Kenya and the United Kingdom have renewed their vows, with a view to deepening relations, even as Britons prepare to exit the European Union.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson entered a UK-Kenya Strategic Partnership that will see the two countries cooperate in tackling a number of issues. The global economy might be in for a bumpy ride with the impending Brexit - the exit of Britain from the EU - but with a little effort Kenya might reap big from what has been to many a global upset.
Already Kenya has signed a Sh58 billion package with its former colonial master. These UK-backed funds, said a joint statement by Kenyatta and Boris, have potential to generate billions of pounds of investment for Africa from the City of London.
Kenya and the UK have deep economic relations. Not only does UK provide a lucrative market for Kenya’s tea, flowers and legumes such as green grams and French beans, it is also one of the main sources of foreign direct investments in the country. Moreover, numerous British companies have played a key role in Kenya’s economy, injecting billions of shillings into companies such as Safaricom, which have employed thousands of Kenyans. On the other hand, Kenya has imported such commodities as gas turbines, cars, tractors and medicine from the United Kingdom.
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But the new partnership seeks to deepen bilateral relations between the two allies by targeting new economic areas such as Blue Economy and job creation. However, this will be done with strong focus on quality investments and improving environmental, social and corporate standards for sustainable growth.
It is encouraging that British investment into the country is poised to build to more than Sh178 billion as confirmed at the UK-Africa Investment Summit on January 20. Other areas in which the countries have vowed to cooperate in include efforts to tackle global terrorism, violent extremism, organised crime and corruption. This is timely, given that Kenya has been a target of terrorist attacks, particularly from the Somalia-based al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab.
They have also promised to reduce extreme poverty and create a more prosperous, safer and healthier Kenya by building stability, tackling inequality and strengthening government systems and institutions. Tackling climate change will be critical to this end. That is why the two leaders’ commitment to demonstrate global leadership on climate and environmental issues is laudable.
But Kenyatta’s administration must do a lot of digging to benefit from this agreement. Otherwise, this might join myriad other bilateral agreements that are gathering dust in some high offices' shelves.