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Why we should root for more ties with Indonesia

By Stephen Ndegwa | July 31st 2021

Defence CS Monica Juma charts with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi at a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 12th Bali Democracy Forum (BDF) in Nusa Dua in 2019.[Courtesy]

Developing countries share same characteristics. Among other challenges, they have low per capita real income, high population growth rates, high rates of unemployment, dependence on the primary sector of the economy and exports of primary commodities.

Amid these problems, many struggle to lift their people from poverty into a decent lifestyle. Indeed, many countries from the South are engaging in dialogue and sharing ideas. One of them Indonesia. Indonesia is the world’s largest island country and the 14th-largest country by land area at 1,904,569 square kilometres. The capital, Jakarta, is the world’s second-most populous urban area. But at 270 million people and densely populated regions, Indonesia has vast areas of wilderness that support one of the highest levels of biodiversity.

August 17th marks Indonesia’s 76th independence day, held on the same date since 1945. The year marks the defeat of Japan, Indonesia’s former coloniser, by the US.

In solidarity with their Indonesian brothers and sisters, this year Kenyans will join in the celebrations. The partners initiated bilateral relations in 1979. Three years after, in 1982, Indonesia opened its embassy in Nairobi. However, Indonesia looks forward to Kenya opening an Embassy in Jakarta since it is still covered by the Kenyan Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

A Kenyan embassy in Jakarta would place Kenya in a strategic position since it is the capital city of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The value of Indonesia’s exports to Kenya grew from about $2.6 billion to an estimated $3.8 billion between 2019 and 2020, while the value of Kenya’s exports to Indonesia over the same period rose from $25.2 million to $ 26.7 million.

Top exports to Kenya include palm oil, paper, float glass and surface ground or polished glass. Kenya exports tea, coffee and bovine raw hides and skins. Significantly, Indonesia is currently the biggest supplier of crude palm oil to Kenya.

On education, Kenyans should take advantage of scholarship opportunities offered by the Indonesian government and universities. The scholarships include Darmasiswa, offered to all foreign countries with a diplomatic relationship with Indonesia. KNB scholarship is a prestigious programme for selected applicants. This year the Embassy has provided 14 letters of recommendation for Kenyans.

On July 2, Indonesian Ambassador Dr Hery Saripudin undertook a four-day visit to Lamu County to explore ways of cooperation with the newly launched Lamu Port. 

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