In an Interview with Envoy Excellency Magazine Amb. Willy Kipkorir Bett, High Commissioner of Kenya to India

“Kenya is the best investment and tourist destination.  Kenya is the only country where you can enjoy the beaches, wildlife, and the mountains.”

How is Kenya preparing to celebrate 56th Jamhuri Day? Any special arrangements for this year’s celebration?

As you all know that Kenya gained independence on 12 December 1963,every year on 12 December we celebrate the day as we try to remember the struggle of our forefathers in getting us independence. In Delhi, we will be celebrating on 10th December, at least two days before the actual day so that we are left free to celebrate with fellow Kenyans on the actual date. In New Delhi we have invited the diplomatic community, government officials, and the business community to join us at the Eros Hotel in Nehru Place in New Delhi to celebrate this day.

Kenya is one of the major trading partners for India. Tell us about the growing trade and people-to-people ties between India and Kenya?

Trade relations between India and Kenya dates back to the late 17th century. We know that a lot of Indian communities migrated to Kenya for trade and later to build the Kenya-Uganda railway. The British government brought the Indian community to help build the railway and once the railway was completed, the Indian community remained back in Kenya as traders. Over time they build on the trade and kept their tradition, became Kenyans and retained their culture, that is why you will find a lot of Indian temples all across Kenya. There is a big Indian community in Kenya who have played a big role in the building of Kenya’s economy. The small businesses the Indian community started in Kenya have been transformed into big corporates.

The business relations between Kenya and India can be explained by the big Indian Diaspora in Kenya that grew over time. India has been a big trading partner with Kenya until 2014 when the figures dropped, this can be attributed to competition with other countries who had discovered that Kenya was the best destination for Investment.We are, however, happy that the figures have started looking up again.

What are the key components in strategic, economic and cultural cooperation between India and Kenya?

Key components of our strategic relationship in the economy is investment. India is a powerhouse when it comes to manufacturing. We want the Indian manufacturers to Invest in Kenya. We are looking at partnerships which the Indian business community can build with their counterparts in Kenya. We want some of the imported items to Kenya from India to be manufactured in the country so that the balance of trade is improved.

The Kenyan government has created an environment that is conducive to do business and we would wish investors not only from India to take advantage of this.

There is a long history of the cultural relationship between India and Kenya. The ICCR has been a major intermediary in all aspects such as education and any cultural activities. The Indian cultural troops come to Kenya to perform which helps in exchanging the cultural values between the two countries. Likewise, the Kenyan cultural troops have also been participating in various cultural events in India over the years. What we are looking forward to is the Kenyan cultural day that we want to host India. We will be planning exhibitions to display Kenyan culture, food and much more. The idea is still being worked out as we are getting partners on board for the program. This cultural exchange will go a long way toward building other components of the relations between India and Kenya.

How do you rate the present ties between India and Kenya?

It is the best ever, and the reason why it is best is because the leadership of India and Kenya decided deliberately to upscale the ties between the two countries. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to Kenya and during that period a lot a discussion on economic, political, and diplomatic aspects of cooperation were discussed. This was followed by the visit of President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, who witnessed the signing of a frameworks of cooperation.

What are the key developments undertaken under your term as the High Commissioner of Kenya to India?

Since I came here a lot of activities have been going on. Since my arrival, we organized the joint trade commission lead by the union minister of trade of India and the trade Minister of Kenya. We went to Kenya to discuss the trade relationships, trying to handle the bottlenecks we are experiencing in the areas of trade and access to market. This, in particular, is the reason why the trade relations between India and Kenya have been growing up. More specifically we worked on how to attain the trade balance which is currently in favour of India. Immediately after that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kenya H.E. Amb. Monica Juma, came to India to attend the Joint trade committee meeting, where she was hosted by her counterpart the late Minister of External Affairs H.E Mrs. Sushma Swaraj. That was the other opportunity, where all aspects of relationships between Kenya and India were discussed, from political, economic to everything which facilitate trade.

This was followed by the second joint trade commission hosted in India, where the trade minister of Kenya was hosted by the Union Minister of trade in New Delhi. Beside this, a lot of activities have been taking place. Chambers of commerce have been organizing trade missions and visiting Kenya to hold business to business meetings. We have also been active in meeting business community here in India, to promote the kind of business environment we have in Kenya.

How have the relations between India and Kenya progressed after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 in India?

As I said, it was during this period that the relations between India and Kenya have reached the best of its heights. It is during his visit to Kenya where a lot of frameworks were developed on how the two countries can further build on their relations. Our President Uhuru Kenyatta was invited for a state visit to India and also as the Guest of Honour at the vibrant Gujarat summit. This proves the kind of relation currently existing between Kenya and India.This also opened new lines of credit to various sectors resulting in more activity between Kenya and India.

A large number of Indians professionals are staying in Kenya. What do you think attracts the Indian Diaspora to your country?

I would like to add businessmen to that list, It’s both professionals and businessmen. The Kenyan business environment is the best in the region. Kenya is a business country. The government has built a business environment that is very condusive to do business and no wonder the ranking in the ease of doing business has been improving over time.   We have one stop shop kind of model, where all your issues will be answered and attended to in one place. The peace and stability existing in the country has been the biggest contributor to the ease of doing business in terms of business environment. The ICT sector is well developed in Kenya and that is why professional and professional bodies would want to operate out of Nairobi.

What are the major initiatives taken by the Kenya government to attract Indian businessmen?

What I would like to say is that there is a serious trade imbalance, which is a major challenge from Kenya’s point of view. And, Kenya believes that we have to address the non-tariff issues which prevent the normal two-way traffic flow of goods and services. This will give access to Kenyan goods and services to the Indian market. Those are some of the issues we are trying to fix now. These are the kind of discussions we are giving priority when the two countries hold joint trade commissions.

From the Indian side, I think the challenge is from the other trading countries. Other Asian countries are now coming up to trade more with Kenya posing a competition challenge to India.

What are the key challenges facing India and Kenya economic partnership, what can be done to counter such issues?

There has not been much investment in the health sector by the Indian business. What we have been seeing in recent times is that a lot of Kenyans have been coming to India for medical attention. So it has been more of medical tourism than investment in the medical field by the Indian investor. And, that is what we are now discussing with the Indian businessmen and saying that we want to reverse the situation. Instead of Kenyans coming for the medical facilitiesin India, we would want them to invest in Kenya.  Not only can they access the patients from Kenya but also from the region who will come and get served in Kenya. Because already, the Kenyan medical facilities are more superior in the region and as it is now, the patients come to Kenya to access several medical services.

Recently, Kenya adopted a solar energy water system. Please tell us something about that?

This is in two parts; we have a policy now in Kenya where all developments must incorporate solar heating system. The other is the use of solar on purification of water through the Give Power solar Water Farms. This is a solution for communities who are struggling in accessing clean water for domestic use. This is a process of purification and desalination of sea salt water to make them fit for human use. The initiative will go a long way to address the scarcity of water in most parts of Kenya and the world.

Kenya is a paradise for travellers. So what is your department doing to promote Kenya tourism in  India?

Tourism is one pillar we are focusing on to promote the number of the Indian middle class to travel to Kenya. We have realised that the Indian middle class is growing very fast and Kenya needs to tap into this travelling group by showing what Kenya can offer. The numbers are showing significant growth which means our strategy is working. Next time you think of traveling to Africa, we want Kenya to be your first stop. Connectivity between Kenya and India is very good through the Kenyan and Indian Airways.

Your message to our readers?

Foremost, I would like to remind that Kenya is the best investment and tourist destination. Kenya is the only country where you can enjoy the beaches, wildlife, and the mountains plus the great Migration, I encourage all your readers to make an effort and see this wonder of the world.


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