Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) - An African perspective

Vimal Shah

Vimal Shah, Chief Executive Officer of Bidco Africa © Vimal Shah

Investments worth over Sh 225 billion (EUR 2 billion) in over 200 companies in Kenya benefit nearly 4 million people. Most of them are women and youth, particularly in the rural areas, who currently derive their livelihoods directly or indirectly from enterprises exporting to the EU in floriculture, horticulture, agro-processing, and fisheries. That is only one reason why Vimal Shah, CEO of Bidco Africa, calls for the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreements between the EU and East Africa.

The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are fantastic because they represent the kind of partnership that Kenya and East Africa needs; and the kind of investment Europe wants.

Europe is traditionally Kenya's biggest export market and the Economic Partnership Agreements EPAs provide room to take this trade relationship to a whole new level to the benefit of both parties.

In the world of trade deals this is a rare win-win proposition and that is what makes the EPAs good for Kenya's economy and by extension Kenya's manufacturing.

Duty-free, quota free export for all commodities with the exception of arms is the kind of opportunity Kenya and indeed the larger EAC need to spark a new wave of industrial opportunity and job creation across numerous sectors of the economy.

The ripple effect of this kind of market access is the real game changer-for every exporting entity/manufacturer you have synergies and partnerships that are also going to feel the impact of this partnership.

A perfect example is the packing industry which supplies the exporters of fresh produce destined to the EU market, stands to gain through EPA guaranteed duty free access of the fresh produce from Kenya.

Kenya now has duty free access to the EU market for manufactured food and beverages. Today exports of these products are over EUR4 billion. In five or ten years this could very well triple.

By relaxing the rules of origin the EPA's have created new opportunities for Kenya's manufacturers. The textile, apparel, food and beverage industries are the stand out beneficiaries but the thing to keep in mind is that the EU has liberalized 1,000 tariff lines in this agreements. This is ground-breaking stuff!

This is why we need to have the agreement ratified and promotion activities underway across Kenya and the EU as well as an implementation plan led by the key trade entities in the country.

The EPA's give Kenyan manufacturers guaranteed access to market across the EU; this is really the kind of opportunity that can transform our industry. We need to be thinking about how to serve this prospective market.
Regionally East Africa is growing at a fast rate and soon All the East African countries will migrate from being Least Developed Countries (LDC's) with GDP per capita below Usd1200 to higher income levels and that's when we will need the EPA's even more.

It is therefore imperative that all countries in East Africa sign ratify and implement the EPA's with Europe immediately.

Who is Vimal Shah?

Vimal Shah is one of Kenya and East Africa’s eminent and most respected business leaders. Together with his father and brother, Mr. Shah has transformed Bidco from a humble soap manufacturing enterprise into a Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) behemoth. Bidco is presently East Africa’s leading manufacturer of edible oils and hygiene and personal care products with over 40 brands and a footprint in 18 African countries. Vimal holds a BSc. Business Administration from United States International University – Africa. Vimal Shah holds many public offices. He is a member of the 3GF (Global Green Growth Fund) Advisory Board and the Tony Elumelu Foundation Advisory Board. Until April 2015, he was the Chairman of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance-the apex private sector body in Kenya, and is a former Chairman of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the East African Business Council.

He is a recipient of multiple awards and accolades. Vimal was the 2012 recipient of the East African Entrepreneur of the Year award awarded by All Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLA) in partnership with CNBC Africa and Forbes Africa. In recognition of his contribution to national development, Former President Mwai Kibaki awarded him the ‘First Class: Chief of the Order of the Burning Spear (CBS) in December 2011-the highest national honour for a private citizen in Kenya. In 2008, the Kenya Institute of Management awarded him the CEO of the Year award with BIDCO winning the Company of the year award. He was ranked the 3rd East Africa Business Leader of the Future and 5th Most Respected Chief Executive Officer in East Africa in 2002. He was named the Professional Manager of the Year 2001 and winner for Outstanding Executive support for IT in 2001. In 2015, KCA University awarded him an honorary PhD for his contribution to the growth of entrepreneurship in Kenya. Also in 2015 he was named Oshwal Entrepreneur of the Year in the first ever Oshwal Awards.

In May 2016, Mr. Shah was installed as the chancellor for Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology. Under his leadership Bidco has received over 30 corporate awards in 15 years across various domains: energy management, business leadership, ICT and manufacturing. Shah is regarded as one of Africa’s most distinguished and visionary business leaders and was named as a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2011, a position he held together with his brother and business partner, Tarun Shah. He is a much sought-after speaker and mentor on entrepreneurship, leadership and manufacturing and has given talks all over the world. He is a Fellow of the Kenya Institute of Management, a Fellow of the Marketing Society of Kenya and the Institute of Certified Public Secretaries of Kenya. Vimal is married to Manda Shah and they have one son named Soham currently 16 years old. Vimal is an avid reader and his favorite subjects include philosophy, spirituality, leadership, innovation, business excellence and mentoring.