructure provided by the AfCTA will make it easier to overcome barriers to trade and doing business within the continent.
He further directed the Ministry of Trade to develop a Kenyan tea brand to guarantee farmers good returns from their labour.
The Head of State noted that for a long time Kenya has helped other countries to brand their tea with the good quality Kenyan tea, saying that practice must change with Kenya’s export of value-added tea expected to rise from 5 per cent to 50 per cent at the minimum in the next 5 years.