KING'S DAY

Kenya and the Netherlands are partners, online and offline

In Summary
  • The Netherlands is the largest export market for Kenyan products in Europe and the leading destination for Kenya’s cut flowers, vegetables and fruits
  • The Netherlands is also one of the few European countries with a trade balance heavily skewed in Kenya’s favour

What my first year as an Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Kenya has shown me is that, in the midst of a global pandemic that has presented enormous challenges to people’s health and livelihoods, it is the online space and virtual interactions that have become more important than ever.

Even in an era of online diplomacy, Kenya and the Netherlands have managed to further strengthen economic ties. Last month, the Netherlands Central Bureau for Statistics launched a report showing that trade between Kenya and the Netherlands is ever increasing. Goods imported from Kenya to the Netherlands increased from Sh51.5 billion in 2015 to Sh61.8 billion in 2020.

With 60 Dutch subsidiaries, Kenya is in the top three African countries with the highest number of Dutch subsidiaries. These subsidiaries generated Sh34.5 billion revenue in Kenya. The Netherlands is the largest export market for Kenyan products in Europe and the leading destination for Kenya’s cut flowers, vegetables and fruits. The Netherlands is also one of the few European countries with a trade balance heavily skewed in Kenya’s favour.

In recognition of the growing importance of the digital economy, the Netherlands is investing in the enhancement of digital infrastructure in Kenya. PAIX Data Centres headquartered in Amsterdam has received a loan facility of Sh256 million from the Dutch government to support its PAIX data centre expansion in Kenya. These investments will help contribute to employment in the Kenyan technology sector and build on Kenya’s strong digital infrastructure.

In this context I’m also very conscious of the so-called ‘digital divide’, the distinction between people who do and do not have access to information and communication technologies. The Netherlands therefore launched the Digital Agenda for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation with plans to address this divide in our development cooperation programmes. During this pandemic tackling the digital divide is ever more relevant as many do not have access to technologies or cannot resort to online interactions.

Whilst I do cherish all these online interactions, some things cannot be done virtually. The digital reality is no replacement for the physical reality. For instance, Eliud Kipchoge needs actual feet on the ground in the Netherlands to win the NN Mission Marathon held in Twente Airport just over a week ago.

Next to economic relations, Kenya and the Netherlands continue to jointly work towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Yearly, the Netherlands contributes over Sh10 billion in development assistance to Kenya. We work on people -to-people contact and cooperation with civil society in both our countries. In addition we partner with the private sector and of course the Kenyan government.

A highlight of my first year as an ambassador has been Kenyan-Dutch cooperation in the promotion of sustainable green growth, much of it taking place in the digital space. At the Climate Adaptation Summit organised online by the Netherlands earlier this year, President Uhuru Kenyatta called for concerted global efforts in addressing climate change.

He affirmed Kenya’s commitment to implement global climate change adaptation initiatives. Transitioning to a circular economy is key to achieving the SDGs. It was Environment and Forestry CS Keriako Tobiko who virtually participated in the online World Circular Economy Forum + Climate hosted in the Netherlands 10 days ago who said “circularity starts with our own household’. I agree.

Today, April 27, marks King’s Day in the Netherlands and the birthday of our Head of State, His Royal Highness King Willem-Alexander. King’s Day is our national day of unity and on the occasion the King is virtually visiting the city of Eindhoven. Everyone is welcome to join on their computer or phone.

Whilst I do cherish all these online interactions, some things cannot be done virtually. The digital reality is no replacement for the physical reality. For instance, Eliud Kipchoge needs actual feet on the ground in the Netherlands to win the NN Mission Marathon held in Twente Airport just over a week ago.

I do hope the digital marathon that has in many ways become exemplary of this pandemic will come to an end soon. For the coming years in Kenya I aim to contribute to building back better from the pandemic and meeting as many people as I can physically. Then, hopefully, this day next year we can also celebrate King’s Day as we should: united and in person with our Kenyan and Dutch partners.

Ambassador of the Netherlands