Kenya’s invitation to the G7 summit could, in the long run, aid the country’s economic ambitions and boost the fight against terrorism, experts say.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is among five African leaders invited to the meeting due in Italy this weekend that will discuss the global economy, security, immigration and climate change.
On Monday, State House said Kenya accepted the invitation to “demonstrate that we are worthy to be a leading partner” in issues affecting both sides.
The G7 comprises the industrialised democracies of the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, France, Italy and Japan.
US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau (Canada), Paolo Gentiloni (Italy), Shinzo Abe (Japan) and Theresa May (UK) will be the key participants.
Experts say the invitation offers a chance for Kenya to tap into the strong network.
“The G7 is a premier platform for global influence and presents an opportunity to demonstrate to the leaders of the world’s largest economies Kenya’s role in creating a stable place where the world can do business with Africa,” said Jeremy Awori, the Barclays Bank of Kenya managing director.
At the summit, President Kenyatta will speak on “the timeliness and challenges brought about by innovation as a factor of economic growth and development in Africa”, a subject he may use to vouch for support for start-ups, for example.
But first, the region has to be secure, and security observers argue that Kenya’s location and experience with terrorist groups explains why rich countries must cooperate with it in combating violent extremism and illegal immigration.
“Kenya’s success, in the face of terrorism, is key to the G7, whose priorities are protecting global security, protecting democracy and expanding opportunities for their private sector,” said Dr Martin Kimani, who heads the National Counter-Terrorism Centre.
Italy has been rescuing an average of 150,000 illegal immigrants annually, mainly from Somalia, Eritrea and parts of the Sahel region in Africa. Most of them are fleeing violence and economic hardships and use smugglers to reach Europe.
According to the International Organisation for Migration, 900 migrants have died at sea this year.
“Kenya is a pivotal state in the region,” said Dr Patrick Maluki, who teaches diplomacy at the University of Nairobi. “Perhaps they (G7) looked at what Kenya is doing and saw it as pointing to a brighter future and want to hear more about it.”
Prof Macharia Munene, who teaches international politics at USIU-Africa, argued: “The personality of leaders and the strategic location of the country are key influencers."
Other African countries invited alongside Kenya to take part in an “outreach” session of the summit are Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tunisia and Niger, but only Kenya was allocated a slot to speak.