President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived in Kinshasa on Tuesday for a three-day State Visit of the Democratic Republic of Congo at the invitation of President Felix Tshisekedi.
The Kenya Airways aeroplane carrying the President and his entourage touched down at N’djili International Airport in Kinshasa, the capital city of DR Congo, shortly after 3.30pm Central African Time.
President Kenyatta was officially received at the airport by his host President Felix Tshisekedi and accorded a full State reception complete with a guard of honour mounted by a detachment of the Congolese military.
Accompanying President Tshisekedi at the airport to receive President Kenyatta were several senior Congolese Government officials among them the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister Christophe Lutundula and the Governor of Kinshasa Gentiny Ngobila Mbala.
Also present were Kenya’s Cabinet Secretaries Raychelle Omamo (Foreign Affairs) and Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution) as well as the country’s ambassador to DR Congo Dr George Masafu.
Speaking in Kinshasa ahead of President Kenyatta’s arrival, Amb Masafu said President Kenyatta’s three-day state visit is aimed at cementing the excellent bilateral ties between Kenya and the DRC through enhanced trade and people-to-people interactions.
“The coming of the President to this country (DR Congo) is to strengthen that relationship, especially on the business side. Two, it is to strengthen the relationship between Kenya and DRC through diplomatic relations, through trade, through security relations and through other areas that build both sides, it is a win-win situation,” Amb Masafu said.
The Kenyan envoy also spoke about the strong and historical cultural ties that exists between the people of the sister nations saying Congolese rhumba music had, over the years, become part of Kenya’s dance and entertainment culture.
Amb Masafu observed that Kiswahili language which is spoken by a majority of the population in Eastern Congo is a major facilitator of people-to-people interactions between Kenyans and Congolese.
“When you talk about DRC, in the mind of a Kenyan, what is he thinking? He is thinking about lingala music…The Eastern side of Congo, North and South Kivu, they speak Kiswahili…that enables us (Kenyans) to come to DRC to do business and also for them (Congolese) to go to Kenya and do business,” he said.
Amb Masafu regretted that for a very long time, civil war in parts of DR Congo had hindered trade between Kenya and DRC, noting that the return of political stability in 2014 had seen more Kenyan businesses set up shop in the country.
“For many years, trade between Kenya and DRC has been insignificant. The reason being that the DRC was at war. It was not safe to do business here. Since 2014, we (Kenyan businesses) made an entry into this country,” Amb Masafu said, adding that Kenya was keen on growing its exports into the vast Central African nation.
“In agriculture, most of the food in DRC is imported from overseas. There’s an opportunity for Kenyans to participate in food security in this country, to make sure they can feed DRC and export some back to Kenya,” he said.
Besides trade in goods, Amb Masafu encouraged Kenyans to invest in DRC’s emerging service sector citing the example of Kenya’s Equity Bank which has successfully positioned itself to become the country’s second largest financial institution.
Amb Masafu identified aviation, insurance, hospitality, mining and construction as some of the other sectors that present the highest potential for success and encouraged Kenyan traders to take advantage of direct flights between Nairobi and Kinshasa by the national carrier Kenya Airways to explore business opportunities in DR Congo.
As part of the three-day state visit, President Kenyatta and his host will on Thursday morning lead their respective delegations in bilateral talks on DR Congo-Kenya relations and witness the signing of several agreements.
Later, President Kenyatta is scheduled to preside over the inauguration of the re-branded Equity Commercial Bank of Congo’s (Equity BCDC) office block in Central Kinshasa. Kenya’s Equity Bank entered the Congolese market in 2015 and has over the short period consolidated its position through mergers and acquisitions to become DRC’s second largest bank.