NGOVI KITAU: How Kenya’s future foreign relations should be prioritised

We need to improve interagency coordination and cooperation.

In Summary
  • This can be done by mandating our Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to transform Kenya’s exports into a growth engine.
  • Our meagre trade balance where 75 per cent are imports and only 25 per cent exports is not sustainable.
Ambassador Ngovi Kitau
Ambassador Ngovi Kitau

The new Government of President William Ruto has now settled down, and it’s time to refocus and restructure our foreign policy.

This can be done by mandating our Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to transform Kenya’s exports into a growth engine.

Our meagre trade balance where 75 per cent are imports and only 25 per cent exports is not sustainable.

The cold war era is long gone and Kenya does not require cold war warriors or wolf warriors, or even passive and scripted salespersons.

What Kenya requires is diplomats endowed with tremendous soft skills to remodel Kenya’s immense soft power.

With 55 embassies and high commissions abroad as well as 31 consulates, there is no excuse for MOFA not to create wealth for Kenyans.

It is recommended that Kenya's new approach to foreign relations should be structured and shaped in a manner that prioritises and strengthens the following 3 key elements: To start with, we need to focus on economic diplomacy by promoting trade and investments.

This can be achieved by venturing into new markets with new Kenyan products and encouraging greenfield investments.

For this approach to work, we need to improve interagency coordination and cooperation.

Currently, there is no control tower to harmonise conflicting policies between ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs).

One way to achieve this coordination is to bring international trade, export promotion, global branding and foreign direct investments underMOFA.

This is the norm in other countries where Kenya's trade and investment agency (KETIA) is the commercial arm of the embassy.

Alternatively, we can create a control tower in the State House.

Secondly, we need to protect and promote the rights and interests of Kenyans abroad.

The population in developing countries is ageing and they require young and skilled workforce.

This is a blessing for Kenya with such a high population of skilled young people aged between 21 and 30 years.

The best way to tackle this is by Kenyan diplomats approaching governments in host countries to sign bilateral labour agreements.

And in cases where we have more than 1,000 Kenyans stationed in one country, then we can post one or two labour officers to the embassy to manage their welfare.

This will result in astronomical diaspora remittances.

Third, we need to strengthen our public diplomacy especially cultural diplomacy and content industries.

We are one of the few countries on the animal planet that can supply traditional dancers to any country in the world.

We have the capacity to perform a different cultural dance every day, for 30 days. There is no competition for Kenya.

To integrate all these initiatives, we need to develop a comprehensive foreign policy strategy.

We need to bring all stakeholders including counties, media, and all citizens on board.

We need experienced ambassadors seconded from MOFA to counties to manage external communications and assist them to develop markets in countries where they did their tour of duty.

We also need to leverage our media to support national and global initiatives.

One way this can be achieved is, to create a press office within MOFA where journalists can access relevant information on a continuous basis.

This can be strengthened with weekly briefs highlighting events of the coming week.

This kind of transparency will build trust with the media fraternity.

Finally, as responsible memberss of the global community, we need to continue building and maintaining strong relations with our international partners.

We also need to continue supporting international peace and security initiatives.

To sum it up, it is now important and urgent for Kenya to engage in effective, consistent, coherent and constructive dialogue with other countries and international organisations, in order to seek mutually beneficial solutions to global challenges and to contribute to the development of the international system, which in turn will lead to Kenya’s prosperity.

Ambassador Ngovi Kitau is First Kenyan Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (2009-2014). [email protected]

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