Ruto's West Africa excursions bolster Raila's AU candidacy, forges trade pacts

President William Ruto and Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo hold talks at Jubilee House in Accra, Ghana. [PCS]

President William Ruto’s excursions in West Africa culminated in the declaration of support for opposition leader Raila Odinga’s bid for the African Union (AU) chairmanship job and multiple trade cooperation agreements  between Kenya and Guinea Bissau.

Key among the trade pacts was an agreement by the two Heads of State on the need for Kenya’s national carrier Kenya Airways to fly the Guinea-Bissau route as a way to enhance trade and investment between the two countries and the larger West Africa market.

Ruto, in his continued quest to ensure that it was the Eastern Africa region’s turn to submit candidates for the position of the African Union Commission Chairperson, also scored big after Guinea Bissau President Umaro Sissoco pledged support for Raila.

“I thank His Excellency most sincerely for accepting to support Kenya’s candidature for the position of AUC Chairperson for the 2025-2028 period. Kenya’s candidature is informed by the role we play in enhancing and sustaining the Pan-African agenda,” said Ruto.

The endorsement came shortly after Angola and Ghana also threw their support behind the candidature of the former prime minister giving him a major boost against his competitor for the seat, Fawzia Yusuf Adam who is Somalia’s former foreign affairs minister.

With the elections slated for February next year, Raila is quickly emerging a clear favourite for a majority of the AU countries thanks to his track record as a pan-Africanist and Ruto’s charm offensive across the continent.

Raila has also previously served as an African Union Envoy after being appointed the High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa. His mandate under the role included mobilizing further political support from Member States and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and facilitating greater ownership by all concerned stakeholders.

He also worked to support and strengthen AU’s departments and those of the Planning and Coordinating Agency of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Further, Ruto has called on the support of Sissoco I look forward to working closely with His Excellency on continental matters such as ensuring institutional reforms in the AU such as restructuring the various AU organs, concluding division of labour between the African Union Commission Organs, Specialized Agencies and Regional Economic Communities, and streamlining the agenda of the AU Assembly to effectively cover strategic issues.

“It will also be necessary to operationalize the African Court of Justice as a means to create institutions for making the AU a fit-for-purpose organization,” he added.

Kenya and Guinea Bissau have also agreed to increase the low trade volumes between them by leveraging on the numerous opportunities arising under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. This

Will be done through collaboration in the agriculture sector by facilitating contract farming and provision of seedlings, livestock breeds, experts and agricultural extension officers in efforts aimed at addressing food security challenges.

In the fisheries sectors, they will explore the opportunities in the blue economy with possible areas of cooperation being the sustainable management of fisheries, protection of marine biodiversity, innovatively fighting sea pollution, the promotion of environmental sustainability and stronger international cooperation in the blue economy.

And in their shared vision for peace, security and stability, Kenya and Guinea-Bissau will implement various multilateral frameworks, including by way of sharing intelligence to ensure that peace and security are enhanced in their respective regions, Africa in general and the world at large.

The establishment of a Security Cooperation Agreement between our two countries will therefore provide an excellent framework for deeper cooperation.

At the same time, Kenya will be hosting the World Bank’s 21st International Development Association (IDA21) of the World Bank in Nairobi this month on April 28-29, 2024 the meeting’s key role will be raising concessional financing for the least developed countries.

Kenya and Guinea Bissau will also be holding their inaugural  Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC) meeting later this year with a view to develop instruments to facilitate bilateral cooperation in diverse sectors of mutual interest, including security, agriculture and livestock, fisheries and the blue economy, environment and forestry.

Others are capacity building for public servants at the Kenya School of Government, trade, health training and collaboration with the Kenya Medical Training College, tourism, air transport services, immigration, mining and education.