Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Delta’s arrival to boost US-Kenya trade

By Michael Ranneberger - Posted Tuesday, June 2 2009 - www.businessdailyafrica.com

In our grandparents’ time, travelling between Kenya and the United States would take weeks, if not months, on steamers ploughing the Indian, Mediterranean and Atlantic oceans.

The speed and ease with which people and products move between countries is the foundation of commerce, just as speedy communication brings people closer.

Kenya has been a traditional friend and partner to the US since its Independence, and is the region’s keystone state economically, commercially and financially.

On June 3, with the launch of flights between Kenya and the US by Delta Airlines, a new era of broader cooperation will begin.

By cutting 20 per cent off the time required to fly between the two nations, Delta’s direct link will promote an increased flow of travellers in both directions.

Safe skies
Delta’s launch is the fruit of many years’ work by the US and Kenya. Our two nations have cooperated in advancing “Safe Skies for Africa”, and working together with our Transportation Safety Administration, the Kenya Airports Authority and Kenya Civil Aviation Authority have recently upgraded security at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

We look forward to further cooperation to enhance the security and safety of the civil aviation industry.

The initiation of the Delta flights comes two months before Kenya will host the Agoa (African Growth and Opportunity Act) forum, where US senior government officials will sit down with leaders from across Africa to discuss how we can work together to create jobs and opportunities for our citizens.

Agoa provides Kenyan businesses with an important advantage over non-African nations —the entry of goods without paying customs duties — that offers Kenyan companies a large cost advantage over your competitors.

Reducing the time to market for Kenyan exports can only help your companies to take advantage of Agoa preferences.

The new air link has many benefits. Travellers from the US will appreciate the opportunity to fly using an airline my fellow citizens know well and trust, and they will appreciate having a faster alternative to passing through a European hub.

Once here, they will take advantage of Kenya Airways’ unparalleled regional network to visit other East African destinations.

While tourism arrivals have declined across the world over the last year, I am confident that Delta’s air bridge to the US will encourage a resurgence of visitors from my country.

Kenya also has a unique opportunity to increase tourism visits to Kenya both before and after next year’s World Cup.

Kenya’s exports to the US will also benefit, especially those of perishable goods such as Kenya’s famous cut flower industry.

Kenya’s flower growers rush their product to market because a freshly cut flower’s value in the market is greater than one cut days earlier.

Shipping with Delta will both shorten the time to market and avoid using the middlemen who have historically resold Kenyan flowers in Europe. More of the profits from Kenya’s flower industry should remain with Kenyan companies.

With the Delta flights, Kenya will be better able to access the American market and make available its incomparable coffee, tea, cashews, macadamia, cut flowers, soap stone figurines, precious stones and jewelry, apparel, and curios and wood carvings to the American consumer.

Delta’s service to Kenya means that the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK) and Kenyan farmers will be able to more readily take advantage of recent decisions by the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to certify that five Kenyan vegetables meet stringent American phytosanitary standards.

Kenyan coffee and tea producers recognise that Delta offers their industries a profitable link to American consumers.

Representatives of the Kenya Flower Council (KFC) are gearing up for the June 9-12, 2009 Super Floral Show in Atlanta. Naturally, KFC participants will be flying Delta to Atlanta.

Long-term benefits
I would like to take this opportunity to salute the leadership of Delta Airlines for seeing beyond the short-term pressures of today’s business climate to the greater long-term benefit of linking the United States directly with Kenya and her many neighbours in East Africa.

There is no better way to know a people than to visit and see for yourself. By virtue of Delta’s launch this June, ties between the US and Kenya will be greatly enhanced.

Mr Ranneberger is US ambassador to Kenya.