Kenya will seize every opportunity to eliminate any barriers to movement — anchored on a robust framework — to exploit the huge trade and investment potential with Israel, President William Ruto has said .
In a statement after a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem, Israel, President Ruto noted that despite Kenya-Israel ties having evolved into a complex and transformational partnership, trade volumes between the two countries remain acutely low.
“We reached an agreement to pursue a progressive regime that will deepen cooperation, enhance connectivity and broaden the range of Kenya’s exports that deserve to reach the Israel domestic market,” the President said.
In his earlier meeting with President Isaac Herzog at his Residence in Jerusalem, President Ruto said Kenya and Israel have a “uniquely strong, deep and warm relationship”, and that Nairobi will deepen the ties with a special focus on agriculture to efficiently produce more to feed Kenyans and export the surplus.
“Israel’s modern farming technology will sustainably drive this hugely transformational agenda. With President of Israel Isaac Herzog, we agreed to expand our cooperation in trade, agriculture, security and technology,” President Ruto said.
Engagements between Kenya and Israel have been slow since the collapse of the Galana Kulalu Irrigation project that was being executed by Israeli-firm Green Arava.
Israeli Ambassador at the time Noah Gendler said the project had been sabotaged by “barons and cartels” that had taken over government that ensured nothing moves unless they are part of it. According to him, Galana Kulalu was the first government-to-government project that had failed in the history of Israel.
In January 2023, President Ruto appeared to confirm the good ambassador’s explanation, saying the project was sabotaged by a few powerful individuals embedded in the Uhuru government.
President Ruto, the said individuals he refused to name had allegedly already subdivided the land amongst themselves.
“Just to show you that Galana Kulalu was sabotaged, go to the Ministry of Lands, the fellows who sabotaged it had actually sub-divided it into little pieces of land. I have cancelled the parcelling of that land, I have stopped it and it will not happen because subdividing Galana is actually going to send people there who are going to require food relief to even live there,” he said during a roundtable interview with journalists at State House in Nairobi.
The President has already ordered for the revival of the irrigation project starting with the growing of maize from February.
“I direct as follows: (I) The planned subdivision into settlement parcels is revoked/cancelled; (II) Private Sector and GOK (the National Irrigation Authority) under a Public–Private Partnership (PPP) to work on the ready 10,000 acres to produce food starting with maize in February,” said Ruto.
“The next 10,000 acres be prepared for production in 6 months under Public–Private Partnership.”
The President further announced that the government will construct a dam beginning April this year to bring another 350,000 acres of the Galana Kulalu project under food production. The dam is yet to commence.
He said the government will work out a model for Public–Private Partnership food production in the 350,000 acres to be ready in 6 months.
It is yet to be seen if Israelis will once again get involved in the project, even as Israeli-trained Kenyan professionals seek to be involved in the project.