As the UK’s newly appointed Minister for Africa, I am honoured to be visiting Kenya in my first overseas trip in the role.
My visit also comes at an interesting time for the UK; following the decision by the British people to leave the EU there are some who question the UK’s position in the world or commitment to international partners.
I will be using my visit to assure those I meet that the UK is committed to playing an active role within the international community. We will be more outward-looking, more engaged, and more active on the world stage than ever before – a truly Global Britain.
We share strong and enduring links with Kenya and it is at the forefront of the active role we will continue to play internationally and across Africa. The UK and Kenya have a long-standing, historic but sometimes difficult relationship.
But I believe our partnership has never been stronger. It is vital that we continue to work together to push forward our joint and mutually reinforcing priorities on security and prosperity which will benefit both our peoples. I also have a strong personal connection with Kenya having have visited many times. I have very fond memories of my time in this country.
These are exciting times for both our countries. Britain is a truly great country that will always be capable of thriving and prospering on the world stage. We have the fifth largest economy in the world, and the UK is widely recognised as one of the best countries in which to do business.
Kenya is a regional powerhouse and the gateway to East Africa and beyond. Kenya’s growth over the past five years has beaten the average for sub-Saharan Africa, and Bloomberg recently ranked Kenya as the third fastest growing economy in the developing world. So while there is much that we already do together – our bilateral trade is worth over Sh180 billion annually – there is so much more that we can do.
I am keen to see UK and Kenya deepen our economic ties. The economic potential of Africa is vast, with one third of all African economies expected to grow by 5pc or more this year including Kenya. The UK’s diplomatic network of 36 African posts, 19 British Council offices and 16 DFID offices, means we are well placed to work with Africa to maximise this economic opportunities it offers.
Given that 1 in 3 people in Africa are aged between 10 and 24 it is vital that we work together to create a highly skilled workforce and employment opportunities.
We cannot see sustained economic growth without stability and security across the region. This is why the UK and Kenya are working closely together build greater security in Somalia and South Sudan. The UK-Kenya Security Compact signed in September 2015 highlights our shared commitment to tackling these challenges.
Our relationship, of course, goes far beyond security and economic cooperation. Thousands of Brits and Kenyans travel every year to each other’s countries to enjoy all our nations have to offer. Even as an avid AFC Bournemouth fan, I was very pleased to see SportPesa’s recent announcement of their sponsorship deal with Hull City; showing their ambition to become a truly global Kenyan brand by entering the greatest football league in the world.
The upcoming Olympic Games in Rio provide another exciting opportunity for Kenya to showcase their renowned sporting prowess. I am looking forward to watching the phenomenal Kenya Sevens compete in the Olympic Games for the first time and echoing their success at the Singapore Rugby Sevens.
As the UK’s Minister for Africa I am proud to represent the UK in the world and delighted that I have been able to come to Kenya as part of my first visit to Africa. The UK has an opportunity now to determine the nature of our future relationship with the EU; by working with close friends and allies such as Kenya, the future of both countries is very bright.
(Ellwood is the FCO Minister for the Middle East and Africa)