INTERVIEW-India-Kenya trade to rise 25 pct in 2011-envoy

Mon Feb 21, 2011 3:45pm IST

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* Trade worth $1.4 bln last year

* Kenyan exports grew over 60 pct in 2010

By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura

NAIROBI, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Trade between India and Kenya is likely to rise by 20-25 percent this year after growing 23 percent in 2010, New Delhi's envoy to Nairobi said on Monday.

Turnover between the two was worth $1.41 billion in 2010, heavily titled in India's favour. Kenya exported commodities worth $107.1 million and imported $1.3 billion worth of Indian goods. The figures do not reflect services.

"We have two economies growing at a significant pace. India at 8 percent and Kenya at 5 percent. Given these two scenarios, I would not be surprised if 20-25 is not maintained," said Sibabrata Tripathi, India's high commissioner to Kenya.

"Our imports are less than exports but they have marked an increase of over 60 percent," he said.

Inida exports a wide variety of goods such as vehicles, motorbikes and pharmaceutical products to Kenya, while the east African country exports mainly soda ash, mined by the Indian conglomerate Tata Group.

Other Indian companies with operations in Kenya are Bharti Airtel (BRTI.BO), Essar Group, which has an equity interest in the country's sole refinery and the smallest mobile phone operator that trades as yu.

Tripathi said two major listed banks were sounding out the Kenyan market but declined to name them. Bank of India and Bank of Baroda (BOB.BO) have been operating in the country for years.

"Kenya is increasingly becoming an attractive investment destination for Indian companies," he said.

Engineering, automobiles, ICT, telecoms, pharmaceuticals and services such as banking are sectors most targeted by Indian investors looking at the country, Tripathi said.

Kenya and India ties date back centuries before England imported Indian workers to construct a railway from the Indian Ocean coast at Mombasa to Kampala, the capital of neighbouring Uganda.

Tripathi said India would continue lending to Kenya through a revolving line of credit through the East African Development Bank and the PTA Bank.

India's Exim Bank has extended a $61.6 million loan to Kenya for the expansion and repair of the national electricity transmission network. [ID:nLDE71D149]

Tripathi said he saw investment potential in the healthcare, education and tourism sectors for Indians interested in the African nation.

India offers 101 fully funded scholarships for Kenyans annually to train in technical skills in sectors such as ICT, engineering, forestry, and the commissioner said his government had added 25 more for training in agriculture.

"I would like to see greater investment in healthcare, to ease the burden of Kenyans travelling overseas for healthcare. I would like to see joint venture facilities in Kenya," he said. (Editing by Susan Fenton)

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