Kenya to Hire Foreign Nationals to Drive Economic Diplomacy in Her Missions

As Kenya’s new foreign policy framework takes effect, the country’s missions abroad, in particular those in capitals classified as key commercial and economic centres, are bracing for a major restructuring.

Commercial attaches will be replaced by economic counsellors made up mainly of local experts in those countries to drive the economic diplomacy that is now at the centre of the country’s foreign policy framework.

“The idea here is to be able to do away with our own commercial attaches who were once useful but not any more because of their limitations. You cannot take someone from here and send them to Tokyo and the next day expect them to hit the road running to find business for us. They don’t speak the local language, don’t understand the local business culture, and don’t have the networks. You need to get from point one to point two, not in a year but in a week,” Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Thuita Mwangi told the Sunday Nation.

The PS affirmed that the new thinking, which focuses mainly on economic exchanges, needs drivers who not only understand the business culture of the particular country but also speak the local language and can easily establish wide networks.

The idea is to create economic zones in key economic and commercial capitals including London, Beijing and the emerging centres in South East Asia consisting of Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Laos.

In the Middle East, the focus will be on Dubai, which has emerged as an economic leader within the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries.

Other areas are in Argentina, Cuba, Turkey, Ghana and Senegal among others.

“We expect that in these locations, we shall place an economic counsellor or advisor who is well versed in business, speaks the local language, understands and can facilitate networking to preside over a number of countries clustered together,” the PS said.

The changes are currently being tried on an experimental basis at the Tokyo embassy where a Japanese local is leading the effort to sell Kenya to his fellow Japanese.

With the focus now more on economic diplomacy, the need to raise the country’s presence and representation across the globe is not only necessary but urgent.

In areas where the country lacks physical representation, the PS said the government would appoint honorary consuls among people with deep business acumen.

British retail chain

The envisaged realignments come as economic diplomacy scored big with the entry of British retail chain Marks and Spencer (M&S) who will now package local tea for direct export to its more than 21 million customers served by about 1,000 outlets spread over 40 countries worldwide.

The retail chain has started with a pilot project at Iriaini Tea Factory in Nyeri with the hope of commercialising it depending on the success of the current phase.

M&S head of sourcing Louise Nicholls was in the country last week to oversee the start of the pilot project.

According to Mr Mwangi, the entry of M&S is the first among many more similar ventures as Kenya seeks to claim its place in international trade.

It followed several months of negotiations and has been hailed as “a very important development.”

The deal allows M&S to carry out value addition through packaging of tea for direct export to their outlets.

“We expect to see many other companies coming in to package products here not just for export abroad but also for local outlets,” the PS said.

The Constitution has expanded the role of the foreign affairs ministry, which now handles the country’s foreign affairs, foreign policy and international trade, the latter being an addition to the other two that it previously handled.

“We felt that after the Cold War, and in the context of Kenya’s strategic geopolitical location and evolution of our integration process, we have not positioned ourselves adequately in so far as policy priority to exploit opportunities that were presenting themselves was concerned,” he stated.

This, the PS added, was the driving motivation behind the new thinking, which is now reflected within the foreign policy framework.

“Economic diplomacy occupies a very special and significant position in our foreign policy areas. The other areas of interest have to do with peace and security in the Horn of Africa and environmental diplomacy,” Mr Mwangi noted.

To execute this role, the ministry created a full-fledged directorate to handle external trade and economic affairs.

Because of its situation in a region of armed conflicts, Kenya faces serious challenges driving on the path of economic diplomacy. For instance, the instability in neighbouring Somalia threatens investment in the entire region.

Armed conflicts

“We did recognise that we happen to be located in a sub-region that has witnessed a number of difficulties, specifically armed conflicts. That is why we have deployed a lot of resources to stabilise the region,” said Mr Mwangi.

“We are an active member of Igad and in the last two decades we have been actively involved in finding lasting peace in Somalia. We have, by and large, succeeded in containing instability by helping to establish transitional authority.” he added.

Source- http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/-/1064/1272134/-/8cpnq9/-/
 

 

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