KING'S DAY 2019

The Netherlands and Kenya as partners for innovation

In Summary

• I continue to be amazed at the many innovations I come across in Kenya.

• The Netherlands often plays a role in these innovative approaches.

King Willem-Alexander at King’s Day celebrations
King Willem-Alexander at King’s Day celebrations
Image: Robin van Lonkhuijsen / Hollandse Hoogte

This year we celebrate the 55th anniversary of bilateral relations between Kenya and the Netherlands. Our close and cordial relationship has matured over the years into the trade partnership it is today: The Netherlands remains one of Kenya’s most important trade partners, having been consistently among the top five exporting destinations globally and the first in Europe for the last five years.

The Netherlands sees Kenya’s vibrant private sector as an important conduit to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals as well as Kenya’s Big Four agenda. Kenya continues to be an important development partner as annually over 80 million Euros in official development assistance from the Netherlands find their way into Kenya.

The Dutch development bank FMO also has a large investment portfolio in Kenya. As we aim to build on this cooperation in key sectors such as food security, agriculture and water, the Netherlands works with Kenyan counterparts to strengthen strategic value chains.

Having worked as the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Kenya for four years now, I continue to be amazed at the many innovations I come across. The Netherlands often plays a role in these innovative approaches.

Kenya rates as the fifth most innovative economy in Africa, whereas the Netherlands, according to the Global Innovation Index 2018, is the second-most innovative economy in the world. Innovation is widely recognised as a central driver for economic growth and development and, therefore, the Netherlands and Kenya truly are progressive partners in innovation. Let me give some examples.

However, not everything about the Netherlands is innovation as we also cherish our traditions. Tomorrow, April 27, the Dutch celebrate King’s Day: the birthday of our Head of State, His Royal Highness King Willem-Alexander. King’s Day started in 1902 as a national festival, which it still is today.

Everyone knows the iconic M-Pesa phone payment system, which is a worldwide symbol of Kenya’s innovative power. There is also M-Tiba: a mobile phone technology platform used to pay for health services with the involvement of Dutch-supported organisations such as CarePay and PharmAccess. Phones work wonders in Kenya, the Dutch-funded M-Haki programme uses SMS technology to provide legal assistance to rural communities in Kenya in an accessible and cost-effective way.

Innovative financing through mobile technology also benefits small and medium-scale farmers thanks to a Dutch initiative called Agri-wallet. This product was developed by Dodore and is supported by the Dutch government and Rabobank Foundation. Agri-wallet finances farmers with earmarked loans for agricultural inputs. Agri-wallet is already in use by an ever-increasing number of farmers across Kenya and was selected by the World Bank as a top 10 Disruptive Agricultural Innovation in April 2019.

On the legal front, the Kituo Cha Sheria centre for legal empowerment, a partner of the Netherlands embassy, is a finalist in the innovative ‘World Justice Challenge Award 2019’ organised in The Hague next week. In line with our private sector development approach, the Netherlands is supporting commercial justice through an automation and mediation project. This project helped ensure that the duration of court cases has significantly decreased and proceedings have become more transparent through the use of ICT applications. Now, these innovations are ready to be rolled out in other parts of the Judiciary.

Considerable finance gaps in the run-up towards 2030 challenge the realisation of the Big Four agenda as well as the SDGs. Mobilising private capital is necessary and the Netherlands therefore took the initiative to set up the Kenya Pooled Water Fund. This exciting new fund aims to bundle water-related projects into bankable packages, which form the basis for issuing shares in the capital market. Through government and donor guarantees, the tenure of the loans can be longer and the interest lower than regular commercial loans.

 

 

This innovative approach can be applied in other sectors and free up public funds for less viable public works. Another great example of securing private capital is the Lake Turkana Wind Power project, a 300-megawatt wind farm near Lake Turkana in Marsabit county, co-developed by Dutch partners such as KP&P Africa BV. The 365 wind turbines are connected to the national grid and currently supplying approximately 17 per cent of the country’s installed capacity.

However, not everything about the Netherlands is innovation as we also cherish our traditions. Tomorrow, April 27, the Dutch celebrate King’s Day: the birthday of our Head of State, His Royal Highness King Willem-Alexander. King’s Day started in 1902 as a national festival, which it still is today.

Joyful celebrations, flea markets and music concerts in every city or village mark the day. Houses and entire streets carry red, white and blue as well as abundant orange decorations, our national colours. Dutch nationals living abroad, including in Kenya where there is a sizeable and vibrant Dutch community, also celebrate King’s Day in this typical fashion.

If you ask me, innovation most certainly is a driver for growth and development, but some traditions, including King's Day, are perfect just the way they are.

Netherlands Ambassador