Today, Kenya’s national carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) will launch direct flights from Nairobi to Geneva.
I shall be on that inaugural flight. And although I have flown between Kenya and Switzerland many times over the four years that I have served in Nairobi, this will be a uniquely satisfying trip for me.
This is because, for the first time — and going forward — the Nairobi and the Geneva headquarters of the United Nations will be directly linked.
Kenya and Switzerland will, literally, take their relationship to new heights!
This is truly good news for me as Ambassador of Switzerland to Kenya and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON).
Over the past four years, I have been working tirelessly to strengthen our bilateral relations and to connect the UN headquarters in Geneva with the one in Nairobi.
Switzerland was one of the first countries to recognise Kenya as a free and independent country. Since then, a lot has happened.
The professional highlight of my stay in Kenya was the official visit of the President of the Swiss Confederation, Alain Berset, in June last year. Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta received him very warmly.
Only Kenyans can be so generous and gracious hosts!
Both Presidents cemented our long-standing cooperation in the fight against corruption. Since that visit, Switzerland has offered to further increase its support to help Kenya to fight the devastating cancer of grand corruption.
Another important result of the presidential visit was the announcement of the establishment of a Kenyan Embassy in Berne.
A few weeks ago, the Kenyan government appointed its first Ambassador to Switzerland. This will be very beneficial to our bilateral relations.
I very much look forward to seeing my Kenyan colleague embark on his new mandate in Berne and working with him.
However, our relations are far more than government to government. We also have business to business links.
In November this year, a trade mission from Switzerland will visit Kenya. And here, I would like to emphasise that, at this stage in its economic development, what Kenya needs even more than loans is new investments.
As such, more business to business exchanges are good news for both countries.
Furthermore, the new KQ flight to Geneva will be an opportunity for our civil societies to connect and work together more strategically.
Nairobi is in many ways the “think tank city” of the African continent with many NGOs and universities. Kenyan human rights NGOs will need just a few hours to be in Geneva and participate in sessions of the Human Rights Council.
The same is true when it comes to humanitarian issues, trade and health or peace promotion.
Geneva is the headquarters of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
All these are organisations with active links to Kenyan institutions. Then again, in Geneva, there is a network called the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform. Kenya, on the other hand, is a host country of hundreds of thousands of refugees.
There is a clear convergence of interests here and, therefore, possible areas of collaboration.
President Kenyatta is working on the introduction of universal health coverage for all Kenyans. Kenya is a regional pillar of prosperity and peace. It is actively promoting peace in the region.
Geneva and Nairobi, Switzerland and Kenya, have a lot of common interests when it comes to the promotion of human rights, peace, trade and health. It’s good that the international governance hubs in Geneva and Nairobi are now directly linked.
Then, of course, there is tourism. This direct flight is bound to have a positive impact on the number of Swiss visitors to Kenya.
All in all, having more direct flights between Kenya and Switzerland is sure to promote our people to people relations. More people than ever before will have the unique opportunity to see the beauty of our two countries.
Therefore, I expect more conference tourism in Geneva and Nairobi. I expect new partnerships and collaboration. I expect more trade and investment. I expect a brighter bilateral future.
Dr Heckner is the Ambassador of Switzerland to Kenya. [email protected]