Visiting Spain President calls Ruto 'President of Senegal' during State House address

Kenya's President William Ruto (R) during a joint address with the visiting President of Spain Pedro Sanchez at State House, Nairobi on October 26, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

President of Spain Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday, October 26 confused President William Ruto for the President of Senegal during his (Sanchez's) address at State House, Nairobi.

Sanchez, whose official title is the Prime Minister of Spain, is in the country on a two-day State visit.

During his address at State House, Nairobi, he said his government was committed to expanding its bilateral relations with the Government of Kenya, confusing Kenya for Senegal.

However, President Ruto was quick to correct President Sanchez, reminding him that he was in Kenya.

"We have many areas where we can work together in strengthening our bilateral cooperation. I was telling President Ruto that normally in Africa, Spain is well known for its football clubs and the national soccer team, which is fine, we love that," said Sanchez.

"But I think that Spain is also a potential ally, on many fields and areas, that we can work together with Senegal in order to face the common challenges that our societies are facing," he said, in his first reference of Kenya as Senegal.

"I'm very honoured to be one of the international leaders to visit you as the President of Senegal, and really looking forward to working with you...," he added, before President Ruto chimed in, saying: "[I'm] the President of Kenya, [not Senegal]."

The current President of Senegal is Macky Sall, who has been in office since April 2012.

Apologetic, President Sanchez said: "Oh sorry, President of Kenya, sorry. I'm looking forward to working with you and your ministers. I bring a very important delegation of private companies and enterprises that are already established in Kenya, and they are eager to increase their presence in Kenya. During the lunch break [later Wednesday afternoon], we'll have the opportunity to speak with them. And thank you very much for your hospitality," said President Sanchez.

Dr. Ruto, who was the first to speak during the joint address, said he was optimistic that the bilateral relations between Spain and Kenya, which are already good, would improve, even further.

"We've had a wonderful conversation with President Sanchez and his team. I have informed him that he has broken two records in one go. He has broken the record of being the first President of Spain, in close to 60 years of our diplomatic relations, to visit Kenya. He has also broken the record of being the first foreign President to visit Kenya when I'm Head of State," said Ruto.

"We have agreed on a couple of issues. You (President Sanchez) have conveyed your priority for Spain's foreign policy. Consequently, three Memoranda of Understanding in the areas of Trade, Health and Education have been signed by the representatives of our two countries," added President Ruto.

"Kenya welcomes, Your Excellency, the interest of Spanish companies in various sectors including Tourism, Agriculture, Infrastructure, Water Management and Renewable Energy.

"I commit to strengthen our economic and investment relations between our two countries, and appreciate that bilateral flows have shown a very positive growth, especially over the last decade. However, I must add that there's tremendous room for us to grow our trade and investment opportunities."

Sanchez, who left Madrid on Tuesday, October 25, was accompanied to Kenya by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, among other dignitaries.

This was his first meeting with a foreign leader since he took office barely a month ago.

According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, Kenya's total exports to Spain in 2021 was $57.12 million (Sh6.9 billion).

According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, in July 2022, Kenya exported to Spain goods worth EUR6.52 million (Sh791 million), including tropical fruits, processed fruits, nuts and cocoa beans.

Spain, on the other hand, exported to Kenya goods worth more than EUR4.02 million (Sh489 million) in July 2022. The top exports to Kenya were iron structures, plastic pipes, large iron containers, soups and broths.

President Sanchez leaves Kenya for South Africa, where he is set to meet President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday, October 27.

In Pretoria, South Africa, Sanchez will participate in the Business Forum between Spain and South Africa. He'll also meet the representatives of the Association of Spanish Scientists living in South Africa.

He'll, thereafter, visit the Constitution Hill Prison in Johannesburg, where former President Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.

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