West and East jostle to catch Kenya government’s eye

Saturday July 25 2015

US President Barack Obama (L) and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta after a joint press conference after their talks at the State House in Nairobi on July 25, 2015. PHOTO | JOAN PERERUAN | NATION MEDIA GROUP

US President Barack Obama (left) and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta after a joint press conference after their talks at the State House in Nairobi on July 25, 2015. PHOTO | JOAN PERERUAN | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By VINCENT ACHUKA
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That Kenya is witnessing renewed interest from global powers has been brought to the fore by the fact that visiting US President Barack Obama will on Sunday issue a public address in a facility whose upgrade the Chinese government gave a Sh305 million this week.

The US and China have been protagonists in the fight for global superiority and although the former is still the only superpower, the latter is currently the largest trading partner with Africa.

This is the second time the Safaricom Stadium Kasarani would be undergoing an upgrade courtesy of the Chinese in a span of three years, having been handed over to the government in March 2012.

Interestingly, the deal to upgrade the stadium was announced just 48 hours before President Obama touched down.

China said it was giving Kenya a total grant of Sh1.7 billion.  Some Sh1.2 billion of this money will be used to construct a Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi through a Technical Corporation Project.

The deals brought China’s cumulative support to the Kenyan government to Sh488.8 billion according to the Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich.

Moments after the Chinese Ambassador Liu Xianfa left Rotich’s office on Wednesday, Mr Joost Reintjes, the Nedherlands Ambassador came in to sign a deal that will eliminate double taxation on income or gains arising to the residents of both countries.

These two deals are just a tip of the iceberg of a period that has been charactarised by the signing of deals and high profile visits by Western and Asian powers.

Since the American government announced in March that its president would visit the country, global powers have for the last three months been fiercely competing to remain relevant on the landscape of East Africa’s largest economy as the Obama visit threatened to overshadow them.

Businessmen from these countries too have been frequenting State House and making various investment commitments, turning a country previously viewed as a pariah state into a jewel in the global scene.

France threw the first salvo when 50 business executives lead by French Minister of State for Foreign trade Matthias Fekl who were in the country to scout for deals met with President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House on June 10.

A week later, on June 18, the UK announced that it had relaxed its travel advisory to Kenya. The UK, which is the largest source of tourists for Kenya, advised her citizens to freely visit Mombasa, Kilifi, Watamu and Diani as well as the Masai Mara.

Further at the beginning of this month, Germany announced that it was upgrading its Nairobi Embassy to equal the status of the one in Pretoria, South Africa, which is the biggest in the continent.