What my first year as Ambassador of Netherlands to Kenya has shown me is that, in the midst of a pandemic that has presented enormous challenges, it is the online space and virtual interactions that have become more important.
Even in an era of online diplomacy, Kenya and the Netherlands have managed to further strengthen economic ties. Last month, the Netherlands Central Bureau for Statistics launched a report showing that trade between Kenya and the Netherlands is ever increasing. Goods imported from Kenya rose from Sh51.5 billion in 2015 to Sh61.8 billion in 2020.
With 60 Dutch subsidiaries, Kenya is among the top three African countries with the highest number of Dutch subsidiaries. These subsidiaries generated revenue in Kenya of Sh34.5 billion. The Netherlands is the largest export market for Kenyan products in Europe.
In recognition of the growing importance of the digital economy, the Netherlands is investing in the enhancement of digital infrastructure in Kenya. PAIX Data Centres headquartered in Amsterdam has received a loan of Sh256 million from the Dutch government to support its PAIX data centre expansion in Kenya. These investments will help contribute to employment in the Kenyan technology sector and build on Kenya’s strong digital infrastructure.
In this context, I’m also conscious of the “digital divide”, the distinction between people who do and do not have access to information and communication technologies. The Netherlands, therefore, launched the Digital Agenda for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation with plans to address this divide in our development cooperation programmes.
Next to economic relations, Kenya and the Netherlands continue to jointly work towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Yearly, the Netherlands contributes over Sh10 billion in development assistance to Kenya.
A highlight of my first year as an ambassador has been Kenyan-Dutch cooperation in the promotion of sustainable green growth. Transitioning to a circular economy is key to achieving the SDGs. 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 our national day of unity.
However, the digital reality is no replacement for physical reality. For instance, Eliud Kipchoge needed actual feet on the ground in the Netherlands to win the NN Mission Marathon just over a week ago.
For the coming years in Kenya, I aim to contribute to building from the pandemic and meeting as many people as I can. Then, hopefully, this day next year we can also celebrate King’s Day as we should: United and in person.
H.E. Brouwer is Ambassador of The Netherlands to Kenya