50 YEARS

The progressive evolution of Swiss-Kenya relations

An important moment to see and learn from each other.

In Summary
  • What Kenya requires from development partners, in my view, is not so much aid, as private sector investment to generate growth and create new jobs.
  • Since Kenya fully took over the operations of Utalii College in 2001, Kenya has continued to develop its hospitality sector using internal resources.

There has been controversy for many years over the real value and true impact, of ‘Official Development Assistance’ given to countries like Kenya.

And so, a Swiss Ambassador to Kenya should expect that he will occasionally be challenged – even by his friends – to explain what good the Swiss diplomatic mission to Kenya has achieved in over 50 years since its establishment.

Well, there is a convenient benchmark I like to use when explaining just how far the relationship between our two countries – Switzerland and Kenya – has come since the Swiss Embassy was set up in Nairobi in 1964.

This benchmark is that in 1969 the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) started operations in Kenya. The Kenya Utalii College was its first and largest project in this country based on a needs assessment for trained staff in an ever-growing Kenyan tourism industry. Switzerland’s Development Cooperation was essential to the setting up of Utalii College – one of the key pillars of Kenya’s success in the tourism sector.

But such a big developmental project has never since been required of my country’s government. Instead, Kenya now has dozens of accredited institutions offering training in all the various facets of tourism, most of these being private sector institutions set up by local investors.

So, in about three decades, Kenya has gone from requiring active support and collaboration from Switzerland in order to develop the human resource base needed for a successful tourism sector, to complete self-sufficiency. To me, this is what successful development looks like.

Since Kenya fully took over the operations of Utalii College in 2001, Kenya has continued to develop its hospitality sector using internal resources.

So, in about three decades, Kenya has gone from requiring active support and collaboration from Switzerland in order to develop the human resource base needed for a successful tourism sector, to complete self-sufficiency.

To me, this is what successful development looks like.

And so, I hope this helps to explain why Switzerland no longer plays the prominent role in giving Kenya development assistance today as it used to in the past – except for the Northern counties where Switzerland keeps investing development money.

Kenya is now a middle-income nation. And what Kenya requires from development partners, in my view, is not so much aid, as private sector investment to generate economic growth and create new jobs.

Thus, I take great pride in the fact that in just a few days, we will have a high-level trade mission from Switzerland coming to Kenya in search of investment opportunities. This mission is to be led by a top Swiss government official, who is State Secretary of Economy Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch.

Some of the Swiss corporates who will be represented are looking towards Kenya for the first time. Others have had representative offices or even existing investments here in Kenya.

in a few days, we will have a high-level trade mission from Switzerland coming in search of investment opportunities, led by atop government official

Already today, there are about 50 Swiss businesses located in Kenya. They provide vocational training to young Kenyans. They provide high-quality seeds to Kenyan farmers. They re-insure the crops of Kenyan farmers who might be victims of a drought. They provide financial services to their Kenyan customers.

They produce and instal elevators and escalators in Kenya’s new high-rising buildings and malls. They fly Swiss tourists to Kenya. They assist the National Treasury to achieve its tax revenue targets. They ship perishable goods like roses or vegetables to Europe. They invest in the health of Kenyan families. They provide building material for the Kenyan housing market.

Most of those businesses have been here in Kenya for a very long time.

But over the last years, I felt a growing interest of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from Switzerland, in the Kenyan market. Switzerland Global Enterprise (SGE), the Swiss trade promotion entity, has been visiting Kenya several times during my tenure as Ambassador here. SGE will be part of the Swiss trade mission visiting Kenya from November 11 to 13.

Now guess what the Swiss trade mission will see when visiting Kenya? I want them to see the vibrant and innovative side of Kenya’s 21st century economy. That’s what I see in Kenya. That’s what I want the members of the Swiss trade mission to see and experience for themselves.

It will be an important moment to see and learn from each other – and to strengthen our bilateral economic ties.