Because of its strategic position at the heart of Europe, Belgium is the gateway to the European market. Likewise, Kenya is our gateway to East Africa. Belgian companies are present here
Three years after my first visit to Kenya as minister for Foreign Affairs, I am returning to this beautiful country and it should come as no surprise: Kenya and Belgium share many interests, and work together on a number of important issues. Take the economy for example. In June this year, President Uhuru Kenyatta visited Brussels with a group of businessmen. They had a series of very productive meetings with the Belgian private sector. Several of our companies are active in Kenya through investments and trade exchanges. It should be our common goal to promote more mutual investment and trade, for instance through further negotiations on investment and taxation agreements.
Indeed, one of the strong convictions Belgium and Kenya share is that economic and trade cooperation lead to growth and prosperity for our people. Because of its strategic position at the heart of Europe, Belgium is your natural gateway to the European market. Likewise, Kenya is our gateway to East Africa. The recent investments in regional infrastructure should reinforce this. Increased trade exchanges and investments between these two states,and, more broadly, between Europe and East Africa, means more production, more employment, more income and, ultimately, more prosperity. This is why I strongly hope that the European Partnership Agreement will be signed and ratified soon by all countries of the East African Community. Belgian companies see a lot of potential in Kenya and they do not hesitate to invest in the local economy or sign contracts with Kenyan partners. While in Nairobi, it will be my pleasure to inaugurate Belgian investment mobile connections. It includes a new data centre which will ensure cheaper, more reliable and more efficient connections for Kenyan mobile communication providers.
Through its concessional financing facility, my country has supported numerous projects in essential areas such as water treatment, production and distribution; ICT connectivity between the counties; firefighting equipment and training; renewable energy; rural electrification; medical waste treatment and laboratory equipment. Seeing how all these projects contribute substantially to Kenya’s development gives me pride. In the future, we will continue and even increase our cooperation through this facility.
Our countries share a strong commitment and concern for peace and stability in the region. Regional cooperation is essential to achieve this objective. Throughout its history, Europe has known long periods of protracted and violent conflict. But today, it can share a very successful experience of ever closer cooperation and increased exchanges, creating a union that has led to more than half a century of peace and prosperity — the European Union.
Whenever people question the value of this considerable achievement, it is essential to remind them of this success and to seek to reinforce cooperation and integration, rather than sow division. Evidently, peace and stability would also greatly benefit the wider Great Lakes region. Kenya and Belgium have a shared interest in promoting further cooperation and integration, which is why we will discuss this issue while in Nairobi, both with the Kenyan government and with the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region of the UN Secretary General, Said Djinnit.
Kenya and Belgium are also united in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. Sadly, we have in the recent past been confronted with murderous attacks on innocent civilians. When the Garissa University College was savagely attacked in April 2015, I was particularly moved by the students in Belgian universities who expressed their solidarity through spontaneously organised vigils. I am eager to discuss with my Kenyan counterparts and university students how we can better share experiences, fight this threat to our open and tolerant way of living without compromising our values, as well as how we can counter radicalisation, especially among the young people. We have a shared interest in ever closer cooperation in all these fields and the purpose of my visit is to intensify this cooperation.
BELGIAN COMPANIES SEE A LOT OF POTENTIAL IN KENYA AND THEY DO NOT HESITATE TO INVEST IN LOCAL ECONOMY