Post Brexit, Kenya can take positive approach to grow its potential

President uhuru Kenyatta(right) and MasterCard foundation CEO Reeta Roy during the launch of mastercard programme in Nairobi on 20/6/19-[Beverlyne Musili,Standard]

Successfully transforming from a developing nation into a mature, global economy means prioritising education, health, and the integration of technology. While those considerations are being reflected in recent budgets, the bigger picture is that Kenya is now in a position to look beyond its own borders.

We must actively seek opportunities, partnerships and policies that multiply the hard work and successes of the past few years. Fortunately, it is also plain to see that the world is ripe for change.

No place more so than in London, as Britain prepares to finally leave the European Union in October. Whether Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt takes charge of the British government, it appears increasingly likely that whatever the outcome, the door will be wide open for opportunity, partnerships, and for the implementation of a wise policy: Leading from the front.

Our own leader, Uhuru Kenyatta, has shown he belongs on the world stage; receiving praise and recruiting support for his national and international policies. It is for this reason he is a fixture at all-important G7 meetings, and that he has secured Nairobi as the host city for the first global conference on sustainable ocean-based economics later this year, with Canada and Japan as co-hosts.

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Higher tariff

With notches like these on his belt, a reputation for leading Pan-Africanism, and a united country behind him, Uhuru can now lead us beyond successes like the Africa Continental Free Trade Area and into a truly international space - the Commonwealth.

If the British economy crashes as a result of a poorly planned Brexit, a dangerous double blow will come down on exporters here: there will be less to sell, and a higher tariff to pay for the privilege. The answer to such a problem comes in the shape of aligning partners around the world, each getting what they need to grow. While the EU has the advantages of connecting similar and adjacent countries, the Commonwealth has the benefit of being a global network of linked countries. Many have complementary services to offer, and needs to be met.

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Take Kenya, for example. While our manufacturing is increasing at pace, we must develop the market opportunities for our goods, as well as our blossoming horticulture and agriculture. With the opportunities afforded by a network of deals and supply chains through the Commonwealth, large untapped markets such as Malaysia, Australia and untapped parts of Asia should appear on our radar.

Our need for infrastructure, security and technology will be better complemented by the services of Canada, the UK and India. A multilateral approach mitigates the risk of allowing one nation too much influence, and will instead bring balance along with prosperity.

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Commonwealth countries

The British public may not have the appetite or optimism necessary to scale up one multinational organisation so soon after withdrawing from another, and many see India as a potential sticking point. I think the spark doesn’t need to come from London or New Delhi - we can light it in Nairobi. Over half a billion people live in African Commonwealth countries alone, with tens of millions more interested in joining. Almost all live in countries relying on strong trade with Britain; sharing cultural and political ties. 

It is also no coincidence almost all of those people live in countries which, like ours, are trying to define our big picture relationship with China. A big picture Commonwealth initiative provides pathways for positive and well defined relationships with Beijing, while ensuring no country becomes overly reliant on any other.  

Kenyan traders shouldn’t be pushed out of their own markets. It is far better to open the doors to mutual opportunities for countries and businesses far and wide. It was in this spirit that Uhuru opened the doors to American investments, leading to projects such as the wind power plant near Nairobi. It was in this spirit that Uhuru reached out to our African brothers and sisters to unite for the betterment of our continent.

The opportunities and partnerships afforded to us through Uhuru’s pan African vision combined with a new approach to the Commonwealth could change our country forever. It is time to pursue a positive approach to Brexit, take the initiative, and lead from the front. The Commonwealth’s past might have been colonial, but its future is free trade and prosperity for us all.

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Ms Munuhe studies International Relations, University of Nairobi.

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