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

The Star (Kenya) - - Voices -

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.


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