Covid-19 has not hurt strong ties between Kenya and Netherlands

Netherlands Ambassador to Kenya Maarten Brouwer during the launch of Agrico Potato Service Africa website at the farm in Ol-Rongai Nakuru on March 22, 2021.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Relations between Kenya and the Netherlands have been strong during digital Covid-19, and now we are ready to go back to a physical relationship. Working together to foster our trade and investment relation and to further development in Kenya. In the light of recent international events, we have to be thankful for the good partnership between Kenya and the Netherlands.

Kenya is our most important trade partner in East-Africa. While Covid-19 had a negative impact on both our economies, our trade relation flourished and grew. The Netherlands Central Bureau for Statistics recently reported that trade between Kenya and the Netherlands has increased during the pandemic. Goods imported from Kenya to the Netherlands increased from Sh61,8 billion in 2020, to Sh69,2 billion in 2021 while goods exported to Kenya from the Netherlands also increased from Sh56,4 billion in 2020 to Sh71,9 billion in 2021. And the first quarter of 2022 is already showing the same growth. Note that the trade balance between our countries is to the advantage of Kenya, as it has been throughout our mutual cooperation.

Our trade relationship was thus central to the recent visit of our Minister for International Trade and Development Cooperation, Liesje Schreinemacher. The visit focused on various areas of cooperation between our countries such as agriculture, logistics, health, innovation, circular economy and trade. There are many opportunities for sustainable Dutch investment in Kenya. During a meeting with the CS for Transport James Macharia, we signed a Letter of Intent on the shared ambition to improve a ‘Cool Logistics Corridor’ for perishables. This will enable short-life products, such as flowers and vegetables, to be transported as sea freight instead of air freight, thus reducing up to 80 per cent of carbon emissions.

Pilots have shown such a shift is feasible with good quality outcomes and reduced transport costs allowing Kenya to maintain its strong position in the world market for perishables.

Ms Schreinemacher specifically referred to the great significance of the flower sector for employment, for finding innovative solutions and showing environmentally-friendly pathways for agricultural development. And these are not just ambitions in the agricultural sector, but also in tourism, transport, water and many other areas in which Dutch companies are active in Kenya. As ambassador, I will continue to promote innovative entrepreneurship, exchange of knowledge and finding green solutions. That is where trade and development meet: Finding the synergy between the two in the Kenyan context.

Next to economic relations, Kenya and the Netherlands continue to jointly work towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Yearly, the Netherlands contributes over €80 million in development assistance to Kenya. We work on people to people contact and cooperation with civil society organisations in both our countries. In addition, we work closely with the private sector and of course with the Kenyan government, more and more also at the county level. Solidarity is a driving force as not all parts in Kenya enjoy the same growth in living standards. In particular, we are worried about the devastating drought in the arid and semi-arid lands. Huge challenges are facing the population to become more resilient to the shocks climate change is bringing to this country. We want to partner in finding even better solutions to prevent cycles of impoverishment ASAL counties are experiencing.

Food supply

It is not all economy and development that are guiding our partnership with Kenya. We are acutely aware of the geopolitical developments that are affecting us and Kenya. In a recent op-ed I wrote together with my EU colleagues on the Russian invasion in Ukraine and Russian propaganda, we stressed how disinformation is undermining trust and is  part of warfare and how the invasion has affected global food supply. The negative effects of this invasion have worldwide impact; food prices have gone up and fuel has become more expensive. The EU continues to be at the forefront of efforts to try to end the conflict through diplomatic means and hold Russia accountable.

I recognise the suffering caused by the war and we condemn it in the strongest terms possible. No country has the right to invade another and we should all be vigilant in recognisng misleading attempts and information to push aside responsibility for the detrimental effects of the aggression. I am delighted that Kenya has reconfirmed the same values in the UN Security Council and has shown to be a real partner in securing international peace. These are greater goods that we share. At the same time, we need to stand against the aggression shown and we do that by peaceful means, which sanctions are. Any other confrontation would be so much more damaging, including in Kenya. The conflict should end, peace should be restored and Ukraine be allowed to deliver its products to the world so as to ease the current tensions in world food markets. Russia should recognise the damage done to many countries in the world.

Apart from the international geopolitics at play, the upcoming elections are another political event that is important for Kenya. For the first time in the history of Kenya, the president and his deputy are openly pulling in different directions. While the political temperature is rising, the need for strong institutions to guide the elections in a fair way is rising as well. I am confident that the coming elections will be assured by these institutions. Democracy is vital for the country to grow, to develop and to realise its promises. We are full of hope that Kenya will once more show its true nature to the world and to this region and make the transition to a new government in peace. Let it be a real celebration of freedom of choice.

Today marks King’s Day in the Netherlands and the birthday of our Head of State, His Royal Highness King Willem-Alexander. King’s Day is not only to celebrate his birthday but also to promote the solidarity and unity between all Dutch people. To show this, the Royal Family each year visits a different city in the Netherlands on King’s Day. This year it will be the city of Maastricht. The Dutch will flock the streets, go to the many flea markets, enjoy festivals and celebrate the fact that it will be possible again after the two years Covid-19 blocked us all from enjoying one of the most appreciated days in their year.

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