Kenya’s Participation in the WTO: Lessons Learned

Walter Odhiambo, Paul Kamau and Dorothy McCormick*

Opinions expressed in the case studies and any errors or omissions therein are the responsibility of their authors and not of the editors of this volume or of the institutions with which they are affiliated. The authors of the case studies wish to disassociate the institutions with which they are associated from opinions expressed in the case studies and from any errors or omission therein.

> Case Studies main page
> Introduction


> I. The problem in context
> II. The local and external players and their roles
> The government
> The private sector
> Civil society, research and academic institutions
> Academic and research institutions
> Co-ordination of WTO matters in Kenya
> Negotiations in agriculture: some insights into Kenya’s WTO participation
> III. Challenges faced and the outcome
> Effectiveness of the NCWTO
> Participation in NCWTO meetings by stakeholders
> Inclusiveness and awareness
> Notifications
> IV. Lessons for other players
> Reference

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I. The problem in context 

Kenya was among the founding members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) when the Marrakesh Agreement was signed in Morocco on 15 April 1994. The notification process was completed by 31 December 1994, when accession to the WTO was completed. As a member, Kenya is signatory to all WTO agreements including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the Agreement on Agriculture (AOA), the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

As in many other countries, trade issues in Kenya involve a large number of stakeholders with diverse interests. For effective policy formulation, it is important that all the stakeholders are effectively involved in the decision-making process. This is because not only are trade matters, particularly WTO-related ones, complex, but they also overlap and have far-reaching consequences. While there have been bold attempts in Kenya to engage all the stakeholders in the decision-making process, the pursuit of high-level strategic objectives in trade is undermined by the lack of any effective mechanism for co-ordination and consultation. This may have undermined the country’s policy stance. It may also have resulted in poor participation by some stakeholders. Like other developing countries, Kenya also lacks capacity in the formulation of trade policy.


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II. The local and external players and their roles 

WTO trade-related matters in Kenya involve a number of stakeholders. These include the government, the private sector and civil society organizations. These stakeholders not only have varied interests, but also have varying capacities to engage in WTO matters. What follows is a brief overview of the different stakeholders and their roles.


The government  back to top

The government is obviously one of the main stakeholders in trade matters. Overall responsibility for trade matters lies with the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), although other ministries handle some trade-related matters. The MTI is responsible for the WTO and Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) issues, while the Ministry of Planning is responsible for ACP-EU Cotonou matters and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for East African Community (EAC) matters. This fragmentation of trade responsibility has undermined the development of synergies of the WTO and other trade arrangements in Kenya.

Within the MTI, the WTO Division in the Department of External Trade is responsible for co-ordinating action within government on the Doha Round of trade negotiations as well as all other WTO matters. The WTO Division has a number of professional staff both within Kenya and at the Kenyan mission in Geneva, which deals exclusively with WTO matters. Although a crucial division on trade matters, it lacks the requisite capacity to undertake analysis of trade policy issues and the implications of tariff reduction. This, in turn, has limited the country’s capacity to negotiate at the WTO.


The private sector  back to top

The private sector in Kenya is becoming an increasingly important actor on trade matters, including WTO issues. It has shown a keen interest in engaging the government on trade policy issues. For long time the private sector in Kenya was not organized and was rarely represented in important policy formulation processes. However, a number of private-sector organizations have recently emerged to present and articulate the views of the private sector, and have been active on WTO trade-related matters. These include labour unions, trade associations, the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI), and a number of producer associations. However, the capacity of the private sector to participate varies. Most private-sector organizations lack the analytical capacity to comprehend the implications of trade measures. They also lack information on trade issues, which prevents a full understanding of trade agreements and measures. The other problem with the private sector organizations is that they tend to have different interests and do not in most cases have a common position on economic and trade issues. The private sector in Kenya generally tends to have enclave interests.


Civil society, research and academic institutions  back to top

A remarkable development of the trade policy formulation process in Kenya has been the emergence and participation of civil society organizations (CSOs), some of which include a mix of various livelihood groups, including the poor. In most cases they have sought to represent the poor in WTO issues, and a number have been active in such issues, including the Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers (KENFAP), ActionAid (Kenya), Oxfam, EcoNews, Consumer Information Network, RODI, SEATINI, the Institute for Economic Affairs, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Kenya Human Rights Commission. The participation of the CSOs has again been constrained by a limited capacity to undertake analytical studies on the impact of trade issues. A lack of financial resources has also limited the participation of some CSOs, especially community-based organizations (CBOs). As discussed in the next section, CSOs are better organized than the private sector in finding common ground on which to engage government.


Academic and research institutions  back to top

Academic and research institutions have been the main organizations carrying out research on trade issues in Kenya. As such they have provided an important resource to government, the private sector and civil society. They also, however, face a number of challenges including lack of resources for research.


Co-ordination of WTO matters in Kenya  back to top

On acceding to the Marrakech Agreement, Kenya established the Permanent Inter-Ministerial Committee (PIMC) in May 1995 to advise the government on all matters pertaining to the WTO. However, being an inter-ministerial committee, it excluded some key stakeholders, particularly those from the private sector and civil society. In recognition of the important role these actors could play in trade, in 1997 the government restructured the PIMC by including the private sector and civil society. Subsequently the PIMC was re-branded as the National Committee on WTO (NCWTO). Thus the NCWTO is the body through which the government consults with the private sector and civil society on WTO matters, and it is also the main trade co-ordinating body.

The NCWTO was established with a mandate to:

  • study and analyze the provisions of the WTO agreements and their likely effects on the Kenyan economy;
  • monitor the implementation of WTO agreements by other members and recommend appropriate action for Kenya;
  • provide modalities for implementation of the WTO agreements by Kenya so as to ensure maximum gains from multilateral trade;
  • provide government and the private sector with the necessary analysis of new market access conditions to enable identification of immediate and potential trading opportunities created within the multilateral trade system;
  • provide government with adequate information on the sectoral impact of the various agreements in order to enable it to review current and future trade policies;
  • increase the government’s awareness level regarding the institutional and legislative means by which it could safeguard its trade rights and obligations in multilateral trading systems;
  • enhance awareness among various stakeholders through fora and training; and
  • promote a dialogue between the public and private sector and build a consensus on WTO issues in Kenya.

The NCWTO is the forum in which the government, private sector and civil society engage in WTO matters. Within the government arena, the Attorney General, the Office of the President and the ministries of Trade and Industry, Finance, Planning and National Development, Health, Agriculture, Foreign Affairs, Labour and Human Resources, Environment and Natural Resources, Information and Communications, and Transport all participate actively in the NCWTO. The ministries act as the focal points for sub-committees handling relevant WTO issues, the Ministry of Health thus being the focal point for all health issues and the Ministry of Agriculture the focal point for all agricultural-related issues, and so on. A number of state corporations and parastatals such as the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and the Kenya Sugar Board (KSB) are members of the NCWTO. Others include the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), the Export Promotion Council (EPC), the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) and the Capital Market Authority (CMA).

Membership of the NCWTO is by invitation only. As national co-ordinator the MTI identifies the relevant stakeholders who are then invited to become members of the NCWTO. In a few instances, members of the sub-committee can identify other relevant stakeholders that could be co-opted. A few organizations or individuals have expressed interest in joining; there are no other formalities for becoming a member, as new members are simply entered into a list and invited to attend subsequent meetings. There is no limit to the number of stakeholders that can be members of the NCWTO, although preference has been given to organizations rather than individuals. There are currently around forty-five members of the NCWTO representing different umbrella organizations and institutions. Around twenty-five CSOs are members of the NCWTO, although only seven are active.

Outside the NCWTO, CSOs have organized themselves into a loose network co-ordinated by EcoNews (a Kenyan NGO). This network of NGOs provides a forum for civil society to consolidate their deliberations, which are then passed on to the government. In the recently concluded Cancún talks, Kenyan civil society played a pivotal role not only in developing the country’s position but also in facilitating attendance for some delegates. According to one interviewee, ‘the civil society organizations have been commissioning research projects on various trade issues whose findings feed into strengthening deliberations for the Kenyan trade position. Civil society also sponsors some of the activities of the NCWTO and recently sponsored the participation of a substantial number of delegates to Cancún including parliamentarians.’

As indicated earlier, the NCWTO is an advisory body for the government on WTO issues. The advice given to the government is generated through deliberations and consultation within the national committee. Because of the number and technical nature of the issues coming from Geneva, the NCWTO formed sub-committees with specific expertise to handle different issues. There are currently around ten sub-committees dealing with diverse issues. They include:

  • the Agriculture Sub-committee, chaired by the Ministry of Agriculture;
  • the Services Sub-committee, chaired by the Ministry of Transport and Communications;
  • the Market Access Sub-committee, chaired by the Department of Industry, ULI;
  • the Trade and Environment Sub-committee, chaired by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA);
  • the Trade Facilitation Sub-committee, chaired by the Department of Internal Trade, ULI;
  • the Trade and Competition Sub-committee, chaired by the Monopoly and Price Commission;
  • the Trade and Investment Sub-committee, chaired jointly by the Investment Promotion Council (IPC) and the Ministry of Finance;
  • the Transparency and Government Procurement Sub-committee, chaired by the Ministry of Finance;
  • the E-Commerce sub-Committee, chaired jointly by the Ministry of Transport and Communication and the ULI; and
  • the Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights Sub-committee, chaired jointly by KIPI and the MTI.

Membership of sub-committees is much more open than is the case with the NCWTO, as it depends on the subject being handled and the stakeholders’ interests. Whenever an issue arises, relevant sub-committees will call a meeting to deliberate on the issue and forward its deliberations to the NCWTO. Each sub-committee would get most of their inputs from the focal points (see Appendix, p. 298), which have the capacity to handle technical issues. Once the sub-committees submit their guidelines to the NCWTO, a meeting of the NCWTO is called for further deliberations on these guidelines. The NCWTO then mandates the Secretariat (Department of External Trade — MTI) to submit the deliberations to the Kenyan mission in Geneva. There are, however, cases when immediate responses are of the essence and sub-committees communicate directly with the Geneva team. This is allowed within the NCWTO. Our survey revealed that NCWTO meetings are seldom convened, except to prepare for major conferences such as the Cancún Ministerial Meeting in 2003. Afterwards, very few meetings are called. Most of our respondents felt that the NCWTO should hold regular meetings for discussions, even in the absence of any WTO issues, in order to keep members abreast of the issues and enable the committee to be proactive.

Decision-making in the NCWTO is by consensus. However, when decisions cannot be reached by consensus, voting may be used. At the sub-committee level, the decision-making process begins with the focal point which will make proposals on WTO issues coming from Geneva. However, before these proposals are presented to the sub-committee, they must be ratified by either the ministries or the organizations where the focal point is based. When the sub-committee meeting is held, members consider the position taken by the focal point for further deliberations. The decision taken by the sub-committee is then forwarded to the NCWTO, where all members deliberate on the position and adopt or amend it. At this level, decisions are made by consensus. There are cases where the national committee has vetoed a position taken at the sub-committee level and adopted a completely different position. Once the national committee has ratified a position, it is passed over to the MTI, which then passes it on to the negotiating team in Geneva through the Permanent Secretary (PS).

To ensure full implementation of all WTO agreements, particularly the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreements, Kenya identified a number of focal points, which are organizations with expertise and competence in particular WTO issues. These focal points serve as the nerve centre for the relevant sub-committees by providing technical input on the specific issues handled by the sub-committee. Similarly, there are national enquiry points (NEPs) established to help disseminate crucial information related to trade issues. For instance, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) is a focal point and also the NEP on matters relating to standards of or technical barriers to trade. Likewise, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and the Kenya Intellectual Property Institute (KIPI) are the enquiry points on issues on the SPS and Intellectual Property Rights, respectively. There are also a number of reference points that store and disseminate WTO-related reference materials. They include the Department of External Trade within the MTI, which is the reference point for the public sector; the Centre for Business Information in Kenya (CIBK) within the Export Promotion Council, for the business community; and the Kenya Institute for Business Training for academia. Recently, the National Assembly has been identified as a reference point for parliamentarians.


Negotiations in agriculture: some insights into Kenya’s WTO participation  back to top

To demonstrate how Kenya participates in the WTO, Kenya’s experiences in agricultural trade negotiations are presented below. Kenya’s participation in the WTO largely revolves around agriculture; it forms the backbone of the economy and produces the country’s major exports. This is not to say, however, that other issues are less important. Kenya has also been very active in issues related to trade in services and intellectual property rights.

Agriculture-related issues are negotiated on two main fronts. First, there are the regular responses on issues from Geneva on which members are expected to take positions. The positions members take are presented as proposals which are then defended in Geneva. The second front is during inter-ministerial meetings like the recently concluded talks in Cancún. This is where countries make major decisions on trade matters within the WTO framework. Members have tended to form groups around particular interests and to take common positions during ministerial meetings; in Cancún, there were three main groups, G20, G90 and the European Union (EU)/US axis. Kenya was in the G90 group. The positions a country takes will, therefore, to a large extent be influenced by the position of other countries. This section seeks to provide some insights into the former case where positions are largely taken internally. The focus is on the processes involved, the actors and outcomes.

As indicated earlier, Kenya maintains a negotiating team in Geneva to present Kenya’s positions on various issues, as well as to monitor and relay information on a daily basis on WTO events. These include notifications by other countries. Where situations arise and Kenya needs to respond, the Geneva team relays the information to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, which also act as the secretariat to the NCWTO. Once the information is received at the ministry, the ministry contacts the relevant sub-committee, in this case the sub-committee on agriculture, which is headed by the Ministry of Agriculture. At the same time, the information is passed on to the other stakeholders awaiting deliberations in the sub-committee.

At the Ministry of Agriculture the contact is usually the WTO desk officer. There is currently one officer in the ministry handling WTO issues. The current desk officer has been in the position for the last six months after his predecessor left to work for an NGO. This epitomizes the inconsistency and lack of continuity in the ministries. The desk officer’s role is essentially that of providing technical inputs into the issues from Geneva and formulating a position. Once this is done, the officer presents the position to the head of division, who may or may not moderate the position taken. The next step is then to present the position to the Director of Agriculture who is in charge of all technical matters in the Ministry. Again, the Director of Agriculture may moderate or alter the position, although no examples of this could be found. The Director of Agriculture is then expected to brief the Permanent Secretary on the position. Once the Permanent Secretary accepts the position it becomes the position of the Ministry of Agriculture. Only in a few cases is the minister involved. This happens whenever the issues are weighty and are considered to be crucial.

As the focal point, the Ministry of Agriculture then convenes the Sub-committee on Agriculture to solicit the views of the other stakeholders. At the sub-committee, it is the responsibility of the focal point, in this case, the Ministry of Agriculture, to explain the issues and lead by presenting the position of the ministry. The members are then free to deliberate on the position taken and finally reach a consensus. So far there has been no voting on any of the agricultural issues. Although members may initially differ on issues a consensus has always been reached. The position taken is often a ‘negotiated’ position. One of the reasons why it has been easy to reach a consensus within the sub-committee is because the issues under discussion at the sub-committee are often too technical for most members to understand. In other instances, the position of the Ministry of Agriculture prevails.

The other reason is that members are ill-prepared for the deliberations because they receive documents from Geneva either during the meeting or a few days before. In most cases, these documents are voluminous and technical. According to one of our respondents ‘only a few people can understand the issues and the sessions quickly become a boring lecture’.

Once the sub-committee takes a position on an issue, it is then required to present this to the national committee. At the NCWTO the issue is opened for further discussion by all the WTO stakeholders and a position is taken through consensus. The position taken is then passed on to the Ministry of Trade and Industry who then sends it to the negotiating team in Geneva, either as it is or with amendments depending on the government’s position.


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III. Challenges faced and the outcome 

As a founder member of the WTO, Kenya has made commendable progress in WTO matters, and has been able to build the structures necessary for the implementation of the WTO agreements. Kenya’s success is reflected in the country’s participation in all major WTO trade talks and the maintenance of a strong negotiating team in Geneva. Kenya has also been able to prepare position papers on a number of issues, even taking the lead at regional level in a number of cases. However, Kenya still faces a number of challenges related to its WTO participation. We discuss here some of the challenges and outcomes.


Effectiveness of the NCWTO  back to top

As earlier indicated, the NCWTO is the body through which the government consults both the private sector and civil society. However, the committee’s effectiveness has been compromised by a number of factors. As constituted the NCWTO is not a legal entity, and this has compromised both its operational and financial autonomy. For example, it does not have a chief executive officer or a board of management. The Department of External Trade in the MTI provides the secretariat for the NCWTO, while the Permanent Secretary in the same ministry assumes chairmanship. Although there have been some efforts to give the NCWTO legal status, this has not been successful. It therefore remains an informal advisory body until it is legally constituted.

The fact that the NCWTO has no legal mandate has meant that the government is under no obligation to adopt its advice and recommendations. According to a programme officer for an agriculture-based organization that is a member of the NCWTO, ‘the MTI downplays the submissions presented to it by the NCWTO on agriculture because it is has no obligations whatsoever to accept them’. During negotiations the Minister of Trade and Industry can overturn positions developed through the NCWTO. A case in point according to this respondent took place during the Ministerial Meeting in Cancún:

Prior to our departure to Cancún, we held a delegates’ meeting at the Safari Park Hotel. We agreed that Kenya would not negotiate on any of the four Singapore Issues until the Agreement on Agriculture was resolved. The Minister for Trade and Industry was to uphold this decision. However, in Cancún the minister allegedly changed position and was willing to negotiate on trade facilitation contrary to the earlier position we had taken in Kenya. This did not please most of us delegates and other developing countries who viewed Kenya as a torchbearer.

Functionally, the NCWTO is incapacitated because of its weak legal status. The organization has no chief executive and lacks the requisite capacity to handle some of its activities. For one, the NCWTO lacks the financial capacity to operate effectively. The Treasury has no obligation to allocate funds to the NCWTO because it is not by law a government agency, and the NCWTO does not have its own budget from the government. Other than the funding provided by the Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme (JITAP), which played a key role in its establishment, the NCWTO has relied on donors and well-wishers. According to a respondent, ‘since JITAP I [1998-2002] ended, activities of the NCWTO have came to a standstill. It is only through the financial support of civil society organizations that a few activities have been going on.’ This has led to irregular meetings, poor information flow and poor co-ordination among members. Lack of human resources makes the NCWTO rely on members of staff from the MTI, who are also required to perform other ministerial duties.


Participation in NCWTO meetings by stakeholders  back to top

Attendance at NCWTO meetings has generally been considered to be poor; attendance is relatively higher among government officials than among the private sector or civil society. It is important to note at this point that members have no obligation to attend the NCWTO meetings. The relatively high participation by public officials is because, in most cases, they play a facilitating role. The participation of public officials is, however, affected by the fact that they are transferred from one ministry to another. Participation by the private and civil society organizations is driven more by self-interest, for example profit maximization in the case of private-sector organizations. The survey revealed that private-sector organizations are more interested in the East African Community (EAC) and the Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), since they are their major markets. Private-sector organizations are not very interested in WTO issues: a respondent in one of these organizations concurred with this position, saying that ‘WTO is far off and our members concentrate on COMESA issues’; the NCWTO calls ‘too many meetings, which sometimes coincide with EAC or COMESA trade meetings in which we have direct interest. We also do not have many officers who like government.’ Another respondent had this to say: ‘The notices for WTO meetings are never sent on time and this demotivates us.’ The transfer of officials from one ministry to another impedes the smooth running of activities in the NCWTO. There is generally more consistency within the civil society than government.

The NCWTO is supposed to organize meetings for members on a regular basis. However, the survey revealed that there are spells when the NCWTO does not convene meetings; for instance it has called only one meeting since the Cancún Ministerial Meeting in 2003. This could be associated with the costs involved, so that active stakeholders felt that there is a need to look for alternative venues so that meetings can be held more regularly, otherwise interest may wane. Even though the NCWTO has been involved in training, some respondents complained that only government officials received any training; capacity development should extend to other members. Participants should be allowed to sponsor themselves if they are able. Similarly, the calendar of NCWTO events should be less closely linked to ongoing business in Geneva. Currently, the Department of External Trade in the MTI has been the main facilitator of NCWTO activities. This has been done with the support of the JITAP. Through the JITAP, a consultant was hired to work hand in hand with the MTI in co-ordinating NCWTO matters (many respondents referred us to this consultant). Although we were not able to get this person’s terms of reference or obtain an interview, we were informally told that the consultant is charged with the responsibility of organizing NCWTO activities and ensuring that the members receive communications on time. While some respondents felt that this was a good effort and should be strengthened, others said that the consultant was making the NCWTO work unnecessarily complicated.


Inclusiveness and awareness  back to top

A primary reason for the establishment of the NCWTO was to ensure that all stakeholders are brought on board. Although this has to a large extent been achieved, a number of actors are still out of the loop. For example, the Kenya Fish Processors and Exporters Association (AFIPEK) is not a member of the NCWTO, and yet fish is an important export subject in WTO regulations. Asked whether they were members of the NCWTO, the respondent in AFIPEK said, ‘We have never attended a single meeting organized by the NCWTO. We have never been invited. The NCWTO is purely a group of government officials. The private sector, including ourselves, have never been invited.’ This comment illustrates a feeling of exclusion and a low level of awareness on WTO matters. We did not interview the Kenya Textile Manufacturers and Exporters Association, but indications were that they are not members of the NCWTO, despite the importance of textiles in external trade.

As the supreme body for the formulation of laws in the country, parliament has an important role to play in the formulation of trade policies. As an institution, parliament is not represented in the NCWTO, neither does it have direct links. Parliament’s involvement in WTO issues has generally been weak, due to lack of awareness and interest. According to an interviewee, ‘in 1998, the NCWTO invited all the members of parliament to an awareness breakfast session to inform them of the importance of WTO issues. To the surprise of the NCWTO only ten out of 210 MPs that were invited turned up. It is no a secret that most MPs are not conversant with WTO issues. Involving MPs in the NCWTO meetings has not been easy … even when MPs attend WTO meetings, they hardly sit after tea break’. To increase awareness of the WTO among parliamentarians, the National Assembly has been turned into a reference point. Another interview with a member of civil society revealed that ‘the inclusion of five MPs in the Kenyan delegation to Cancún (2003) was also a significant step towards creating awareness among the parliamentarians’. Some civil society organizations, particularly EcoNews, ActionAid and SEATINI, are working directly with the Parliamentary Trade and Finance Select Committee.

General public awareness of WTO issues also remains low in Kenya. Although general awareness has been increasing in the last few years, a huge segment of the population, especially those in the rural areas, remains ignorant. The NCWTO has not been very successful in its public awareness programme. A statement by a farmer in one of the awareness workshop highlights this fact: ‘The WTO seems to be a very good organization. When is it coming here to build us a market?’ (a respondent involved in an NCWTO sensitization seminar narrated this to us).


Notifications  back to top

Kenya has been unable to respond through the NCWTO to a single notification since 1997.(1) Even after NEPs and focal points were set up to issue notifications, performance has been poor. We found that NEPs are not interlinked and worked more or less independently of each other. A recent case in point is when the government through the Ministry of Transport and Communication introduced measures for speed governors and safety belts to be fitted in all public transport vehicles. Ideally, Kenya should have issued a notification through the NCWTO to all WTO members who may have an interest in undertaking such activity in Kenya, but this was not done. According to one of the respondents, ‘there are so many things that we need to issue notifications on but we have failed to do so. We have the format to do it but the channel of notification is clogged by the ineffectiveness of the NCWTO.’ There are no formal structures to handle notifications in Kenya.

The effectiveness of the NCWTO has also been impaired by the fact that trade issues are addressed by different ministries. For instance, EAC affairs are handled in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, COMESA by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and ACP-EU by the Ministry of Planning and National Development. The problem is that there is no linkage between different offices. Kenya ends up making different commitments in different trade initiatives; an example of this is the tariff commitment under the EAC, which is different from the WTO commitment on the tariffs. Implementation of such agreements becomes not only difficult but also expensive for the country.


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IV. Lessons for other players 

Kenya’s participation in the WTO provides a number of lessons for other players. These are

  1. The need for an effective co-ordination and consultation mechanism. Benefits accruing to countries from the multilateral trading systems depend on, among other things, the extent to which trade policy issues are co-ordinated at the national level and the subsequent capacity to negotiate in Geneva. Kenya’s experience shows that co-ordination of WTO matters has been weak and that this could have undermined the country’s position. Co-ordination at international level requires adequate legal and resource backing, something which has been missing in the Kenyan case. Lack of financial and human capacity seriously impedes Kenya’s capacity to participate effectively in trade negotiations. The survey revealed that a lack of skills at NCWTO and sub-committee levels seriously affects deliberations on WTO issues.
  2. The need for analytical capacity. The Kenyan experience indicates a lack of analytical capacity in government, the private sector and civil society. Although some of the key institutions are staffed with personnel to carry out impact assessments, their capacity is largely inadequate. the case of Kenya, there is a need to strengthen the analytical skills of civil society organizations that are involved in trade matters and government ministries. Training in policy analysis is a necessary condition for effective policy-making by enabling policy-makers to understand the full implications of various trade proposals and agreements.

Fig 1: Structure of Kenya’s participation in the WTO.


  1. Fragmentation of responsibilities on trade matters. Apart from being a member of the WTO, Kenya, like many other countries, is a member of other trading arrangements, in this case the EAC and COMESA. In Kenya, the responsibility for co-ordinating these activities is with different ministries and departments and this has undermined unity in decision-making. Kenya has also not been able to exploit synergies that would be experienced through the joint and simultaneous implementation of WTO and regional trade arrangements.


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ActionAid Kenya (2003). ‘Action Forum: Trade WTO Cancún Meeting — Same Game Plan — Will Rules Change?’ Issue 8, Nairobi: ActionAid
Ikiara, G. K., Muriira, M. I. and Nyangena, W. N. (2002), ‘Kenya’s Trade in Services: Should the Country Fully Liberalise?’, Nairobi: KIPPRA
Ikiara, G. K., Olewe-Nyunya J. and Odhiambo, W. (2004), ‘Kenya: Formulation and Implementation of Strategic Trade and Industrial Policies’, in C. C. Soludo, O. Ogbu, H. Chang, eds., The Politics of Trade and Industrial Policy in Africa: Forced Consensus? Asmara: Africa World Press
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Odhiambo, W., and Kamau, P. (2003). ‘Public Procurement: Lessons from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania’, OECD Technical Paper 208, OECD, Paris
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World Trade Organization (2000), Trade Policy Review: Kenya, Geneva: WTO


1.- In an effort to increase the transparency of members’ trade policies, WTO regulations require that all trade laws, regulations, judicial decisions and administrative rulings be made public by informing all WTO members whose trade may be affected by the decision. This is what we call notification according to Art. X of GATT, Art. III of GATS and Art. 63 of TRIPS. back to text

* Walter Odhiambo and Paul Kamau are Research Fellows at the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi. Dorothy McCormick is Associate Research Professor and Director of the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi.