OPINION: Involvement in international summits unlocks Kenya’s potential

By Michael Cherambos

President Uhuru Kenyatta is yet again out of the country. This time, he is accompanied by his handshake brother former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, on the trip abroad to go and preach the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) gospel in the United States of America.

The President has been criticized for always being on the move away from home. But the critics fail, on most times, to appreciate the value of these foreign trips to the country.

Look at the recent UK-Africa Investment Summit in London for instance. Kenyatta went to the British capital in order to represent Kenya’s agenda and make sure that our relations with Britain remain fruitful post-Brexit.

The summit came at a pivotal time in geopolitics. The advent of a new decade it seems has been accompanied by turmoil and uncertainty. The Iranian-American nuclear agreement is up in the air while the two rivals are once again at the brink of war.

The trade wars between China and the United States threaten the economic growth of the East Asian giant, while migrants from Central America flee political instability and violence. Meanwhile, Brexit is getting closer by the day and the future of the EU, and the strength of the Euro, is up for debate.

But within this global storm, Kenya remains a rock of stability. Along with 20 African heads of state, ambassadors and high commissioners, Uhuru set off for the UK to improve partnerships and work towards our goals in the Big Four Agenda.

As Brexit looms, making sure that good relations continue and even grow stronger between Kenya and the UK is critical. Many large Kenyan companies already enjoy significant investments from the UK. UK firm Vodacom invests in the largest taxpaying company here – Safaricom PLC. Since UK banks will soon not be able to operate as freely as before in Europe, we can expect more British financial interest in Africa. And due to our leader’s adept statesmanship, we will be ready.

During the trip, Uhuru launched the Green Bond at the London Securities Exchange. This will allow Kenya to invest in UK financial markets, building on years of commercial exchange between the two partners.

Recent data shows that Kenya exported Sh31 billion worth of goods to the UK in 2018. Even more than that was imported from the UK into Kenya in the same year. But to close the gap, the government is working on exporting more raw materials from Kenyan cotton, textiles and minerals.

Green energy production is another sector that demands constant attention and effort in order to grow in the direction that we desire, as an environmental and economic conscious nation. Unlocking more eco friendly sources of power not only complements the president’s conservation work. It is also a critical element of achieving the goals of the Big Four Agenda.

Cheaper and more efficient energy sources will help us build more affordable housing, ramp up the capabilities of the local manufacturing industry, and even help us create better hospitals.

But to get better at this we must maintain long lasting friendships with allies who can offer their great expertise in the area. The UK has many scientists that can help us develop our solar, wind and geothermal capabilities. We cannot go it alone, but we can achieve greatness if we are on good terms with countries who have much scientific training and knowledge to offer.

That is why Uhuru’s constant effort to curry favour with European and other allies is so important. Last year, he went on official visits to the Bahamas, Jamaica and Japan and other countries with which we have traditionally been on good terms, but do little business with. The world’s global superpowers of the 20th century are not the same as in 2020.

In order to match the constantly evolving world, Kenya has to adapt its external relations priorities accordingly. That means taking a leading role in the UK-Africa Investment Summit as well as hosting other events such as the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States Summit in Nairobi.

After several years of adept statesmanship, Uhuru has positioned Kenya as a stable partner with lots of potential. Governments around the world are quickly learning that partnerships with Kenya will be very fruitful in the coming years as our economic growth trajectory gets better and better – as predicted by the World Bank.

The more bilateral agreements covering security, intelligence, education, science, research and culture that we take part in, the better our prospects. While the government looks to traditional partners such as Britain to assure them that despite their instability we are a steadfast partner, it is also looking to other emerging markets to mark a new era of development.

The current handshake-BBI trip also places Kenya at a higher pedestal in the family of nations.

Michael Cherambos comments on topical socio-political issues; Michaelcherambos1@gmail.com