BILATERAL RELATIONS

Kenya, DRC strengthen ties with historic treaties

In Summary
  • This visit was aimed at enhancing the two countries' relationship in trade and security
  • On matters trade, citizens were encouraged to invest in the two countries, especially now that the DRC is enjoying peace within its borders

Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo have always enjoyed a cordial relationship. Past diplomatic visits like those between former Presidents’ Kibaki and Kabila laid the foundations for the ongoing synergies between the two independent countries.

We are not just linked by our cultural similarities, including our love for rhumba and having Kiswahili as our national language, but we also share a common vision for peace, security and prosperity for the region.

This shared vision has seen Kenya midwife peace deals amongst the people of DRC and has also facilitated the establishment of diplomatic missions between the two countries, a sign of our mutual respect and intended long-term cooperation.

So significant has our relationship with the DRC been that President Uhuru Kenyatta was the only head of state present during the inauguration of President Tshisekedi in January 2019. This show of solidarity has strengthened the relationship between the two countries with President Kenyatta conducting a three-day state visit in Kinshasa, in April 2021.

This visit was aimed at enhancing the two countries' relationship in trade and security. On matters trade, citizens were encouraged to invest in the two countries, especially now that the DRC is enjoying peace within its borders. The areas identified for investment in DRC include insurance, aviation, hospitality and mining and construction.

Two major undertakings between Kenya and DRC will facilitate this vision. First, is the signing of the Kenya Airways and Congo Airways agreement. This partnership covers the areas of the countries’ mutual interest, including aircraft maintenance and the training of airline personnel.

It is also concerned with sharing of excess capacity between carriers as and when they occur. Also established is a mutual understanding regarding the sustainability of the airlines with particular focus on code and route sharing towards envisioned expansion within the continent and globe.

Tied to this is the agreement on maritime freight through which the DRC intends to reposition the Port of Mombasa as DRC’s main exim gateway. This will ensure that the country’s transit cargo is handled in Mombasa, facilitating jobs and other benefits for the two countries.

The three-day visit has indeed enhanced the bilateral relationship between Kenya and DRC. Their continued mutual engagements will for the DRC open a bigger market for its residents in Kenya even as it builds on its internal peace and security agenda. For Kenya it is a fulfilment of a promise by President Kenyatta to position the country as an enviable hub for trade, investment, security and human resource.

In addition to these developmental agreements, Kenya’s Equity Bank has rebranded itself in the DRC in a bid to serve the population better. Equity Bank entered the Congolese banking market in 2015 and has since established itself as one of the top banks in the country.

In fact, President Kenyatta presided over the inauguration of its rebranded Equity Commercial Bank of Congo’s office block in Kinshasa. This move is expected to enhance its image and service delivery in the host country even as it solidifies its position through mergers and acquisitions.

Kenya and DRC have also signed pacts on the enhancement of regional security and maritime transport. The two presidents witnessed the signing of four framework cooperation agreements which, when fully implemented, will enhance the safety and economies of the two states.

Key amongst them is the general cooperation agreement for the promotion of technical, scientific and socio-cultural programmes. This is important for future cooperation to enable better co-existence and skills sharing between the residents of the two countries.

The other agreements touch on matters security and provide mechanisms for cooperation between Kenya and DRC in immigration, cybersecurity, counter-terrorism and customs and border control. This is significant in the background of threats of extremism within and without the two countries.

The three-day visit has indeed enhanced the bilateral relationship between Kenya and DRC. Their continued mutual engagements will for the DRC open a bigger market for its residents in Kenya even as it builds on its internal peace and security agenda. For Kenya it is a fulfilment of a promise by President Kenyatta to position the country as an enviable hub for trade, investment, security and human resource.

Moving forward, this partnership could influence the East African Community engagements, especially after President Kenyatta urged President Tshisekedi to consider joining the EAC. Africa also stands to benefit from continued mutual and beneficial relationship as the two countries promote the African agenda across the region, continent and the world.

Political commentator