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Renewal of US Trade Deal Important to Kenya


The Bloomberg news service recently published a list of the 20 fastest-growing economies. Bloomberg rated a total of 57 countries. China received the top rating, with the Philippines in second place. Kenya and Nigeria were the only African countries on the list. Unemployment in Kenya remains high. And some industries in the East African nation may be hurt if the United States fails to extend a trade agreement.

That is the sound of an industrial sewing machine at a textiles factory near the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. The factory belongs to United Aryan Limited. The company was formed 13 years ago. It employs about 10,000 people. Workers earn an average of $150 in wages a month.

United Aryan Limited exports most of the goods it makes. Each month, it sends products worth $100 million to buyers in the United States.

The company has been grown partly because of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The United States Congress approved the act to permit imports of some products from Africa without the payment of duties or taxes. The U.S. trade program is set to end in September.

Pankaj Bedi is the chairman of United Aryan Limited. He says his company would be severely hurt if the program is not extended.

“It will be disaster. We all have been lobbying, pushing, doing whatever we can. In fact government now is very proactive, even the Kenyan government has been, you know, following through. If it is not there then we are not there. Simple. We’ll lose all the jobs; there will be social, security all kind of disasters happening.”

Bloomberg predicts Kenya’s economy will grow six percent this year. If it does, it would join China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia as the only economies with a growth rate of five percent or more. But unemployment in Kenya remains high, and 40 percent of Kenyans are very poor.

In Kenya, political unrest, water shortages and terrorist attacks have all slowed efforts to help the country’s economy. If the trade agreement is not renewed, many Kenyans would suffer.

Aly Khan Satchu is a financial expert. He says the trade agreement is very important to Kenya’s economy.

“There’s been an explosion in what is called the EPZ -- Export Processing Zones -- where the government has assisted companies who are predominantly exporting textiles. (It’s been) pretty major and has had a dynamic, positive economic impact in Kenya.”

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Lenny Ruvaga reported this story from Nairobi. Christopher Jones-Cruise wrote it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

textiles – n. materials made from cloth; the businesses that manufacture clothing

duties – n. a tax on imports to a country

proactive – adj. controlling a situation by making things happen or by preparing for future problems

predominantly – adv. being more important, powerful, successful or noticeable than other people or things

dynamic – adj. having or showing a lot of energy; always active or changing

Do you work for a company that has been helped by the African Growth and Opportunity Act? We want to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments section.

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