The international relationships cultivated by President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured)
during his time in office are once again playing an important role in helping Kenya emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
The global nature of this crisis has meant that no country can adequately address issues being faced alone. In fact, there is a marked similarity in the challenges posed to citizens, irrespective of the country in which they live.
International cooperation spearheaded by our government has been focused on two of our closest allies, the European Union and the United Kingdom.
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While the EU has been a significant provider of much needed funding to help ameliorate the plight which Kenyans are facing as a result of the crisis, the UK has been leveraging innovation and ambition in our country to help meet common challenges.
As a result of the close relationship cultivated over the course of the past few years between our president and the EU, the EU Ambassador to Kenya Simon Mordue conveyed Europe’s commitment to assisting our country. In his words, “The European Union stands with Kenya during this challenging period and we recognise the severe impact this crisis is having on people’s lives.”
Concretely, this commitment has translated into a further Sh8 billion in funding to Kenya. This is in addition to a previous grant of Sh35 billion and does not include bilateral funding provided by member states independently. This funding will have a direct impact on the lives of our brothers and sisters worst hit by the virus.
This funding will also help fuel the extensive measures announced by Uhuru to curb the spread of the virus, including drastically expanded testing, increasing the capacity of dedicated Covid-19 hospital wards and acquiring much needed personal protective equipment (PPE). Supported by this funding, Uhuru’s strategic plan to nip the virus in the bud will also help our country to avoid the dreaded second wave.
Aside from this funding, the EU has also been supportive of clinical research in East Africa more generally as well as in our own country in particular. This has sought to strengthen collaboration between researchers, encourage shared knowledge management and promote dialogue between members of participating countries’ respective research communities. With the groundwork already in place, EU-Kenya cooperation on Covid-19 research was able to commence almost as soon as signs of the virus’ global reach became evident.
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The UK has similarly allocated Sh97 billion in order to support partnerships for finding solutions to the global problems currently being faced.
While our country might not have the funding to support scientific initiatives, we certainly have the knowledge and expertise needed to contribute to these global efforts. With the help of the UK’s support, the prestigious research institutes in our country have been working with their British counterparts on better understanding the Covid-19 virus strain and creating therapeutic techniques to help the infected recover.
Uhuru has long been a supporter of scientific collaboration between our own researchers and international partners. The joint Covid-19 research being undertaken by scientists in the UK and Kenya has been facilitated by the UK-Kenya Oversight Board in Research, Science and Innovation, created by Uhuru in 2018 and currently overseen by our Education CS. The groundwork for the cooperation now taking place was laid out when Uhuru hosted Theresa May in 2018, the first UK Prime Minster to visit Kenya in over thirty years.
Collaboration in science, technology and innovation is indeed important for the future of both our country and that of our strategic partners. Our government, along with the UK, underscored this when in 2019 they put out a joint statement to, “reaffirm that the UK and Kenya will continue to work closely together to address shared and global challenges”. Little did anybody know important this would soon become.
Such collaboration will take on an even more important role as we move into our new post Covid-19 reality.
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While the coronavirus pandemic emphasised the need for collaboration to meet global health challenges, health is by no means the only field that requires shared innovation. Security, the environment and trade, among others, also require enhanced international cooperation.
The frameworks created by our government and exploited for jointly addressing the Covid-19 challenge, will surely prove instrumental in working together with our partners to meet these challenges in years to come.
Ms Anyango is a social commentator. [email protected]