Nairobi, April 24 (IANS) India has emerged as a key player in Kenyas healthcare sector and needs to build on this, Indias High Commissioner to Kenya Rahul Chhabra has said.
"The Indian healthcare industry has established its roots in Kenya. Indian hospitals have begun investing not only in Nairobi, but also in other cities and could increase their presence in this sector," Chhabra told IANS in an interview here on the sidelines of the UN Environment annual assembly.
"Over 10,000 Kenyan patients travel to India (annually) for medical purposes and this underscores the need for affordable healthcare in Kenya," Chhabra, who is concurrently the Indian ambassador to Somalia, said.
Between them, these medical tourists spend some $100 million annually.
As per official figures, Kenya spends $482 million annually to import drugs, mainly from India.
"This opens up a window of opportunity for pharma companies keen to invest in Kenya," Chhabra, who has been in office since last November, said.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has often invited Indian firms to set up manufacturing units in this country and make it a regional distribution hub for generic drugs.
The establishment of a cancer hospital, the first India-Japan collaboration in Kenya, has been announced at the highest level and discussions are underway to speedily take this forward, the envoy said.
India has offered to connect the leading hospitals of Kenya through e-Arogya Bharti telemedicine network. It will help in training of medical professionals across the country.
In this context, Chhabra noted that affordable healthcare is an element in the "big four" agenda that Kenyan government has rolled out to take the country on a development path. This offers several trade and investment opportunities to Indian companies, Chhabra said, adding that two lines of credit amounting to $45 million have already been extended to the East African nation.
"The government of Kenya has rolled out its ‘big four' agenda -- food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare, to take the country on a development path to improve the lives of its citizens," Chhabra said.
The objectives set out in the agenda offer immense trade opportunities for Indian companies to invest in Kenya, he said.
Several Indian companies are already investing in the agricultural sector to provide seeds, pesticides, fertilisers and agricultural implements, among others.
Over 60 major Indian firms have offices and factories in the Kenyan capital. Tata and Airtel are household names.
According to Chhabra, Indian companies can establish manufacturing and assembly units in Kenya. Consumer products and construction are other areas which offer lucrative opportunities.
To improve India-Kenya bilateral trade, which is at nearly $3 billion, a number of buyer-seller meets are regularly organised, he said.
On India's agreement to extend two Lines of Credit amounting to $45 million for upgrading Kenya's manufacturing capacity, he said: "Modernisation of Rivatex (Rift Valley Textiles Factory - Rivatex East Africa Ltd) is a shining example of success of India's Line of Credit."
"A total of $29.3 million was given through the Exim Bank of India. The project is expected to be completed in the coming few weeks and will increase the installed capacity (of 10 bales a day) by about eight times," the envoy explained.
Another $15 million has been given for the development of SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) and is being implemented through IDB Capital.
Chhabra also said Kenya is completing its internal procedures to soon join the International Solar Alliance (ISA), launched by India and France at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015.
So far 74 countries have signed the ISA's Framework Agreement and 52 have ratified it.
A brainchild of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the India-based ISA inter-governmental body has set a target of producing 1,000 GW of solar energy and mobilising over $1,000 billion into the generation of solar energy by 2030. Both India and Kenya have abundant sunlight.
(Vishal Gulati was in Nairobi at the invitation of UN Environment. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)