Japan will be looking to capitalise on the Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Nairobi next year, to scout for more infrastructural finance deals as it plays a catch-up game with China.

Foreign Affairs Cabinet secretary Amina Mohamed confirmed on Friday that Kenya will host the sixth TICAD summit between September 2 and 4, the first to be held in Africa.

“We believe it will contribute significantly to enhancing and broadening the relationship between Kenya and Japan as well as Africa,” Mohamed said.

Kenya has continued to lean to East in inking deals for infrastructural development deals. Japan, which for many years was Kenya’s largest bilateral partner, was recently overtaken by China which landed the Sh327 billion Standard Gauge Railway project.

“We are keen on projects in the country, some are complete and others are in the pipeline,” said JICA chief
advisor Hiroshi Tsujino.

Kenya-China trade however remains stronger where last year, Kenya’s imports were valued at Sh248.6 billion compared to Sh86.6billion from Japan.

Kenya exported goods worth Sh6.6 billion to China and Sh3.5 billion to Japan, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Japan has been keen on projects in energy and infrastructure through the Japan International Cooperation Agency. These include Olkaria geothermal power project, Sondu-Miriu and Sangoro hydro power plants and Kipevu diesel power plant.

Others are expansions of Mombasa port which include construction of the Sh27 billion second container terminal and the Sh2.7 billion Nairobi Western ring.

Last week, the East Asian country hosted the Japan-Kenya conference on infrastructure where they also agreed to initiate talks on direct flights from Nairobi.

Mohamed said that Kenya Airways may start flying direct from Nairobi to Tokyo or Japan’s national carrier could fly direct to Nairobi through the talks that began when president Uhuru Kenyatta visited Japan in March.

Kenya Airways, the national carrier, has presence in several Asian destinations, including Guangzhou in China, Hanoi in Vietnam, Bangkok in Thailand and Hong Kong City in Hong Kong. The negotiations could mean either the extension of these flights into Japan or marketing Kenya as an attractive destination for the Japan carrier to fly to Nairobi. She did not disclose a time line as to when these negotiations could clinch a deal.

Kenya’s exports to Japan include coffee, tea and fresh cut flowers, and imports a range of products including cars and
machinery from the far east nation. The Kenya government has committed to work on the first three berths in Lamu, leaving 29 berths from which Japan can choose which ones they would like to work on, said principal secretary Karanja Kibicho.

She spoke at the start of the Kenya-Japan investment seminar yesterday. More than 54 Japanese companies
including major Tokyo-based banks are visiting the country to scout for investment opportunities at the invitation of the Kenyan government. 39 of them already have presence in Kenya.

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