President Uhuru Kenyatta will make his debut at a summit of the Group of Seven most industrialised countries today, capping his rise from the shadow of the ICC to one of Africa’s most influential men on the global stage.
Could the G7 invitation - only a few days after Mr Kenyatta was one of only two African leaders to attend a major global summit in China - be a culmination of a focused, sustained initiative by the President to market Kenya on the international stage?
The Group of Seven is an informal bloc of industrialised democracies (the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom) that meets annually to discuss issues such as global economic governance, international security, and energy policy. So Mr Kenyatta’s address is a chance to showcase Kenya, East Africa on the world stage.
There are those who think the invite to the G7 is an endorsement of the president’s leadership.
The G7 presence therefore represents Kenya’s continuing ascent in global relevance that will no doubt build partnerships that will strengthen our economic opportunities and security.
Analysts have argued that as a democracy with a growing and mixed economy that is facing global terrorism, Kenya’s success is key to the G-7’s democratic countries whose priorities are protecting global security, protecting democracy and expanding opportunities for their private sector.
No doubt, President Kenyatta’s presence will bring a sharp focus to that, and lead to increased investment and engagement in Kenya. This will solidify his efforts in the last four years to market Kenya.
Kenya has made remarkable strides in creating an enabling environment that is conducive to do business.
This has been underpinned by a two-pronged strategy that has sought to address both the cost and ease of doing business and rebooting the economy from a service, import-oriented to manufacturing and value addition model.
Kenya has invested heavily in infrastructure; a modern Standard Gauge Railway from Mombasa to Nairobi, that will reduce the cost of transporting cargo by nearly 40 per cent as well as travel time to four-and-a-half hours is ready. There are other ongoing infrastructural projects around the SGR that will boost the economy; new roads, a new port and new and refurbished airports spread across the country.
Moreover, energy supply has doubled from 1,500MW in the four years, reducing energy costs by close to 40 per cent with a large portion of this being green. The government has argued that this has laid a firm foundation towards making the country a hub of production and investment.
Kenya is now regarded as a model in Africa. For two consecutive years, Kenya has been ranked by the World Bank as the second most improved country globally on the Ease of Doing Business rankings, rising a cumulative 44 places in two years; and rising to the top most reformed country in Africa in 2017.
Barely two weeks ago, Ernest & Young’s Attractiveness Index Report ranked Kenya as the second most attractive destination in Africa. Many now see Kenya as the go-to country. The World Bank says Kenya’s overall investment levels have topped $1.9 billion in 2016, up from less than $400 million in 2013.
Also, more than 30 multinationals have chosen Nairobi as their regional hub. Top global brands such as Volkswagen, Volvo, Peugeot, Iveco, Foton, Wrigleys, Johnson and Johnson, IBM, Honeywell, Coca-Cola, Mckinsey, Cisco, Unilver, Google, Diageo have made Kenya their Africa headquarters. That says a lot.
This progress sets Kenya aside in a generally subdued continent. Save for Ethiopia, where growth is tremendous, Kenya is well ahead of the continent on overall management, development and growth.
Kenya’s handling of security, democratisation and its central role in the fight against terrorism has no doubt sent the right signals globally and attracted visits by the likes of the Pope, President Barack Obama, Indian PM Narendra Modi.
Ms Obala is a Reporter at The Standard