DIPLOMACY

How Portugal is warming up to Kenya through language

Minister Silva says according to Unesco, the Portuguese language is among the three rapidly growing languages in the world

In Summary

• Last year in November, Portugal inaugurated its embassy in Nairobi, although there had been a consulate in Mombasa, pointing to increased interest in Kenya.

• Earlier in June 2019, the Portuguese Business Council had been launched in Nairobi “to enhance ties between the two states and increase economic opportunities”.

Portugal head of mission Luisa Fragoso and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Political and Diplomatic secretary Tom Amolo when the met on March 4 to discuss the upcoming 2020 UN Oceans Conference to be co - hosted by Kenya and Portugal. The conference will be held in Lisbon, Portugal in June.
Portugal head of mission Luisa Fragoso and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Political and Diplomatic secretary Tom Amolo when the met on March 4 to discuss the upcoming 2020 UN Oceans Conference to be co - hosted by Kenya and Portugal. The conference will be held in Lisbon, Portugal in June.
Image: `COURTESY

Vasco da Gama can be argued to have been the first Portuguese diplomat to Kenya more than 500 years ago, having arrived in Mombasa 1498.

The Portuguese explorer met Malindi authorities led by the Sheikh to sign a trade agreement and hire a guide for the voyage to India.

He left a mark that still stands to date – the Vasco da Gama pillar - and later the Portuguese built Fort Jesus.

However it was not until November last year that Portugal inaugurated its embassy in Nairobi, although there had been a consulate in Mombasa, pointing to increased interest in Kenya.

Earlier in June 2019, the Portuguese Business Council had been launched in Nairobi “to enhance ties between the two states and increase economic opportunities”.

Portugal’s  chargé d'affaires Luisa Fragoso said the council also seeks to create networking opportunities for individuals and businesses from both nations.

In addition, Kenya and Portugal were set to co-host the 2020 UN Oceans Conference in Lisbon in June before Covid-19 struck. It is yet to be postponed.

During the inauguration of the embassy, Portuguese Foreign Affairs Minister Santos Silva said his country is maximising on the new wave of relations between Europe And Africa, and one of the focus areas in Kenya would be to improve trade.

But how does it plan to do this with the language barrier?

Minister Silva says according to Unesco, the Portuguese language is among the three rapidly growing languages in the world and about 50 million people are speaking it in Africa.

 
 

He projects that by the end of this century, more than 300 million people will be speaking the language in the continent mainly centred on the expansion of Angola and Mozambique.

Silva told KTN News in a past interview that they are teaching Kenyan diplomats the language.

This is our main goal of our foreign policy: To expand the teaching of Portuguese language worldwide
Portuguese Foreign Affairs Minister Santos Silva

He also added that they have partnered with the University of Nairobi to teach Portuguese.

A look at the university’s website shows that the Department of Linguistic and Languages has been offering a one-year certificate course in Portuguese Language and Culture.

“This is our main goal of our foreign policy: To expand the teaching of Portuguese language worldwide,” Silva said.

Speaking to the Nation in June 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Teresa Ribeiro said they can share with Kenya “the language and culture that Kenyans know, they have of Portuguese origin”.

MULTILATERAL APPROACH

However, there seems to have a well-calculated approach to attain this through multilateralism.

In 1996, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries or the Lusophone Commonwealth was established.

It is a nine-member international political association of Portuguese-speaking countries in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa.

It aims at deepening cultural, economic, and political cooperation among the Portuguese-speaking states through promotion and dissemination of the language, political and diplomatic and partnerships in education, health, science and technology, defence, agriculture, public administration, culture, sports and media

In 2005, during a meeting in Luanda, the ministers of Culture of the member states declared May 5 as the  the World Portuguese Language Day.

WORLD PORTUGUESE DAY IN KENYA

Portuguese-speaking Countries Group Ambassadors in Kenya, chaired currently by Angola, on Tuesday hosted an online video to celebrate this day.

Design joint activities to promote the language in Kenya and the regions, “as well as the rich culture of those countries spread out in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe
Ambassador Abilio Sianga

“The ambassador of Angola [Sianga Abílio] and Mozambique’s Bernardo Constantino, the Head of Mission of the Embassy of Portugal to Kenya Luísa Fragoso,  as well as the Deputy Ambassador of Brazil, Gustavo Barbosa, virtually hosted diplomats, nationals of the Portuguese speaking countries and friends for  a conversation in Portuguese to highlight the Day,” they said in a statement

Ambassador Abilio Sianga challenged the group of embassies to design joint activities to promote the language in Kenya and the regions, “as well as the rich culture of those countries spread out in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe”.

During the video streaming the speakers highlighted how the group has been an important platform to help revive their language and “the diversity of their countries cultures in an Anglophone environment”.

​ Ambassador Abílio, urged, the nationals of the Portuguese-speaking countries (Angola, Brazil, Cap Vert, East Timor Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Portugal, St Tome and Principe and Timor) living in the country  to promote the Portuguese language.

He also urged them to make it a means of international communication and a working language in international and regional organisations.

In his address on May 5, UN Secretary General António Guterres,a Portuguese,  said the language has projected itself to the world through CPLP.

“Assuming a fundamental role in the mobilisation of knowledge with increasing visible presence in various cultural facets, adding value to the global dynamics of economy, science and international partnerships, Portuguese is effectively a language of global communication,” Guterres said in the recorded video.