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Globetrotting Moses Kuria: Inside his 18 foreign trips in 100 days


CS Trade Moses Kuria during the EU-Kenya Business Forum at the Radisson Blu Hotel on February 21, 2023. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

When Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria is not rabble-rousing in matters outside his scope, he is sure to be globetrotting. 

Mr Kuria has emerged as the most travelled minister in the administration of President William Ruto, having been out of Kenya on at least 18 occasions in the first 100 days since he took office. 

In February alone, Mr Kuria has travelled to 10 different countries around the world, meeting 11 sitting presidents and former Tanzanian Head of State, Jakaya Kikwete.

The Trade Cabinet Secretary also appears to be one of President Ruto's preferred ministers, if not his outright favourite, having accompanied him on all his trips abroad. 

''In all these tours, I was not sending myself. I was appointed a special envoy by President William Ruto to talk to our neighbours and try to re-establish our leadership in the region and to push through agreements of strategic value to Kenya,'' he says.

Some of these strategic agreements, he argues, have stalled for years and that they could only be unlocked through presidential decisions. 

Mr Kuria has travelled with Ruto to South Korea, to New York for the US-Africa Summit and recently to Addis Ababa for the African Union Summit. 

A tally by the Business Daily shows that the CS has been out of the country more times than his Foreign Affairs counterpart Alfred Mutua.


Dr Mutua has been out on 15 occasions, visiting among other countries, the US, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania and Algeria. 

Curiously, Dr Mutua has largely been hosting ambassadors and high commissioners in his office rather than travelling to their countries. 

Some of the diplomats he has met so far include Meghan Whitman (US), Selma Haddadi (Algeria) Yuan Manuel (Cuba) and Tareque Muhammad (Bangladesh).

In most jurisdictions globally, and traditionally in Kenya, diplomacy is domiciled in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the minister being their country's principal diplomat charged with representing their country's interests in the international arena. 

Not so in this administration, as Mr Kuria seems to have grabbed this role by the scruff of the neck, meeting heads of State, ministers and representatives of governments in Kenya and abroad. 

This appears to create confusion in government, as Dr Mutua has also been on his travels, taking with him a delegation on every outing.

"Issues of investment, trade and foreign affairs are conjoined twins. You cannot do one and leave [out] the other. Our primary foreign interest is the economy, business and trade," he says.

"My missions are not about diplomacy but purely trade and business which is my forte."

He says Kenya cannot continue to bask in past glory while other regional countries are leapfrogging it economically.

In January, Angola and Ethiopia overtook Kenya as the third largest economy in sub-Sahara Africa. 

Mr Kuria, however, believes that Kenya is on course to asserting its economic might in Africa, saying: "I am satisfied that investor confidence is coming back. There is a lot of optimism."

On Tuesday, President Ruto in an admission of the elevated role of the former Gatundu South MP said Mr Kuria is charged with placing Kenya at the heart of leadership on the continent to establish the country as the regional powerhouse ahead of the full integration of trade among states.

"Despite being a strong participant in negotiating the tripartite agreement, we have not concluded the agreement in the last seven years. In the last one and a half months, I have sent Moses Kuria, my Cabinet Secretary to 11 capitals and I can now promise with confidence that by the end of April, we will have a tripartite agreement in place," said Dr Ruto.

The unification of the East African Community, the Common Market for East and Southern Africa and the Southern African Development Community, is expected to create a marketplace of 750 million people with an economy valued at Sh227 trillion ($1.8 trillion).

"I'm proud to announce that within the next two months, we hope to achieve the remaining signatures. Only three remain and we have a commitment for nine. With this, we will do business with South Africa the same way as we do it with Tanzania,"

Upon the attainment of the tripartite deal, Kenya hopes to lead the way in pushing for other integration with other regional blocs including the Economic Community of West African States and the Maghreb.

Read: MPs collect signatures in bid to impeach Kuria

Closer home, Mr Kuria says he is fostering better relations with neighbours Uganda and Tanzania with the minister outlining plans of establishing Kenya Revenue Authority offices in the pair of countries to facilitate harmonious cross-border trade.

Additionally, Kenya has recently held talks with Egypt on the setting up of joint power while President Ruto is shortly expected to make a State Visit to Mozambique with the trip forerun by a visit by Mr Kuria expected to yield more dividends to the country.

While subtly blowing his trumpet, Mr Kuria notes that some of the challenges in regional integration are better solved outside the scope of traditional technocrats and bureaucrats.

"The fact that I was actually sent as special envoy to meet presidents has elevated some of these topics beyond the normal bureaucratic challenges," he said on Tuesday.

"The most important thing is that African leaders have realised they have a role to play not just at the level of technocrats and bureaucrats so that some challenges that have really stalled developments are eliminated." 

Foreign travel costs the taxpayer a fortune, with millions of shillings gobbled up in every trip a senior government official makes.

State officials normally fly business or first class and stay in high-end hotels. With a delegation of seven, including a personal assistant, support staff and attachés, a CS travelling abroad for three days spends roughly Sh5 million on the lower side. 

This would cover air tickets, accommodation and meals, per diem and other miscellaneous expenses. 

Last October, Mr Kuria was in Pretoria, South Africa at the Kenya-South Africa Chamber of Commerce where he also met his South African counterpart, Patel Ebrahim. 

He would later accompany President Ruto on a tour of South Korea in the cities of Seoul and Busan. 

While in the country, Mr Kuria facilitated the establishment of "a framework of cooperation" between the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency and its Korean equivalent Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

He was out of Kenya five times, visiting Arusha, Tanzania to attend the 41st Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment before flying to Zambia on the same day to attend the 43rd Comesa Council of Ministers.

During his trip to Arusha, Mr Kuria flew in a helicopter, a red five-seater Bell 222 believed to be owned by one of the Cabinet secretaries. 

Data from multiple sources show that it costs between Sh150,000 and Sh170,000 to hire a chopper in Kenya, with cross-border trips likely to cost more. 

Read: Kuria, Linturi supremacy battles play out over maize importation

To hire the helicopter for two nights would cost the taxpayer Sh6.7 million, exclusive of fuel and landing and parking fees. 

He has also been to Washington DC, US, to meet with “major retailers” and to the United Arab Emirates to “exchange valuable ideas of interconnecting logistics” between the two countries. 

Some of his missions have, however, been unclear, with a trip to Kampala, Uganda, in January, said to have been to deliver a “special message” to Yoweri Museveni from President Ruto. 

From Angola to Egypt, Comoros and Mozambique, Kuria has been to nearly all of Africa in his brief stint at the Trade Ministry, with his foreign trips marketed as platforms to hold bilateral talks and to promote trade cooperation on behalf of the Government of Kenya.

Coincidentally, Mr Kuria’s trips have concentrated in the Gulf region, a thriving market for Kenya’s domestic workers.

A company linked to him, Emerging Human Capital Limited, has been exporting unskilled labour to the region for nearly two decades. 

Kuria, though, denies sending domestic workers to Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar, saying he left the directorship of the company five years ago.

“I am a business person. What is wrong with that? I have no regrets about that. I am pro-business. I am not a hypocrite...As a government, we are going to continue to encourage Kenyans to look for job opportunities abroad.”