Kenya has signed crucial transport, security and trade agreements with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, signaling a willingness to improve the low turnover between them.
After a bilateral meeting between Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and his host Felix Tshisekedi, the two parties signed a new agreement on Wednesday for the handling of goods from the port of Mombasa which grants the DRC certain privileges for the use of Kenyan facilities.
Kenya has also offered to open diplomatic outposts in Goma and Lubumbashi in eastern DRC, which President Kenyatta said would facilitate consular services for traders.
The Maritime Cargo Management Agreement, revised from previous agreements, will be the basic legal framework for the handling of all cargo goods transiting through Mombasa bound for the DRC.
President Kenyatta told a joint press conference that Nairobi seeks to bring the region closer “so that we can fight together against our common problems”.
When fully implemented, the agreement will resolve delays on DRC imports by dedicating clearing channels for goods destined for the DRC market. No further details were revealed, but officials had suggested the arrangement could include specialized yards for cargo from Congo and the country’s officials deployed to Kenyan ports to expedite the clearance of goods.
The move comes as Kenya has signaled its desire to improve its trade with the DRC from 1.8 billion shillings last year, 70% of which was merchandise sold in eastern DRC.
And, although the country depends on East African seaports for imports, Mombasa handles less than 15% of the share of goods sent to the DRC, with Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Beira in Mozambique getting the bulk.
President Kenyatta said, “I think our community gives us a very good opportunity to further deepen our relationship as we work together to achieve these goals for the peoples of our respective countries. One thing I would like our two [technical] the teams to work on is to make sure we alleviate the problem of our people being able to travel between our two countries.
Having an appropriate handling framework will also mean that the two parties will harmonize the charges levied on goods imported into their territory. Kenyan drivers recently complained of brutal accusations during the delivery of goods to the DRC.
The two countries have a bilateral air services agreement, and although they have had prior agreements on freight transport, actors have often complained about the inflexibility of non-tariff barriers. The new agreement, officials say, should correct the anomalies.
“As we move towards a deeper integration of not only our region but also the continent, we should be able to ease restrictions on visas and other matters and I look forward to working with you so that we can make it easy for you, ”said the President, who is on a three-day state visit to the DRC, said.
The Head of State also witnessed the signing of a defense cooperation agreement which covers the police, the war on terrorism, maritime and air security and immigration. This will also help manage future customs issues, especially before the DRC joins the EAC.
The agreement should provide for structured cooperation in the fight against terrorism, arms smuggling, regularized immigration, customs control and cybersecurity.
Kenya has traditionally supported peace offers in the DRC, which has endured perpetual wars. In 2013, Kenya hosted Congolese parties as they signed a peace deal with the M23 rebel group.
Nairobi sees the emerging stability of the DRC as a good ground for developing business opportunities.
The general cooperation agreement between the two, said a State House statement, will provide “a framework through which the parties will promote economic, technical, scientific and socio-cultural cooperation on the basis of the principles of sovereign equality and mutual benefit. “
Trade, agriculture, livestock and fisheries development, finance, environmental conservation, education and mining were listed.