President Uhuru Kenyatta will on Tuesday begin two weeks of official travel that will take him to Belgium, Rwanda, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
The President will fly to Brussels for the European Union-Africa Summit that begins on April 2 and runs for three days.
He will both present Kenya’s case on a number of global issues, and represent the East African Community – in his role as current chairperson – focusing on infrastructure, trade and regional integration.
On some of the critical Kenyan issues, President Kenyatta will emphasise the progress Kenyan women and young people have made during his first year in office.
The National Treasury, for example, has to date allocated $29.88 million to the Women Enterprise Fund, which has benefitted 707,435 women.
Of these, more than 274,857 women have been trained in business management skills, sensitization, registration of 15 Savings and Credit Cooperatives (Sacco), the use of mobile phone repayment, and partnerships with private-public non-state actors.
The Uwezo Fund was established to empower young people with interest-free start-up capital for small and micro-businesses. The government expects up-take of the first Sh6 billion under this programme in the coming weeks.
The President will also highlight the achievements of women and young people under the new affirmative action laws, showcasing the 33 per cent representation of women in cabinet, as well as the rising number of women in other political leadership roles.
President Kenyatta will speak to leaders about democracy, good governance and respect for human rights, which, he will emphasize, are vital preconditions for human development and poverty reduction.
A well-functioning public sector that adheres to principles such as transparency and public participation, and is accountable to the citizens, gives people security and lays the foundation for peaceful co-existence.
Also essential are a vibrant civil society that can voice the needs and claim the rights of the poorest, and a judiciary that ensures legal certainty.
In its constitutive Act, the African Union attaches high value to these principles and requires respect for, and promotion of democratic institutions, popular participation, good governance and human rights and the rule of law.
African countries are committed to promoting good governance through the institutionalisation of transparency, accountability and participatory democracy, predicated upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the core international conventions on human rights.
In Kenya, the constitution that came to effect in 2010 heralded a paradigm shift in respect of democracy, good governance and respect for human rights. It is widely regarded as one of the most progressive constitutions extant, particularly with regard to its Bill of Rights.
With regard to gender equality and affirmative action, the constitution mirrors the EAC Treaty in widening opportunities for women. It goes further, guaranteeing a stake for minorities and disadvantaged groups, such as people with disabilities and the youth, in the political and economic development of the country.
On regional security, President Kenyatta will highlight recent events in Somalia, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Egypt, Madagascar and Mali.
President Kenyatta will, in reference to Somalia and South Sudan, say that Kenya has shouldered the burden of refugees, and has borne the consequences of the large numbers involved.
Stabilisation of South Sudan and Somalia would ease the financial and security costs for Kenya, while allowing the refugees to return to their countries, to rebuild their homes and to grow their own countries.
In Rwanda on April 6–7, partly in his role as chair of the East African Community, President Kenyatta will attend events to mark the 20th commemoration of the 1994 genocide.
The genocide marked one of East Africa’s lowest moments; part of remembering is to ensure that it is never allowed to happen again. President Kenyatta will also hold talks with his host, President Paul Kagame on bilateral and regional issues.
Kenya and Rwanda have made progress on a number of issues. One key agreement delivered under President Kenyatta’s tenure is that Kenyans, on a reciprocal basis, do not require work permits to work in Rwanda.
The President will then head to Turkey on April 8 –10, where he will make a State visit that will focus on improving bilateral trade. Kenya is also especially interested in learning from Turkey’s successful textiles and leather industries; their expertise and experience offer a major growth opportunity for Kenyan manufacturing.
FIRST LADY MARATHON
The President will be accompanied by a large business delegation, which will hold a forum with its Turkish counterparts. The delegation is meeting its own costs.
He will end his tour in London, where he will hold meetings on trade, while supporting First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, who will run in the Virgin London Marathon on April 13, to raise money for her Beyond Zero campaign that targets improved maternal health and nutrition.
The President’s official foreign visits are of immense importance to our country, facilitating improved investments both ways.
With Nigeria, for instance, you will recall that billionaire diversified investor Aliko Dangote has pledged to invest $400 million in a new cement plant in Kitui. That investment is on course and details of the issuance of relevant licenses will be announced in the coming days.
With Angola, the government of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has agreed to set up an embassy here. Kenyans wishing to travel to Luanda have previously had to lodge their visa applications in Tanzania.
Kenya is also due to export 300 drivers to Qatar and has a request to export 300 plumbers to Australia. With South Africa, a range of outstanding bilateral and regional issues will be discussed in the weeks after South Africa’s elections scheduled for May.