Excellency, as the High Commissioner of the Republic of Kenya to South Africa, how have you enjoyed the experience of your diplomatic tour in this country thus far?
It has been great so far. South Africa is a really interesting country. It is great to be on the continent, and to be this far into the continent, and to experience the diversity, and this amazing landscape. It is a very rich country in terms of history and culture, and there is a lot to do.
What are the main fields of collaboration between Kenya and South Africa and how successful have you been in pursuing new co-operation agreements between the two countries?
One of the key areas of interaction in the relationship between Kenya and South Africa is trade-driven. The sheer size of the South African economy gives them the advantage that they fare against the rest of Africa pretty well. Over the years, we have seen quite an influx of South African companies into Kenya. The main areas of penetration are in financial and insurance services. You find that the major South African banks and insurance companies have a presence in Kenya, and that becomes a basis for other South African companies to come into Kenya. We find the trade area is where there is a lot of interaction and a continuous movement of South Africans in and out of Kenya. Strong trade partnerships develop between South Africans and Kenyans. Quite a number of Kenyan professionals and technical experts work for South African companies.
We find there is the movement of finished manufactured products out of South Africa, but also the importation of raw materials between the two countries. There has been quite a bit of growth in that.
In terms of air services, both our airlines are doing good business. Kenya Airways does five flights a day into Johannesburg and Cape Town, and South African Airways also competes on that route. There is a good business architecture that drives both of our economies. The trading balance is currently in favour of South Africa, which has a historical background around why that is so. It is an area that we are working constantly to improve, and we hope to have an equitable balance between us. But we appreciate learning from this economy in terms of technical and manufacturing expertise, and it is an area that we would like to encourage more South African companies to look into – you know, having smarter strategic partnerships with Kenyan companies and Kenyan businesses, where we have a good technical exchange.
In the last 5 to 10 years we have signed quite a number of agreements. Again, these are around the areas of trade, defence, biodiversity and environmental management, immigration – to improve access and movement of people. We have also signed new agreements in the areas of agriculture, and food production, and even on tourism. There are still other outstanding, we would love to have an energy agreement. We are also looking into transport – we would like to see how we could benefit from South Africa’s experience in the transport sector, for example, the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit system) in the different urban centres. We are negotiating new areas of trade and expertise so that we can continue to strengthen the economic areas of our two countries’ relationships.
I personally refer to Jomo Kenyatta as the real father of Africanism. Belonging to the same continent and sharing common grounds, how do Kenya and South Africa act together on international and regional forums such as the United Nations and the African Union?
The founding father of our nation, the late President Jomo Kenyatta, was one of the pan-African leaders on the continent at a really critical time when a lot of countries were changing from colonial administration to independent states. He is considered to have set the strong pillars for the Kenyan independent state in the 1960s and was one of the key leaders in our liberation struggle. These leaders framed the first pillars of African diplomacy – they had the challenge of defining what was to be the African diplomacy that was going to be driven by these independent states. They appointed the first foreign ministers that walked into the UN in the ‘60s.
We believe in a strong pan-African diplomatic effort that looks at having a strong, secure and peaceful Africa that is able to articulate strong self-determination that all countries are able to drive their own agenda around having strong socio-economic development frameworks. We find that this resonates with what other African countries are doing.
South Africa has its own foreign policy interests and Kenya has its own foreign policy interests, but we find that there is a common convergence. We both believe strongly in peace and security and work towards that within the AU. We believe in the strong socio-economic development of both our countries, so the economic diplomacy for both countries has a strong component towards that. We use a multilateral framework that drives our countries in their national interest, but they are also Afrocentric. We want to see more trade in the intra-Africa paradigm. How we engage in SADC (Southern African Development Community), how we engage in East Africa, how we engage in SACU (Southern African Customs Union) – there are different multilateral frameworks – is driven by this common understanding.
There are common synergies, there are common areas of interaction in our different foreign policies, and we do engage a lot within the multilateral space. Bilaterally, we have had an exchange of our presidents visiting for years back. Former President Zuma came to Kenya in 2016, in January President Uhuru Kenyatta was here. We are always discussing what is going on within our regions, how we, as two anchor countries – South Africa in the SADC region, Kenya in the EAC region, how can we use our influence to anchor and influence changes.
The Kenyan economy is the largest by GDP in eastern and central Africa. Does this reflect the integral growth of the country’s population? What are the government’s immediate plans to accomplish such integral growth?
There is an issue of disparity within any population. We have disparities, there is no doubt about that. The gap between top earners and poverty levels will confirm that we have that disparity. However, what are the mitigating factors?
How to address poverty eradication within the context of government policy is really the issue that comes out of every electoral promise when you have a new government coming in. Poverty has to be addressed because it has consequences for the country’s development, and nobody wants to live in poverty. So we are always asking how we are going to improve our lives. We have really sound economic policies around that – first of all, to create employment, but to get people out of poverty, to create an economic framework where citizens can engage within the economy.
We recently adopted a very simple economic framework on four key agenda issues. These are manufacturing, healthcare, housing and food security.
We aim to drive manufacturing as a key sector of our economy, where we move from the current 15% to 22% in the next four to five years. We can create 1.2 million jobs by creating an environment where simple technologies, simple effort can be made to create more self-made entrepreneurs who can take up the challenge of becoming manufacturers, and thus improve the quality of their lives. It is not easy, but if you have an economic environment where people can engage and be self-reliant, then they will take up the challenge and improve their lives. Kenyans are very hard working. People who do business in Kenya say Kenyans do not look at the clock at 5 pm, they ask, “Is the job done?” Investors will tell you Kenyans are hard-working, they are skilled, and they want to improve their lives. There is an enabling environment and government support. Credit is accessible, training is possible, and the opportunities are there.
There are also safeguard measures. We are not a social welfare country. The only recipients of welfare are over 70 years old. So you have to work to get to 70 before you can get a cheque from the government.
Within each of these four big agenda items, there is an opportunity for us internally, and through foreign direct investment, to address the issue of poverty.
Visited by millions around the world each year seeking the “Safari experience”, could you elaborate on your country as a tourist destination and discuss some other attractions?
We have an amazing landscape and tourism opportunities in Kenya. We have snow-capped mountains, we have beautiful white sandy beaches, and because of that, it is a thriving area of our economy. I speak as one who has enjoyed those facilities from when I was a child. What people find attractive about Kenya is that you can go from a high-end touristic experience to a lower-end, community- based eco-tourism where part of your tourism experience is to actually live in one of our communities and to leave a footprint in that community. You can adopt a baby elephant if you want. The Maasai Mara (National Park) is huge, and migration occurs in July and goes on all the way into October. It is something that a lot of people come to experience. Mountain climbing on Mount Kenya, or you can go fishing by the lakes. A lot of South Africans come to a town where I live, called Malindi, to do Marlin fishing. We see a lot of interest in the kind of tourism that allows you to hop to different destinations – for example, you have two weeks where you go from the coast to the mountains, to the parks. There is a huge variety on offer.
And to finish, High Commissioner, I’m going to ask a compromising question.
Are you sure you want to ask it? (Laughs).
I have asked a similar question to people from Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana about the Victoria Falls: Where is Mount Kilimanjaro?
It is actually on the border of Kenya and Tanzania, so we claim a bit of Kilimanjaro. If you have ever been to Amboseli Park, Kilimanjaro is right in front of you. So, how can I not say it is in Kenya?
Thank you so much, High Commissioner.