• Ireland’s relationship with Kenya has a long history spanning over 100 years
• Establishment of the Business Ireland Kenya network is a testament to an evolving relationship that Ireland is forging with Kenya
On March 17 each year, Ireland celebrates its National Day—St Patrick’s Day. The global celebration of St Patrick’s Day is truly unique. No other country has a national day that is so widely celebrated. It is a time of celebration for all of those of Irish descent and affinity around the world. It has become a moment to celebrate Ireland’s global reach and contribution to the wider world.
It is time also to renew Irish links with the global Irish abroad (some 70 million people around the world claim Irish ancestry) and with the many countries where Irish people have settled and the hand of welcome has been extended to them. Kenya is one such country and up to 1,500 Irish citizens will celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Kenya this year.
Unknown to many, Ireland’s relationship with Kenya has a long history spanning over 100 years. Many Kenyans have benefitted from the Irish presence, and even before the foundation of the Irish State, missionaries and aid workers from Ireland travelled to Kenya to establish schools and hospitals.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, for example, received his secondary education at St Mary’s College in Nairobi – a school founded and managed by the Irish Holy Ghost Fathers for many years. Many other Kenyans have benefitted from other schools founded by Irish missionaries – including St Patrick’s College in Iten founded by the Irish Patrician brothers and the Loreto Schools (such as Limuru and Msongari) which were founded by the Irish Loreto Sisters. The Mater Hospital and Strathmore College in Nairobi were also established with the benefit of Irish support.
The Government of Ireland re-opened its Embassy in Nairobi in 2014 in full recognition of Kenya’s importance to the prosperity and stability of the East Africa region and the progress the country has made in advancing democracy, progressing development and addressing insecurity. The decision reflects the excellent diplomatic relations that exist between the two governments, as exemplified also by the opening of the Kenyan Embassy in Ireland in 2007.
Drawing from the Irish experience, the Embassy has been working on several initiatives to deepen mutually beneficial bilateral, political and economic relationships. Some of these initiatives include support to the Kenya Investment Authority in establishing a One Stop Centre for investors; support to the potato and dairy value chains by funding technology and training to increase incomes for smallholder farmers.
Also, the launch and roll-out of the Young Scientists Kenya—a joint Irish and Kenyan government initiative launched last year as the premier inter-schools science and technology competition across the country; and funding of several NGO programmes in the areas of health, disability, gender and education.
Ireland also has a considerable, and growing, presence of Irish businesspeople in Kenya, who are actively contributing to its economy and working in close collaboration with Kenyan investors. An Irish business network, Business Ireland Kenya, established through the support of the Embassy five years ago, now has more than 100 members in a wide range of businesses.
These include financial services, security, agri-food, ICT services, tourism, construction and pharmaceuticals. The establishment of the Business Ireland Kenya network is a testament to an evolving relationship that Ireland is forging with Kenya and one which can be of benefit to both countries.
To mark St Patrick’s Day this year, Kenya will participate in the Annual Global Greening initiative, a campaign that sees some of the world’s most famous attractions and iconic images going Green during Ireland’s National Day celebrations. This year, the 10th Annual Global Greening Initiative will span all five continents and will include Kenya.
The Embassy of Ireland began Greening the Big Five in 2016 in an effort to bring attention to conservation efforts in protecting endangered wildlife in Kenya. In conjunction with the National Museum and Kenya Wildlife Services, the Embassy Greened “Ahmed” the iconic elephant at the National Museum.
In 2017, the statue of the mama and baby rhinoceroses at the National Park in Nairobi was Greened. In 2018, the Embassy commissioned and Greened a Lion statue, that was made entirely from recycled flip-flops; which helped to highlight the plight of the lion and also to bring attention to ocean waste and recycling initiatives. The statute of the lion, named Taji, was donated to the Kenya Wildlife Service and now sits at the entrance to the Safari Walk in Nairobi’s National Park for all to enjoy.
This year a leopard statue – named Chui – will be Greened. The statue is made entirely from scrap metal that has been recycled and made by a local artisan from Kibera.
The purpose of Greening the Chui statue is four-fold: to make people aware of the presence of the Irish in Kenya; to bring attention to the plight of the leopard, whose habitat is in danger; to create awareness of the need to recycle waste materials; and to promote much-needed employment for local artisans.
Chui will be on display at the Embassy’s official St Patrick’s Day celebration on March 15. This event brings together Irish, Kenyans and friends of Ireland as we share in the spirit of oneness and raise a glass to Ireland and its patron Saint.
Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of Ireland in Kenya