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Kenya has scored big on international trade thanks to cs amb. (Dr.) amina Mohamed

His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta’s admin- istration has been remark- ably   successful   on   the

diplomatic front. The results speak for themselves. Kenya has hosted major global events in the past two years and continues to do so. It is also attracting an ever increasing level of foreign investments against the backdrop of a volatile global economy. Behind this success sits an industrious lady whose reputa- tion for delivering concrete results precedes her—Ambassador (Dr.) Amina Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Kenya’s international appeal and stature has notably improved over the past two years. The East African economic  powerhouse  hosted the

 

first-ever World Trade Organization Ministerial C onference on African soil in December 2015, not to men- tion other similarly high-profile events earlier in the year such as hosting President Barrack Obama and Pope Francis—the third and fourth (respectively) most powerful people in the world in 2015, accord- ing to Forbes magazine.

2016 has not been any differ- ent. Kenya will host the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s fourteenth session (UNCTAD XIV) from July 17 to July 22. Likewise, the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) will be hosted in Kenya in August, marking the first time that the event will be hosted outside of Japan.

The immediate benefits of host- ing all these events are obvious. They include: bilateral and multilateral trade deals, security  partnerships

increased foreign direct investments (FDI) and, of course, a boost for tourism.

Reaping the long-term benefits of Kenya’s engagement with the international community, however, isn’t as straight for- ward. It needs a little more patience, but it is worth it. This is because the prospect

up a wealth of opportunities previously not imaginable. It helps transform Kenya into a global brand that can be counted on for partnerships, especially in indispens- able areas such as trade, investment and security.

These are the kind of opportunities that Ambassador Mohamed is aiming for, as evidenced by her expansive foreign policy strategy that has managed to trans- form most of Kenya’s existing diplomatic relations from basic tourism to long-term economic and security partnerships.

The primary reason behind the Ambassador’s success is her sublime wis- dom. She understands that the best way to persuade the world is to speak to its heart. And nothing speaks to the human heart more eloquently than another heart  that

shares similar values.

Treasuring common values

More than once, Ambassador Mohamed has demonstrated that Kenya treasures some of the common values that define dip- lomatic relations in today’s interconnected world. For instance, while she was speaking to a gathering of French Ambassadors in France in August last year, she exuded her deep convictions in the core values of an interdependent global economy.

Appreciation of a market economy; advocacy for open and transparent gov- ernments; the need for a global response to global issues such as terrorism; use of multilateralism to resolve complex glob- al issues; and the push to order eco- nomic development to the service of the human person—these are all things that Ambassador Mohamed has endorsed in both word and deed.

“We share the same values and are committed to foster the strategic goals of international cooperation for peace, secu- rity and global order, sustainable develop

ment and poverty reduction, good gover- nance, transparency, the rule of law and, respect for all human rights,” she told French ambassadors, reflecting some of the views that she has consistently expressed in other different forums.

A component of the global  develop attention from Ambassador Mohamed is the post-2015 development agenda, which basically provides the broader context for nearly all development initiatives that will be undertaken in the world over the next decade and a half.

As an example, the fight against cli- mate change, which impedes sustainable development by affecting vulnerable seg- ments of the population such as farm- ers, has received repeated mention from Ambassador Mohamed. This is critical to the smooth implementation of the post- 2015 development agenda in Kenya and the region.

Ambassador Mohamed has shown the world that Kenya understands the fact that the debate on climate change is not just a question of policies and carbon emissions,

critical as they are, but it is primarily one

of persons, especially poor and vulnerable persons, who often contribute the least  to carbon emissions but suffer the most from climate chaos in the form of floods, drought, typhoons, and wildly unpredict- able weather patterns.

The career diplomat, who speaks Russian and understands French, has also expressed Kenya’s strong stance against terror without equivocation, calling the scourge of terror for what is truly is: “evil.” At the same time, she admits that individ- ual countries can only do so much when it comes to tackling issues such as terrorism. In this regard, security partnership is not only encouraged, but necessary for visible results.

“We have to improve exchange of intel- ligence based on shared security proto- cols and trust ourselves better. Yet  we  are well aware that this is an area where international cooperation has to be better designed, tailored to fit and sustained,” Ambassador Mohamed told French dip- lomats. In light of this proposition,

Kenya has strengthened key security partnerships with major anti-terror players in recent years— demonstrating the true definition of leading by example.

Kenya has a strategic alliance with Washington to push back the enemies of progress in Somalia and the region. Similarly, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdoğan, who visit- ed the country in June this year, also reaffirmed his nation’s commitment to strengthening security partner- ship with Kenya.

Being Kenya’s top diplomat, Ambassador Mohamed is a mirror that projects what Kenya truly is to the world. This explains why a lot of nations have put tremendous trust in Kenya off late. The country appears credible, just as her top diplomat is, especially in her response to issues central to the stability and long-term prosperity of today’s world.

During the current Information Age that the world finds itself in— where there is more information about countries and places than one can go through in one lifetime— credibility is a scarce resource. This is an observation made by Joseph Nye, a leading American foreign policy expert considered by Foreign Policy magazine to be one of the foremost influential global scholars.

 

FDI boom

Kenya’s perceived credibility, which is underpinned by the credibility of its top diplomat, explains why the country has enjoyed an FDI boom in the past two years, despite vol- atility in the global economy and emergence of domestic risks such as political excitement and graft, which typically discourage investors.

In the past year, Kenya was able to attract $1.9 billion (sh190 billion) in FDI. This is a 65  per  cent increase from the $1.15 (Sh115 billion) in 2014 and an almost 300 per cent increase from 2013’s $500 million (Sh50 billion), according to

the African Economic Outlook 2016 report by the African Development Bank (AfDB).

This tremendous increase in Kenya’s foreign investment came at a time when it was very difficult to convince international investors to part with the money. First, because of global volatility and, second, because of the emergence of certain issues in the Kenyan business and political environment such as graft and polit- ical risk.

The fact that foreign investors still increased their support for Kenya in the face of these issues demonstrates that they trust more in the strong credibility of Ambassador Mohamed than they do in the often lopsided narratives that the media churns out.

The kind of trust that foreign investors have in Ambassador Mohamed is also exhibited domesti- cally by President Kenyatta’s admin- istration. The President has trusted Ambassador Mohamed with the top job precisely because she delivers measurable results For instance, under the leadership of Ambassador Mohamed, Kenya has been able to cement its position as Japan’s top partner in Africa, as evidenced not just by the scale and

value of Japanese projects in the country, or the hosting of TICAD VI, but the vastly positive ripple effect that Japanese investments will have on the broader Kenyan economy.

Japan, through the Japan International Corporation Agency (Jica), gave Kenya a Sh22 billion facility in early 2015 to help expand cargo capacity at the Mombasa Port by 50 per cent. The Mombasa Port is integral to trade facilitation and a 50 per cent increase in cargo capacity will have a profound impact on multiple sectors of the Kenyan economy, remarkably improving the livelihoods of millions of Kenyans.

The most spectacular thing about Kenya’s foreign policy strate- gy is that the country has been able to deepen relations with non-tradi- tional partners, especially powers in the East, and at the same time maintain cordial relations with older.

friends such as Britain, whose Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, was in the country in June this year for bilateral talks. Balancing interests of different partners in such a gentle manner is a rare skill, but one that is fortunately present in Ambassador Mohamed.

 

President’s credit

If the global events Kenya has held, as well as the tremendous increase in foreign investment in the past few years, aren’t enough to demonstrate its growing global stature, the country’s increasing sway in Africa is. Kenya is increasingly defining the African narrative and providing direction for the continent.

The irony is that Kenya’s economy is nowhere near the size of Nigeria nor the sophistication of South Africa. Nigeria’s GDP stands at $568 billion, around 10 times the size of Kenya’s. South Africa, on the other hand, has the continent’s most advanced  financial  system. Johannesburg

Securities Exchange (JSE) has over 400 listed firms while the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) has just over 60.

However, Kenya greatly defines the African conversation, sometimes even more than its bigger peers, because it has devel- oped what is called “soft power.” It has basically mastered the art of persuasion through appeal and attraction, and this is no small part thanks to the approach that Ambassador Mohamed has taken on the diplomatic front.

Ambassador Mohamed has enabled the world to understand that Kenya is atten- tive to the true needs of the human person in today’s world. The country appreciates that development can never be reduced to numbers and rhetoric, but must have an inalienable human component. This vision- ary leadership that stresses the centrality of the human person is what has given Kenya a strong voice in a world where the human person is losing his rightful place as the center of all development.

Of course, Ambassador Mohamed can- not take all the credit for this. They  say  a team is only as good as its coach. The choice to put Ambassador Mohamed at the helm of Kenya’s foreign policy reflects wis- dom and foresight on the part of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The President has a unique vision with respect to the role that he wants Kenya to play in Africa and the world, and this is demonstrated by way of the milestones that his Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary has achieved. The country has gained respect from the world; it is positively shaping its brand in an increasingly competitive world and securing billions of dollars in invest- ments while at it.

In concluding, there have admitted- ly been ups and downs in President’s Kenyatta’s presidency, but one area where there is no doubt as to whether he has delivered has been foreign policy. Kenyans may need to appreciate this a little bit more as foreign policy is becoming increasingly essential for sustainable development in a world where traditional barriers between countries are coming down due to technol- ogy, common values and an increasingly globally oriented world populace.