This year, President Uhuru Kenyatta delivered the State of the Nation address at a time of unprecedented economic and health challenge in the history of Kenya.
Coming six months behind schedule, the President used the occasion to point the country to a more optimistic path. Kenya, like many countries around the world, is still struggling to extricate itself from the vagaries of the pandemic.
Yet despite the challenges, the country has stayed afloat and forged ahead internally while maintaining a healthy scorecard internationally.
Covid-19 pandemic is no doubt the biggest existential threat to our country. Its impacts will take years to blunt, and the work of economic reconstruction will test the innovative capacity and staying power of government and citizens alike.
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In pursuit of its development aspirations, Kenya must fortify domestic capacity while embracing a progressive form of international relations that places a premium on multilateralism, peaceful coexistence and mutual benefit.
Kenya is the biggest economy in the East African region and third continentally and therefore remains a strong force in the achievement of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. As a major trade hub and critical point of entry, Nairobi should modernise its business environment in order to attract more foreign direct investments as a way of hoisting post-pandemic recovery.
The region is currently engulfed by various intra and inter-state conflicts. Kenya should leverage its diplomatic reach through platforms such as United Nations Security Council and push for peaceful resolutions of the conflicts in the horn of Africa. Without stable neighbourhoods, Kenya’s development efforts will amount to nought. The influx of refugees and the threat of terrorism are clear examples that Kenya has dealt with because of fragility in the neighbouring territories.
President Kenyatta’s administration has demonstrated affinity towards promoting inclusive and shared prosperity of the African people. Kenya was among the first countries to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, an ambitious flagship programme by the African Union to create a single market.
Kenya also won the endorsement of the AU for the UNSC non-permanent seat beginning January 2021. The country should continue to be a strong champion of multilateralism and international cooperation. Many cross border challenges such as climate change, the global health crisis, violent extremism and economic inequality that heavily afflict the global south, can only be overcome through functional multilateralism.
Kenya’s success in effectively courting and benefiting from the international frameworks of engagement will to a large extent be anchored on its internal socio-economic and political organising. A stable Kenya that offers both promise and proceeds of development to all citizens is a prerequisite in actualizing this enviable dream.
The country is currently renegotiating its governance matrix through the Building Bridges Initiative. While the process embodies real prospects for transformational leadership and shared prosperity, it should be operationalised on a fabric of inclusion, constructive dialogue and national sustainability.
The recent events aimed at expanding the dialogue scope and reducing contentious provisions is a step in the right direction. As a key member of the international community, Kenya and Kenyans deserve better and we have an opportunity with the BBI to deliver that dream.