Adam Wood: Helping Kenya’s economy recover


That is the message signalled to the world last weekend when business and tourist leaders met in the Mara.

This country offers the best holidays you could wish for in world-class destinations. That is the message to attract tourists back.

Kenya has certainly come through a traumatic time this year.

The agreement that ended the post-election crisis would not have been achieved without the efforts of many, including private sector leaders.

Now we want to help restore confidence and promote the inward investment crucial to the economy .

The World Bank estimates that an extra five million Kenyans may have been pitched into poverty by the post-election crisis.

Some sectors of the economy kept going valiantly – like horticulture. But others, notably tourism, were hit hard.

The UK/Kenya partnership in trade and investment is important to recovery. The UK is the largest foreign investor in Kenya, estimated at above Sh313 billion.

There has been steady growth in our exports to Kenya too – by 25 per cent in the five years to 2007.

But the trade balance is in Kenya’s favour, with Kenya’s exports to the UK valued annually at Sh35 billion.

We shall continue to encourage British companies to set up offices in the region and to help Kenyan companies source products and services from the UK.

We shall be backing, too, the World Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi at the end of this month.

And we are supporting several other trade events and missions this year, including visits from the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and the Commercial Horticulture Association, and an environment seminar.

There is tough competition in attracting investment, but the interest is there.

Before the crisis, over 200,000 British tourists were visiting Kenya annually.

That’s more than double those from any other country.

We want them to come back, and in increasing numbers, to enjoy Kenya’s rich and diverse culture, the beautiful beaches at the Coast, the staggering scenery and the wildlife.

DURING THE CRISIS, WE WORKED hard to ensure our travel advice reflected the situation on the ground, so that British nationals could make informed choices.

We limited our advice against all but essential travel to areas where there was violence, and for only as long as we felt there was a potential threat to tourists.

For tourism to flourish, calm will need to be sustained. Kenyans are looking to their
politicians to address the issues that underlay the post-election violence.

Recovery will depend on rapid execution of the pact on national reconciliation.

They have made a start, but there are formidable challenges ahead.

Kenyans will be looking for action on the recommendations that will be made by the various commissions set up, to diminish the risk of ever again experiencing the suffering of early this year.

Meanwhile, we all hope to see the conditions created for those displaced by the election violence to return home safely and to see Government working to restore and improve the infrastructure that Kenya needs.

Britain, through our Department for International Development, has already provided nearly Sh400 million for emergency relief to help those most affected by post-election violence.

We are exploring ideas with the Government and our partners for an international conference in Kenya to discuss the Government’s policy priorities and programme for reform, and the assistance it needs.

We hope this will be followed with an event in London that will attract new investment and highlight tourism.

Mr Wood is the British High Commissioner in Kenya.

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