Inside Politics

Iran creates ‘special vehicle’ to rekindle trade ties with Kenya

Thursday, January 21st, 2021 00:00 |
Iranian Ambassador to Kenya Jafar Barmaki (left) with the House of Innovation and Technology CEO Ali Baniamerian during the press briefing in Nairobi. Photo/PD/Bernard Malonza

George Kebaso @Morarak

Iran is banking on the US to relax sanctions it imposed on the Asian country in mid 2018 to deepen bilateral deals with Kenya.

The country which was one of Kenya’s major importers of tea said it has been forced to pursue an alternative avenue to resume normal tea exports as it waits for the new US administration to lift or relax the sanctions.

Iranian ambassador to Kenya, Jafar Barmaki said Kenya was enjoying a 20 per cent steady tea exports to Iran during the three-year period when the sanctions were lifted under President Barack Obama’s administration.

However, it suffered a slump in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal agreement mid 2018.

Speaking in Nairobi ahead of the inauguration of the Iranian House of Innovation and Technology (iHiT) next week, Barmaki said that Kenya’s bilateral trade ties are going to be rejuvenated under a new programme bringing together knowledge-based companies from 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,” he said.

Barmaki added: “Through this we hope to rejuvenate trade between the two countries, announcing that a delegation of about 60 people who include software engineers and trade experts would come to Nairobi.

Trade relations

Some of the technologies Iran is bidding to jumpstart trade relations with Kenya include renewable energy, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, biotechnology, nanotechnology and other high-tech technologies that Iran has acquired for the last four decades. 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.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country in March 2020, Iran was enjoying a $150 million (Sh15 billion) of exports to Kenya, mainly in construction materials and textile products, while in the opposite direction, Kenya only managed $30 million ( Sh3 billion) from sale of tea and coffee to Tehran.

But according to Jabar, the “illegal” sanctions and Covid-19 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,” he said.

He said many countries will benefit from the removal of the sanctions including Kenya.

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