ANNIVERSARY

Ethiopia-Kenya: 55 years of strategic partnerships

We should keep evolving, innovating and refining our partnership.

In Summary

• The unified substance that ties together the two sisterly states began with a meeting in London of Jomo Kenyatta and the Emperor.

• So close were the two that the physical location of the Ethiopian embassy in Nairobi is a statement of proof.

Today, June 26, marks the 55th anniversary of Ethio-Kenya diplomatic relations. Peeling back through the layers of years of our diplomatic relations reveals tight tendons of success. Although diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Kenya are decades old, our historical relations are way older and date back to time immemorial.

Chronologically, the unified substance that ties together the two sisterly states began with a meeting in London, in the 1930s. When, two men of equal passion, the Emperor of Ethiopia, and the Founding Father of Kenya first met. The Emperor was in exile, and Jomo Kenyatta was studying at Quaker College.

The friendship they established encouraged a binary view of their countries, and helped them forge a symbiotic partnership which culminated in establishing diplomatic relations between their countries. So close were the two that the physical location of the Ethiopian embassy in Nairobi is a statement of proof.

Within the prism of diplomacy, the relations between Ethiopia and Kenya can analytically be split down into almost two equal parts: pre-Independence and post-Independence. Moments from the first half are particularly significant.

On the one level, failure of Italy’s colonial efforts in Ethiopia and hindrance of British colonial rule in Kenya is in some quarters attributed to the support accorded by each of the other’s troops. In the second half, Ethiopia and Kenya have continued to book the largest growth indices among countries in the Horn region. Such achievements come with huge gains for both countries. The economic ones are obvious.

Bilaterally, although the Lapsset project was sketched in 1972, it was until 2012 that the leaders of Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan laid the foundation stone in Lamu. When complete, it will significantly improve connectivity, contribute to infrastructure development and boost bilateral trade levels.

Looking back over the years, we have advanced and recorded growth in various fronts of our partnership. Still, there are opportunities that give us hope. Some of these opportunities are at the incubation stage, some have hatched, and most, I believe are yet to come.

For the past 55 years, I can draw a dichotomy of common opportunities and similar challenges. For either, Ethiopia and Kenya are in it together.

On common opportunities, the last decade witnessed the actualisation of a number of infrastructure projects. Whether unilaterally or bilateral, the projects stand to benefit both countries as a whole.

Bilaterally, although the Lapsset project was sketched in 1972, it was until 2012 that the leaders of Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan laid the foundation stone in Lamu. When complete, it will significantly improve connectivity, contribute to infrastructure development and boost bilateral trade levels.

The above has not gone unnoticed at the continental level. During the 2015 African Union General Assembly, African leaders endorsed the Lapsset project under the AU’s Presidential Infrastructure Championship Initiative (PICI). Notably, any admission into PICI is a stamp of approval that a project is critical to the continent’s regional integration aspiration.

Efforts to deepen cross-border integration of economies, banks and trade markets are taking shape. Before long, Kenyan banks such as Equity and Kenya Commercial Bank will have presence in Ethiopia.

Efforts to deepen cross-border integration of economies, banks and trade markets are taking shape. Before long, Kenyan banks such as Equity and Kenya Commercial Bank will have presence in Ethiopia.

Following on this projection, businessmen from both countries have exchanged visits, with the hope to actualise liberalisation of our markets. The granting of a second frequency line for Ethiopia Airlines to fly to Mombasa will squarely compliment the above.

On challenges; Ethiopia and Kenya face similar human insecurities. Chief of which are poverty, and food insecurity. Kenya’s solution, as encapsulated in the big four agenda is akin to Ethiopia’s strategy. For both countries, these challenges have often cluttered development agendas. In hindsight, they have brought us closer than before.

A calm assessment of these threats requires us to further enhance and develop common strategies; against poverty or hunger, and to continue to strengthen partnerships in finding solutions. The threats do not recognise boundaries whether legal or ethical. For Ethiopia, our foreign policy outlook places specific concern on countries in the region. This is on the belief that prosperity and stability for our neighbours is also our stability.

Looking forward, we should keep evolving, innovating and refining our partnership. Together, we will contribute to the betterment of countries. Happy 55th anniversary!