Photograph — The Denver Post

During a meeting in Beijing last Thursday, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping signed a deal that will see the African country export avocados to the Asian nation. The deal makes Kenya the first African country to export avocados to China, for a market of over 1.4 billion people.

According to a statement from the State House in Nairobi, the Chinese market will import over 40 percent of Kenya’s avocado produce when the agreement comes into effect. This would make Beijing one of the largest importers of the fruit.

A major barrier that prolonged the acceptance of the Kenyan crop was the signing of a protocol on sanitary requirements for the export of frozen avocado. “The signing of the agreement comes after a long and comprehensive approval process that included Chinese experts visiting Kenyan farmers,” the statement read.

This is similar to the conditions Mauritius gave when it lifted the ban on Kenyan avocado, which was imposed in 2015 after the country’s authorities cited low standards of hygiene. Lifting the embargo earlier this month, the Indian Ocean island nation imposed tight hygienic conditions on the produce.

The avocados had to meet the specific chemical, storage and transportation conditions imposed by the Mauritian National Plant Protection Office before the ban was lifted. Also, there were conditions on insect and disease infestation as well as the requirement of certifications to prove the product is from Kenya.

With the success of President Kenyatta in securing deals that include Mauritius and now China in the list of destinations of avocado exportation – among other notable markets such as Europe and the U.S. – farmers of the crop have expanded their export market.

Infrastructure deals

Trade and economic relations between both countries have continued to grow over time. Nairobi already exports stevia to Beijing and is also looking to sell 13 other farm produce in the future. However, the relationship goes beyond the agricultural sector, with the Asian nation investing heavily in Kenya’s infrastructure projects.

At the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRFIC) in Beijing, which held over the weekend, President Kenyatta secured agreements for the development of the Konza Data Centre and Smart Cities Project, as well as the construction of the JKIA-James Gichuru Expressway.

Both deals, valued at over $600 million, will be funded through concessional financing and Public-Private-Partnership (PPP). The data centre and smart cities project will be executed by the ICT ministry and Chinese telecommunications major, Huawei. While the construction of the expressway will be done by the China Road and Bridge Corporation.

President Kenyatta also witnessed the signing of the operation and maintenance service agreement for the Nairobi-Naivasha segment of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). Albeit, the African leader was unable to secure a $3.68 billion funding – in loans and grants – for the third phase of the SGR, which was supposed to connect Mombasa port with the landlocked states of the Great Lakes Region.

The first phase of the data centre and smart cities project is estimated to create over 17,000 jobs and contribute more than $800 million to the Kenyan economy. While the new expressway will help ease traffic flow on the busy Mombasa highway as part of government efforts to reduce congestion on key roads in Nairobi.

“Since inception, the Belt and Road Initiative has forged cooperation in the development of critical sectors including the expansion of infrastructure, education and capacity building, trade facilitation and investment, agricultural modernisation, industrial promotion, and energy connectivity,” President Kenyatta said at the opening ceremony.

At the forum, world leaders urged member countries of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to be transparent in implementing the projects in their nations. Together with international organizations, they committed a sum of $64 billion to the BRI.

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