Ideas & Debate

Post-Brexit UK is better positioned to engage Kenya

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Summary

  • A look at the deals concluded indicates that Kenya is set to benefit from increased UK investments, trade, health, and education partnerships.
  • However, what is more important for both countries are that high level diplomatic channels have been established for sustainable socioeconomic cooperation.

The deals concluded by United Kingdom and Kenya during President Uhuru’s trip last week are an indication that a post-Brexit UK is ready to freely engage and expand its investments and influences across the world, especially with commonwealth countries like Kenya where historical socioeconomic links still exist.

A look at the deals concluded indicates that Kenya is set to benefit from increased UK investments, trade, health, and education partnerships. However, what is more important for both countries are that high level diplomatic channels have been established for sustainable socioeconomic cooperation.

Many in UK will for a long time argue the pros and cons of Britain’s exit from the European Union, but what is clear is that without EU laws and bureaucracy, UK will now find it easier to reclaim global economic and political influence which significantly diminished when UK joined European Union.

I was a university student in UK when in 1972/73 Prime Minister Edward Heath went through the motions of joining the EU, and for sure it was as difficult and acrimonious as it has been getting out of EU.

The first priority for the UK is to make up for whatever trade opportunities it may have lost by exiting EU trade block. And Kenya is among the obvious destinations to achieve this for indeed Britain has always remained a significant player in Kenya with ties that go beyond routine trade. And the same can be said of UK ties with the Commonwealth fraternity.

Prior to Brexit the West was essentially the USA/EU, but now it is the trio of USA/EU/UK, with Britain now independently influencing the global agenda. And one of the key cross-cutting global agenda that appear to pre-occupy the West is the containment of Chinese global economic dominance.

When the West was pre-occupied with containment of global terrorism over the last 20 years, China was busy establishing its global dominance in areas of infrastructure, energy, trade, and technology.

Though not explicitly stated, the Chinese presence in Africa and in most of the developing world may be what is motivating the West (including UK) to up their focus on Africa. The recent French and British engagements with Kenya may also be part of strategies to re-assert and reclaim ground lost to Chinese.

A good start indeed, but the Chinese are not a walkover, considering their unique modus operandi in their engagement with developing countries..

The Chinese model for engagement with Africa has been a package of credit plus labour and materials all negotiated (without open bids) between Chinese state agencies and host governments.

For the West, it is usually private capital by individual investors, or PPPs financed by bilateral or multilateral agencies domiciled in the West. The Chinese rarely engage in anything labelled social-economic development partnerships.

Larger economic and geopolitical battles between West and China are being fought elsewhere in the areas of control of critical resources (minerals, energy, technology) that have far reaching global security implications.

And for these it’s the USA which is playing the leading role, with EU and UK supporting. And Africa is part of this global playground that will see increased economic and geopolitical engagements by the West.

Back to Kenya, the scope for participation by the West including Britain is large. However, Kenya’s interests should be paramount with participation by the West fitting in our overall long term socioeconomic plans, especially where we are seeking to establish sustainable Kenyan capacity to drive our destiny.

This may have been difficult to achieve with the Chinese whose focus is mostly to maximize strategic economic value for China. This is why Kenya needs to re-think its economic development objectives as we seek to engage foreign countries and investors. The objective is to add genuine value to Kenya.

As for Britain, we are not strangers, and I am sure we can find quick common grounds that we can cooperate on. Lastly Prime Minister Boris Johnson should be acknowledged for his results-oriented leadership that achieved Brexit despite many obstacles, and also for having achieved a number one global position in Covid jabbing performance. Kenya can fruitfully work with Boris.