Germany is on a charm offensive to expand its influence in Africa. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is visiting Kenya from Saturday. Saturday Nation spoke to him.
What brings you to Kenya?
As a regional power in Africa with a thriving economy, Kenya is important to us. It has one of the 10 strongest economies on the continent and achieved middle income country status in 2014.
We are following the implementation of the Constitution with great interest. We support devolution as our experience with the decentralisation of power and responsibility in Germany has been positive. We regard ourselves as a close partner of Kenya in development and modernisation, not only politically but also economically, culturally and in the sphere of academic exchange.
I have, therefore, not come alone but with a delegation comprising many prominent representatives of major German companies, and the cultural and academic community. We want to strengthen our trade and economic integration. We are also seeking more cooperation in the academic and cultural spheres. And we want people in our countries to have more contact with each other.
What is your assessment of Germany’s diplomatic relations with Kenya? What can be done to improve the ties?
Germany was the first country to officially recognise Kenya after independence. We have enjoyed close bilateral relations based on mutual trust for decades. Today, we are working closely together to master the global challenges we face.
Kenya plays an active and constructive role when it comes to regional and international security, the fight against terrorism and drugs, and environmental and climate protection. I appreciate that, just as I do the momentum President Uhuru Kenyatta has generated with regard to further integration in the East African Community (EAC). Support for regional cooperation is a cornerstone of Germany’s policy on Africa. New fields of collaboration are opening up here.
How much is Germany’s investment in Kenya and in which areas? Are there any plans to increase it?
Bilateral trade was at its highest level to date — 415 million euros — in 2012, while German investment in Kenya stands at around 100 million euros. Some 100 German companies are operating in Kenya and that number is set to rise. Kenya is already an attractive market.
The oil and gas deposits found in the north, the improved infrastructure, and modern telecommunications provide new opportunities for cooperation. That is why I am accompanied by officials from major German companies. The German Government has of late been providing export credit guarantees — Hermes guarantees — for goods and services of German companies to Kenya’s public sector.
The first East African-German Business Summit, intended to enhance economic ties with Kenya and the entire EAC, took place under the chairmanship of Deputy President William Ruto and the former Federal President, Dr Horst Köhler, in 2014.
In terms of trade, how much has Germany opened its market to Kenya exports? Are there any moves to give Kenya special consideration in terms of exports since it imports more than it sells?
EAC member states have free access to the European Union’s single market. As a leading member of the EAC, Kenya, thus, has access to the market in Germany, a member of the EU. Tea, coffee and flowers from Kenya have a good reputation in Germany. Many of the red roses lovers in Germany gave each other on Valentine’s Day last week came from Kenya.
I am pleased that the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and the EAC was finally signed in October 2014 after many years of negotiations. That is a great success. Economic partnership agreements foster regional integration and sustainable development.
Kenya has embraced devolution, a system of governance that is well established in Germany? How has Germany supported devolution in Kenya?
Germany supports the implementation of the Kenyan Constitution, particularly the devolution anchored in it. During the last 60 years, our experience of devolution, which we call federalism, has been very good. Devolution is a great opportunity to take administration and development closer to the people.
We are assisting Kenya on the basis of our own experience. We are helping to establish structures in counties, and train State and county officials. The situation in which Kenya finds itself as it establishes a devolved state is a huge task.
Germany has, on one or more occasions, made clear its position on issues of governance and democracy in Kenya. What is your comment on the current government?
The Constitution has given Kenya a blueprint to establish one of the most modern democracies in the world. In 2010, the majority of the population voted in favour of this groundbreaking reform of their State.
Its implementation is a herculean task. We have great respect for all the institutions involved — government, Parliament, counties and civil society. In light of the terrorist threat, the balance between security and freedom has to be found in Kenya, too. We believe that security and freedom belong together.
Resolute action against terrorists, development and greater social responsibility belong together. The stronger and more creative civil society is, the stronger, more creative and stable a country is.
Kenya, through the African Union, is pushing for the establishment of an African court to try crimes of war and crimes against humanity instead of the International Criminal Court? What is Germany’s position on this matter?
We believe the plan by African states to establish such a court is a good idea. African problems should be resolved first and foremost by Africans themselves. We in Europe also have special regional tribunals. We consider such efforts to be complementary to strong international penal justice, as is guaranteed by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which also has our full support.