Irene Githinji @gitshee
The Foreign Affairs ministry yesterday outlined the social, political and economic impact of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s shuttle diplomacy during his tenure.
Since 2013, the President has had 49 trips outward bound trips and 40 inward bound, with the ministry saying it is a good balance.
Coming at a time when Kenyans are raising concerns over increased taxes, and in the midst of another visit by the President to the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Foreign Affairs, Cabinet secretary Monica Juma said the value of the high level engagements is huge.
From a cooperative point of view, she says, these high level visits enable Kenya to engage and work closely with other countries in the advancement of national interests.
The CS said in the last six years, the high-level diplomacy paradigm has yielded outcomes in three broad spheres: Kenya has established solid and productive relationships across the world: in Africa, Middle East, Americas, Europe, Asia and the other parts of the world.
Nairobi has also become one of the most visited capitals for foreign Heads of State and heads of government and preferred destination for international meetings and conferences, and most fundamentally, interest and investment in Kenya has grown, translating into economic growth.
She noted that, in the last 20 days, Kenya has had 20 high level engagements with three world leaders and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) namely the US, United Kingdom and China.
The CS was categorical that the ultimate objectives of Kenya’s foreign policy is to protect its independence and sovereignty and expand opportunities to overcome economic limits.
But in explaining national interests through diplomacy at the highest level, the CS said Kenya must employ strategic tools to take advantage of opportunities and risks well.
“In the current rapidly changing global environment, peace and security, trade, foreign direct investment, environmental sustainability are the cornerstones of our diplomacy. The sharp end of our democracy is sewn to the realities that a medium-sized country must contend and the importance of maintaining Kenya’s relevance in the world,” explained Juma.
This year alone, the Uhuru visited Cuba which among other things culminated to bringing 100 specialists deployed to Kenya’s public health facilities.
In March, Uhuru visited Mozambique during a review of the Joint Commission for Cooperation, waived visa requirements for both countries’ citizens, cooperate in energy sector and increased frequencies of Kenya Airways to Maputo.
He also participated in the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in April, G7 meeting in Canada in June, and made an official visit to the US in August before traveling for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing.
The CS said that the value of the networking that goes on with the international visits creates influence which cannot happen if the country does not interact.
Some of the high level trade returns from the visit to the US includes a Memorandum of Understanding on 12 projects which will attract more than $10 billion (Sh1 trillion) in investment, create jobs and transfer knowledge and technology.
These projects cover food security, transport and infrastructure, clean affordable energy, sustainable urban settlement, digital revolution and the blue economy. About 20 deals worth more than 10 billion were signed.
She said that since taking office in 2013, the President has focused not only on restoring Kenya’s place among community of nations but spurred global interest in Kenya, to enable country claim rightful place as gateway to East, Central ad Southern Africa.
The CS said the Ministry has coordinated and concluded 21 trade and investment agreements and MoUs, and coordinated negotiations of 13 bilateral trade agreements.
Additionally, the Ministry monitored implementation of 8 bilateral trade agreements through the Joint trade Committee (JTC) sessions in addition to enhancing close relations with the private sector in economic and commercial ventures and business match-making.