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* Sri Lankan President's visit to Kenya opens up collaborative economic opportunities
Mon, Dec 16, 2013, 08:38 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Dec 16, Colombo: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa returned to the island early this morning following a successful state visit to Kenya, the first by a Sri Lankan head of state to that country.

In addition to attending Kenya's 50th Independence Day celebrations, the visit aimed to enhance bilateral relations and open up new collaborative economic opportunities for the two countries and their business communities, a media release from President's Media Unit said.

"I believe there is much potential to strengthen trade and economic relations between our two countries," President Rajapaksa told his Kenyan counterpart President Uhuru Kenyatta during the bilateral discussions.

During the bilateral discussions the two leaders reiterated their commitment to the continued expansion of bilateral ties and to build a fresh momentum for cooperation in all areas of mutual interest.

Towards this end the two countries signed eight Memoranda of Understanding on Bilateral Relations, Bilateral Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation, Visa exemption for holders of Diplomatic and Official passports, Cooperation in the field of Tourism, Cultural Cooperation and Cooperation in the field of Sports.

Currently, there are approximately 200 Sri Lankans living in Kenya with a number of them engaged in large projects in a variety of sectors from apparel and horticulture to motor vehicle trade. One other area Sri Lankan businesses have already identified as having large investment opportunities (not only in Kenya, but throughout Africa) is the power and energy sector.

"Sri Lankan private companies have invested in the power and energy sector in African states, and they have the capacity and desire to extend their business and services in the region," President Rajapaksa said.

One of those projects is the "Nanyuki Transmission Project," built by Sri Lanka's LTL Holdings (Pvt) Ltd. It was handed over to the Kenyan Government during this state visit in the presence of the two leaders.

The tea and coconut industries are two other areas that Sri Lankan and Kenyan investors can explore for mutual benefit. According the Tea Board of Kenya, the country had produced an average of about 360 million kilograms of tea annually during the past five years. This year, so far, it has produced a total of 365 million kilograms.

During the bilateral discussions, the Kenyan delegation noted that it would be beneficial for tea producing countries to collectively approach tea markets. They also indicated keen interest in learning best practices from Sri Lanka on value addition for tea and noted that Kenya would benefit from exchange visits to share knowledge and experiences. President Kenyatta also highlighted Kenya's desire to learn from Sri Lanka's experiences in the coconut industry.

Investment opportunities between the two countries are likely to be better facilitated following the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

Both President Rajapaksa and President Kenyatta acknowledged that connectivity is the key in enhancing all forms of relations between the two countries, be it economic, cultural or social. Towards this end, President Rajapaksa and President Kenyatta agreed to work towards two specific objectives: Establishing direct air links between the two capitals and enhancing links between the Ports of Mombasa, Colombo and Hambantota.

Both leaders acknowledged that acts of terrorism in any form cannot be condoned and agreed to enhance cooperation and the sharing of experiences especially in the areas of counterterrorism and defence.

Following discussions President Kenyatta accepted an invitation extended by Sri Lankan President to pay a state visit to Sri Lanka at a time to be mutually agreed.

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