Germanys Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier´s journey to the African continent concluded with a visit to Kenya. He was welcomed to Nairobi by Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed and subsequently met President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Key topics during his visit were the state of regional cooperation in East Africa and development of bilateral relations. Steinmeier and Mohamed also met with German and Kenyan business representatives to discuss and promote trade and tourism relationships between the two countries.
Steinmeier furthermore met with representatives of the political opposition for a stronger understanding of the internal situation in Kenya. The German Foreign Minister finally presented the concept for the Berliner Humboldt-Forum, which, among other things, is meant to promote cultural exchange with Africa.
Following Steinmeier´s visit to Rwanda, Kenya was the last stop on the Foreign Minister´s visit to Africa. He was met at Nairobi Airport by fellow Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed. Both already knew each other as Mohamed had visited Berlin a year ago to discuss the state of bilateral relations with the Steinmeier. Back then, Steinmeier named Kenya as a prime example for an Africa continent that was quickly outpacing old European perspectives.
Promoting regional cooperation
Steinmeier met President Uhuru Kenyatta for political talks. At the centre of the consultations was how to strength regional cooperation. Subsequently, Steinmeier took the opportunity to introduce Kenyatta to the high-level economic delegation accompanying him during his visit to Africa.
In the course of his stay Steinmeier also met with representatives of the opposition for talks concerning the internal situation of Kenya, among them former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka.
The nation´s role in promoting cooperation in the region also featured prominently in the Foreign Minister´s talks with Minister Mohamed. Steinmeier described Kenya as an anchor of stability during a joint press conference. He added that the country counted among those states which were driving forward regional cooperation in East Africa – a process Germany is happy to support.
Support for Somalia
The Foreign Minister also paid respect to Kenya for sheltering 500,000 refugees from Somalia while simultaneously supporting political development in the neighbouring country. He also highlighted the role Germany was playing in training Somalian security personal. He added that Germany was looking forward to advising the country concerning the future development of its political system, as well as sharing Germany´s experiences with decentralisation to support this process in Somalia.
Dynamic economic relationships
Steinmeier also stressed that the already strong cooperation ties between Germany and Kenya should be developed further. To this end, he was accompanied by a high-level delegation of economic and cultural representatives.
Economic relationships were established early on during the visit. Steinmeier and fellow Foreign Minister Mohamed talked at length with German and Kenyan business representatives. A range of German enterprises is based in Kenya and both countries showed a huge interest in developing economic relationships further.
Another key topic on Steinmeier´s agenda was cultural exchange. He and fellow Minister Mohamed visited the national museum in Nairobi, where they were greeted by Culture secretary Hassan Wario, Education Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi and curator Ahmed Yassin. Steinmeier and the head of German Foreign Ministry´s cultural division, Andreas Görgen, presented the concept for the Humboldt-Forum, to be established next year in Berlin´s City Palace. Comprising of a museum, a library and housing parts of Berlin´s Humboldt-University as well as a convention centre, the Forum will serve as a meeting place for people of all cultures and ages.
Steinmeier described the Humbold-Forum as a market place for ideas, an Agora, which is going to promote discourse between science, nations and cultures. “I am sure that the Humboldt-Forum will act as a large and inviting place for ideas from all around the world. Only the open dialogue among societies, among our citizen, scientists, young musicians, architects and authors will enable us to nurture lasting trust and understanding across all borders.”
German Foreign Minister Steinmeier in an interview:
What brings you to Kenya?
As a regional power in Africa with a thriving economy, Kenya is important to us. It has one of the 10 strongest economies on the continent and achieved middle income country status in 2014.
We are following the implementation of the Constitution with great interest. We support devolution as our experience with the decentralisation of power and responsibility in Germany has been positive. We regard ourselves as a close partner of Kenya in development and modernisation, not only politically but also economically, culturally and in the sphere of academic exchange.
I have, therefore, not come alone but with a delegation comprising many prominent representatives of major German companies, and the cultural and academic community. We want to strengthen our trade and economic integration. We are also seeking more cooperation in the academic and cultural spheres. And we want people in our countries to have more contact with each other.
What is your assessment of Germany’s diplomatic relations with Kenya? What can be done to improve the ties?
Germany was the first country to officially recognise Kenya after independence. We have enjoyed close bilateral relations based on mutual trust for decades. Today, we are working closely together to master the global challenges we face.
Kenya plays an active and constructive role when it comes to regional and international security, the fight against terrorism and drugs, and environmental and climate protection. I appreciate that, just as I do the momentum President Uhuru Kenyatta has generated with regard to further integration in the East African Community (EAC). Support for regional cooperation is a cornerstone of Germany’s policy on Africa. New fields of collaboration are opening up here.
How much is Germany’s investment in Kenya and in which areas? Are there any plans to increase it?
Bilateral trade was at its highest level to date — 415 million euros — in 2012, while German investment in Kenya stands at around 100 million euros. Some 100 German companies are operating in Kenya and that number is set to rise. Kenya is already an attractive market.
The oil and gas deposits found in the north, the improved infrastructure, and modern telecommunications provide new opportunities for cooperation. That is why I am accompanied by officials from major German companies. The German Government has of late been providing export credit guarantees — Hermes guarantees — for goods and services of German companies to Kenya’s public sector.
The first East African-German Business Summit, intended to enhance economic ties with Kenya and the entire EAC, took place under the chairmanship of Deputy President William Ruto and the former Federal President, Dr Horst Köhler, in 2014.
In terms of trade, how much has Germany opened its market to Kenya exports? Are there any moves to give Kenya special consideration in terms of exports since it imports more than it sells?
EAC member states have free access to the European Union’s single market. As a leading member of the EAC, Kenya, thus, has access to the market in Germany, a member of the EU. Tea, coffee and flowers from Kenya have a good reputation in Germany. Many of the red roses lovers in Germany gave each other on Valentine’s Day last week came from Kenya.
I am pleased that the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and the EAC was finally signed in October 2014 after many years of negotiations. That is a great success. Economic partnership agreements foster regional integration and sustainable development.
Kenya has embraced devolution, a system of governance that is well established in Germany? How has Germany supported devolution in Kenya?
Germany supports the implementation of the Kenyan Constitution, particularly the devolution anchored in it. During the last 60 years, our experience of devolution, which we call federalism, has been very good. Devolution is a great opportunity to take administration and development closer to the people.
We are assisting Kenya on the basis of our own experience. We are helping to establish structures in counties, and train State and county officials. The situation in which Kenya finds itself as it establishes a devolved state is a huge task.
Germany has, on one or more occasions, made clear its position on issues of governance and democracy in Kenya. What is your comment on the current government?
The Constitution has given Kenya a blueprint to establish one of the most modern democracies in the world. In 2010, the majority of the population voted in favour of this groundbreaking reform of their State.
Its implementation is a herculean task. We have great respect for all the institutions involved — government, Parliament, counties and civil society. In light of the terrorist threat, the balance between security and freedom has to be found in Kenya, too. We believe that security and freedom belong together.
Resolute action against terrorists, development and greater social responsibility belong together. The stronger and more creative civil society is, the stronger, more creative and stable a country is.
Kenya, through the African Union, is pushing for the establishment of an African court to try crimes of war and crimes against humanity instead of the International Criminal Court? What is Germany’s position on this matter?
We believe the plan by African states to establish such a court is a good idea. African problems should be resolved first and foremost by Africans themselves. We in Europe also have special regional tribunals. We consider such efforts to be complementary to strong international penal justice, as is guaranteed by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which also has our full support.