It gives me very great pleasure to welcome so many of you here this evening to our celebration of Her Majesty the Queen’s Birthday.
On my first visit to Mombasa this time last year I hosted the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Party. We were in the middle of celebrations for the Diamond Jubilee and the fact that Her Majesty was in Kenya on her accession to the throne in 1952. This year Kenya is celebrating its own Jubilee, reflecting on 50 years of Independence, and looking forward to a bright future ahead. We’ve come a long way since 1963.
Over the last year I have learnt a great deal about this beautiful and diverse country. I hope I have begun to learn a little about what makes Kenya tick. Above all I have learnt about the depth and breadth of the UK-Kenya relationship. Ours is an historic partnership. It is a relationship in which we are like family, knowing the best – and worst – of each other. Like an iceberg, most of it sits beneath in the waterline, in a way which makes it easy to miss the substance.
The Coast is an important part of that relationship. At a personal level 200,000 British visitors come to Kenya each year, the vast majority of whom come to the coast. 12% of all British Nationals in Kenya (approximately 5000 people) live on the coast.
The Coast is vital to our trade relationship. On my trips to Mombasa I have learnt how the trade and investment of British companies depends on the efficiency of the port. Mombasa is a lifeline port for Kenya and its landlocked neighbours. If Kenya is to achieve the target of double digit growth improving efficiency and minimising blockages is paramount. In context Mombasa moves in a year what Singapore moves in a week, or Durban in a month.
To help tackle that, this afternoon the UK has announced support of $53m to Trademark East Africa’s Port Improvement Program to ensure the port can unlock the economic potential of the region. This exciting new package will assist the Kenya Ports Authority with rail, road and quayside improvements and planning for future improvements. DFID is also supporting the World Bank and IFC to promote other aspects of trade and economic development, including rapid port assessments and a system that will allow cross-border traders to access, apply for and submit regulatory documents at a single location (SWIFT). And our UK investment vehicle CDC already invests in Mombasa based businesses like the port bulk grain handling facility.
But unlocking the potential of the port will not be achieved just through these technical fixes. We will also need to work together to tackle the vested interests that benefit from the existing inefficiencies. Last weekend President Kenyatta announced an initiative to boost port efficiency. The UK is fully committed to supporting that initiative and the proposed Presidential Roundtable so that we can unleash the economic growth and investment that Kenya needs.
Britain is Kenya’s second largest export partner, with trade worth Ksh130bn a year, and home to half of the top ten tax-paying companies in the country. There are many UK companies operating here in Mombasa including Seaforth, BG Group and Tullow Oil and over 14 British companies are involved in the $50million English Point Marina project, which I look forward to visiting tomorrow.
Of course, our partnership is not just about trade and investment. Let me share with you some other examples of my experiences on the Coast over the past year:
In Lamu and Geddes I have learnt about the origins of the rich Swahili culture, and the opportunity for increased tourism. The UK, from where more tourists come to Kenya than from anywhere else, is committed to helping Kenya double its tourism numbers.
Security is key to that, which is why I handed over a coastal patrol craft to the Lamu police and tomorrow I will be handing over a similar craft to the Kenya Navy here in Mombasa. The UK has also constructed a launch pier at Kiunga Bay, and helped build the aerial surveillance capability of the Kenya Air Force. We will also soon be formally handing over 65 x-ray machines and a variety of other detection equipment to Moi International Airport to promote airport security.
We need a similar collaboration to tackle the outrage of the current epidemic in poaching of ivory. Illegal Wildlife Trafficking is the fifth largest illicit transnational activity and we must work together at export points like the port to ensure that we are ending this criminal threat to our common heritage.
In Tana Delta, I learnt how local disputes can quickly turn into conflict if underlying causes are not addressed. Britain gave just over £16 million (KSh 2.1 Billion) as part of our commitment to help Kenya deliver credible and peaceful elections. Here in Mombasa we are proud of our partnership with local civil society organisations (e.g. KECOSCE, Mewa) whom we work with to help counter extremist messaging and to develop local conflict dispute mechanisms.
In Kilifi I visited KEMRI (Kenya Medical Research Institute), a remarkable institution and model for how partnership between British, Kenyan and other researchers is tackling diseases such as malaria with British funding.
And we are also focused on youth, jobs and skills. The British Council is spending approximately £200,000 per year here, with a variety of programmes aimed at promoting community cohesion, delivering civic education and improving education. partnering with schools and using English Premier League coaches to teach leadership to young Kenyans through football.
These are just some of the examples of how our two countries are bound together, and all of us at the High Commission feel privileged and honoured to have experienced them. The Coast is a vital part of our relationship, and I look forward to maintaining our strong relations with the people of the Pwani.
In conclusion, it is right that as we mark Kenya’s 50th Jubilee year of independence, we celebrate the past and look to the opportunity of the future. This is a moment of great opportunity and excitement for the people of Kenya as they strive to fulfil the promise of the Constitution, implement Vision 2030 and make devolution a reality. We are committed to that devolution, and to making sure it benefits all the people of Kenya.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Britain-Kenya relationship is a modern one. It is based on mutual respect, partnership and shared interests. The colonial era has passed. To talk of foreign interference, who needs each other more, or of East versus West is to miss the point. In this globalised multi-polar world we are interrelated and our interests are intertwined. Nowhere is that truer than on the coast.
And that is why I look forward to the next 50 years between our two countries, 50 years of partnership, opportunity and commitment.
Toast to President & People of Republic of Kenya.