Policy Seeks to Hasten Economic Growth
The Kenya government has sought to bring diaspora investment and remittances into the economy in a more structured manner through the newly launched foreign policy strategy that is hinged on the pillars of economy, peace, environment and culture.
The economic pillar of the policy that was unveiled by President Uhuru Kenyatta last month is aimed at achieving vigorous and sustained growth that will support reciprocal bilateral and multilateral relations in trade, taxation and investment as envisioned in the country’s economic blueprint, Vision 2030.
Kenyatta said the government will target both new and the traditional economic partners to increase trade and deepen investment relations. “While our economy was recently rebased making the country a middle-income country and the 9th largest econ- omy in Africa, we know that too many of our people remain poor and lack opportunity. Economic diplomacy forms a critical part of our development push.”
Kenya being a member of the East African Community (EAC), with an estimated population of about 124 million, enjoys preferential tariff rates for exports and imports within member states. The country is also a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) with an estimated population of about 400 million.
Economic and political analysts opine that Kenya’s central position as a regional hub in trade and diplomacy will play an important role in making the economy more stable. Fears that the crimes against humanity cases facing the President and his Deputy Mr William Ruto at the International
Criminal Court (ICC) would adversely affect Kenya’s international standing have proved unfounded.
The case against Kenyatta has since collapsed for lack of evidence while that against Ruto is wobbling. Kenya’s traditional western allies were seen as harbouring the ‘Choices have Consequences’ edict that was issued by the US Assistant Secretary in charge of African affairs, Mr Johnnie Carson, just before the 2013 election that ushered Kenyatta to power.
Prof Munene Macharia of the United States International University-Kenya says Kenyatta’s relations with both the East and the West in the light of the ICC cases showed that he was not leaning towards any of the blocs; he was only upholding Kenya’s international interests.
“He has simply performed equally well on both the international front and the domestic front. Additionally, his position as chair of both the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and, until recently, the EAC made him a regional point man whom the West and the East cannot ignore. This adds a feather to our development cap,” said Macharia.
Kenya’s strategic position at the Horn of Africa also comes into play, according to Prof Peter Kagwanja, Chief Executive Officer of the African Policy Institute (API). He says Kenyatta realised early that the West’s position on the ICC could have an effect not only to Kenya but also the EAC and so decided to play hardball, the climax being his speech at the African Union (AU). The trick has worked well for him.
“Kenyatta was not only the EAC and IGAD chair but the convenor of the Somalia and South-Sudan peace initiatives. From playing the Pan-Africanism card by identifying the AU as the action-point by using Kenya’s foreign policy as an African policy, to initiating the coalition of the willing with EAC, he has performed well,” he says.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the underlying principles of Kenya’s foreign policy have been a strong advocacy for a rulebased international system, environmentally sustainable and equitable development and a secure world. This has been stressed in different forums even before the foreign policy launch.
During a European UnionAfrica Summit in Brussels in April last year, Kenyatta used the opportunity as EAC chair to call for collaboration between Africa and the EU in achieving the continent’s development goals. He has since handed over the chairmanship of the Community to his Tanzanian counterpart Mr Jakaya Kikwete.
The Ministry says that with the initiation of rapid globalisation and increased competition among states for export markets and investments, a reorientation of Kenya’s foreign policy is necessary and as a result, Kenya has sought to strengthen traditional ties with Europe, Japan and the United States while deepening cooperation with emerging economies in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East
DIASPORA VOICE: Kenyans overseas cheer the national rugby team