Uhuru’s charm offensive abroad paying dividends for Kenya

President Uhuru Kenyatta participates at the leaders' panel discussion session at the UK-Africa Investment Summit 2020 in London

Many African eyes were on London where the UK-Africa Investment Summit took place last week, with the participation of 21 African heads of state and a number of investors from Britain and Africa.

The summit was for the UK to seek deeper bilateral partnerships and potential investments after the upcoming Brexit with special attention paid to sustainable financing and infrastructure issues.

While there was a lot of interest from across our continent, it became clear from media reports and quotes by senior officials, especially from the British side, that there was a special focus on Kenya.

This was demonstrated by the gushing remarks made by UK Deputy Commissioner for Africa Rebecca Fisher-Lamb, who said: “My most favourite highlight of the day was the number of references that Kenya got at the summit in the Prime Minister’s opening speech.”

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This is certainly no coincidence.

That British Prime Minister Boris Johnson referenced Kenya ten times during his opening speech is the result of a carefully orchestrated strategy. It was even heartwarming to hear Prime Minister Johnson quip that "Britain without Kenya is barely worth thinking about".

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who attended the summit, was one of the early adopters of the possible opportunities of a post-Brexit scenario, and had already designed the prospect for Kenya a long time ago.

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While foreign relations are not at the forefront of the average Kenyan’s thoughts, our bilateral relations are of extreme importance for our economic development and progress.

Opportunities, like those on show in London, are important economic drivers for our nation. Apart from the meetings at the government to government level, they also present opportunities for private sector support to accelerate delivery on polices like the Big Four Agenda.

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Delivering on the Big Four was never going to be merely a local internal task, but one that requires the buy-in from governments and investors around the world.

Affordable housing, food security, manufacturing and universal healthcare are achievable if President Kenyatta presents the right narratives and economics at the right time, to the right people. Brexit was an internal British question, but one that always presented challenges and opportunities for rest of the world.

There are those who still live in a previous mindset of ‘wait and see’ tactics, and there are those, like President Kenyatta, who have long-term strategic thinking and will smell a window of opportunity and make it work for the benefit of those they serve.

President Kenyatta has demonstrated, since 2013, a diplomatic acumen that alluded most of his predecessors. He has played in the international arena like a veteran and it has paid dividends. As he said during his speech in London: “Nairobi is the gateway to East and Central Africa.”

Judging by the reactions in London, President Kenyatta is actually being modest. For many, Nairobi is the gateway to Africa. There are many opportunities in Kenya for British and other foreign investors, whether in our ‘Silicon Savannah’, the blue economy, or such commodities as tea, coffee, flowers, fruits and vegetables.

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Investments in these areas are a mark of trust in Kenya and its people.

Kenya is no longer seen as a politically and economically unstable sleeping giant tucked away in East Africa, but a major player in the global diplomatic, economic and technological spheres. The President’s diplomatic expertise is paying dividends for Kenya, and indeed for Kenyans.

-The writer is Kenya Investment Authority (Keninvest) chairman

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UK-Africa summitUhuru KenyattaInvestment