ADDIS ABABA, Feb 16 Business leaders from Ethiopia and Kenya have pledged to push their respective governments to implement the bilateral Special Status Agreement (SSA) signed by the two countries in 2012.

The business leaders who met in Nairobi last week said implementation of the bilateral trade agreement was key to growing trade between the two countries.

According to a statement from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), the country had a strong interest in the implementation of the SSA, which would eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers in trade between the two countries.

It is also expected to improve market access between the two nations, increasing the flow of goods and services.

KAM has partnered with the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry to spearhead bilateral talks in the wake of increasing industrial competition from Ethiopia, Kenya’s northern neighbour.

“We anticipate that co-operation will open up better opportunities for local businesses in Ethiopia and vice versa,” KAM chief executive officer (CEO) Phyllis Wakiaga said in the statement.

Analysts have projected that Ethiopia is likely to become a leading investment hub for global manufacturing companies eyeing the African market in view of its major investments in infrastructure development projects and its lower electricity costs.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation, has since the turn of the decade concentrated on upgrading its railway transportation services.

The 756-kilometre Standard Gauge Railway from the capital, Addis Ababa, to the port of Djibouti, commissioned in 2011, is undergoing trials, while the 17-km Addis light rail mass transit system started operations on Sept 20, last year.

“Opportunities for peer learning through projects such as the tram and the Standard Gauge Railway in Ethiopia and Kenya will set us on a path to economic sustainability for both nations,” Wakiaga said.

Kenyan companies have been keen on expanding into Ethiopia under the trade agreement.

The country is banking on the bilateral engagements and improvement of infrastructure, which includes the Marsabit-Moyale road to grow trade opportunities into Ethiopia.

The value of trade between the two countries increased from 2.2 billion Kenyan shillings in 2004 to 7.4 billion shillings (about 72.6 million US dollars) in 2014, KNCCI CEO Matanda Wabuyele said.

Source: ENA