Iran and Kenya are pursuing an alternative avenue to resume normal tea exports as they wait for the US to relax renewed sanctions it imposed on the Asian country in mid 2018.
Today, Iranian ambassador to Kenya, Jafar Barmaki exuded confidence that the new route the two countries have chosen to take will definitely rejuvenate their trade ties.
Jabar said Kenya was enjoying a 20 percent steady tea exports to Iran during the three-year period when the sanctions were lifted under President Barack Obama’s administration, but which suffered a slump following the 2018 withdrawal of the US from the nuclear deal in mid 2018.
Speaking in Nairobi ahead of next week’s inauguration of the Iranian House of Innovation and Technology (iHHiT), the ambassador however, said that Kenya’s bilateral trade ties are going to be rejuvenated under a new programme bringing together knowledge-based companies of both countries.
“With the help of Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Kenya Association of Manufacturers, and Kenya Private Sector Alliance, we have invited Kenyan knowledge-based companies to come to this centre and meet with the Iranian companies and share on a number of technologies including biotechnology and manufacturing.
“And through this we hope to rejuvenate trade between the two countries,” Jabar said announcing that Iranian Vice President of Science and Technology, Dr. Sorena Sattari will lead a delegation of about 60 people who include software engineers and trade experts to Nairobi.
Some of the technologies Iran is bidding to jumpstart trade relations with Kenya – that will be hosted at the iHiT – include renewable energy; pharmaceutical, manufacturing, biotechnology, nanotechnology and other high-tech technologies that Iran has acquired for the last four decades.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country in March 2020, Iran was enjoying a Sh15 billion (USD150 million) of exports to Kenya, mainly in construction materials and textile products, while in the opposite direction, Kenya only managed Sh3 billion (USD30 million) from sale of tea and coffee to Tehran.
But according to Jabar, the ‘illegal’ sanctions and Covid slowed down the growth of trade volumes between the two countries.
“We are asking America to fulfil their commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which has several obligations, but the main one, which we are more interested in, is the removal of the illegal sanctions against the country. In that case, many countries will benefit from the removal of the sanctions including Kenya which can facilitate increase of exports to Iran and imports, access other markets around Iran,” he added.
When the US imposed fresh sanctions on Iran, Kenyan companies are reported to have feared losing out since there was no way of sending or transferring money, and this resulted in the decrease in tea exports.
He said the iHiT is the first centre of that kind in Africa, which Iran aims to use to access other markets in East Africa and beyond.
“Kenya in Iran’s foreign policy is a friendly country; with the best infrastructure in the region; a highly educated human resource and a conducive environment for growth of businesses,” Jabar said.
He said the iHiT is an hub to help expand trade and bilateral relations between the two countries, and Kenya on the other hand, can use Iran’s first world infrastructure to access markets in some of the countries that depend on the Asian country’s border for their survival.
“After next Wednesday’s inauguration of the centre, I intend to bring to Kenya another big delegation that will consist of tea and coffee buying business personalities as we work hard to expand trade between us,” he said.
The centre has a co-work station and independent business incubation spaces for interested IT companies. For Kenyan companies that wish to participate, the Iranian embassy has established a portal through which they will register.
“Kenyan companies can register on b2b.ihit.co.ke/registration portal in order to be able to access Iranian companies,” Amb. Jabar added.
The building is going to host several Iranian High-tech companies, mainly knowledge-based ones.
“We are going to present the Iranian technology that we have acquired in the last 40 years despite the illegal sanctions we had against our country. We are going to share what we achieved in the last 42 years after the revolution and cooperation with the Kenyan nation.
“We are ready to share and have cooperation in different fields. This centre is going to host knowledge-based companies and give different services to the Iranian and Kenya companies who would like to cooperate. We are going to have co-work spaces, and independent offices to be given to both Iranian and Kenyan companies,” he said.
Kenya, he said, is expected to benefit from nanotechnology which is well established in Iran.
“Kenya has the necessary infrastructure in place, therefore we can import Kenya fresh products and export Iranian fresh products to Kenya and East Africa for the economic good of our countries,” he said.