WORKING TO REFORM THE AFRICAN UNION

Nigeria 2018 | DIPLOMACY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya, on cooperation with Nigeria, his country's nascent oil and gas industry, and broader African integration.

In which areas of bilateral relations would you welcome increased cooperation between Nigeria and Kenya, and what measures are being implemented by the two countries to expand ties and bolster trade?

I think an obvious sector in which we could learn from each other is oil and gas. We have also been looking at closer cooperation in trade; in agriculture and horticulture; and in fisheries and food products. In each of these sectors, we have progress to report: we had very useful discussions when I visited in 2013, and we signed a number of agreements. But it is also fair to say that we cannot rest on our laurels. We need to grow the trade between both nations; we need to open up trade to each other's products; and we could all do more to remove any barriers to the free flow of African products, skills, and capital. This is a work in progress, not least because leaders in business and government from both nations now have formal means to consider these matters and take them forward. I am confident we will grow together.

Kenya has recently begun developing its oil and gas industry. Given Nigeria's longstanding expertise and knowledge of the sector, what role can the country play in assisting Kenya to develop its energy industry, and how are you ensuring to attract foreign investors into the sector?

Nigeria has very substantial experience in the production and management of oil and gas; we in Kenya have only just begun to make the most of ours. I think it's clear we have much to learn from Nigeria. You have long, deep and productive relationships with oil producers, and with the markets. We in Kenya will look to learn from your experience and expertise there, and elsewhere.

On the other hand, Nigeria's ICT sector is booming, and Kenya has exceptional experience in ICT in Africa, with the sector expected to soar over the coming years. What experience and lessons can Kenya share with Nigeria in the field, and what is the potential for collaboration in ICT between the two countries?

I believe there's huge potential for cooperation between Nigeria and Kenya when it comes to ICT. But before I say anything about that, let me say that I have been impressed by the energy and the invention of the Nigerian ICT scene. One possible route of cooperation that stands out for me is in financial technology. We in Kenya have MPESA, which has been extraordinarily successful. Recently, we've seen a Nigerian ICT firm partner with Kenyan firms and banks to ease payments right across East and West Africa. It seems to me that that sort of connectivity—which, if it succeeds, will open up trade right across the continent—is to be very warmly encouraged. I think there is very substantial scope for cooperation along those lines, and I look forward to giving my full support to these endeavors.

Nigeria and Kenya are two of the largest economies in Africa and enjoy a strong diplomatic influence within and beyond the continent's borders. How can this status and a deeper cooperation between the two countries benefit other African nations and foster African integration?

I am very pleased to say that Kenya and Nigeria have long cooperated in virtually every area of endeavor that matters to our peoples. But let me single out one of many; and one in which we will continue to cooperate even more closely in years to come. We will, I believe, be partners in the reform of the African Union so that it better represents the people of this continent, on this continent; and so that it better defends their interests outside the continent. It is no secret that Africa now has a number of difficult decisions to make, both about its own future, and about the future of its relations with the world. How will we handle climate change? How can we make sure that African democracy is defended against terrorists? How should we reform the international rules that still disadvantage us? These questions cannot be answered to Africa's advantage without a strong Union; and the Union will not be as strong as it could be without Kenyan and Nigerian input.

How do you envision the future of bilateral relations between Kenya and Nigeria?

We believe that relations between Kenya and Nigeria will strengthen in years to come. I've mentioned some common challenges; I've also outlined opportunities for both nations. That's all to the good: we need to have a clear view of what we can do together, and how. Common interests and common challenges often bring nations together; what binds them together and turns a partnership into a friendship is a common set of values. Kenyans know, just as Nigerians do, the power of pan-Africanism. Kenyans and Nigerians understand the promise of democracy. Kenyans and Nigerians prize pluralism. Our peoples are devoted to trade and innovation. Together, we will work to clear the way for these values to triumph right across the continent we are proud to call our own.