Kenyan Ambassador Richard A. Opembe discussed the change from aid to trade between Kenya and Ireland during his talk ‘An Evening with the Kenyan Ambassador’ in DCU on February 28th.
Opembe reflected on Ireland and Kenya’s longstanding relationship, speaking to the DCU International Society. Ireland’s connection to Kenya started over one hundred years ago when missionaries provided agricultural and healthcare aid to rural farmers at a time when both countries were still under British rule.
“They were not sitting in cities they were out in the rural areas constructing schools and hospitals… They created health centres like clinics…. And at the same time gave an education through the Consolata Sisters,” said Opembe.
Opembe highlighted Ireland as a key trading hub to give Kenya a point of access for imports and exports to markets in the European Union and the United States. He attributed Kenya’s success in the coffee trade industry to the relationship with Ireland. Irish missionaries with the congregation Holy Ghost Fathers were involved in the planting of Kenya’s first coffee bushes. Ireland has become one of the biggest importers of Kenyan coffee shipping in roughly €10 million worth each year, according to Opembe.
The relationship between Kenya and Ireland needs to “move away from aid and over to trade” said Opembe.
In the case that Britain withdraws from the European Economic Community following Brexit, Ireland would become the largest EU country with English as the primary language. Kenya signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Ireland in November 2017 in preparation for this, according to Opembe.
The MOU means Ireland will supply research and technology for Kenya to improve its agriculture and energy production sectors. The development of disease resistant Irish potato spuds which are now growing in Kenyan soil have reduced the risk of famine, said Opembe.
Opembe spoke about the growing relationships between Kenya and Irish universities. DCU was one of several universities which signed an MOU with Kenya. Previously, DCU showed support for Garissa High School following the terrorist attack by militant Islamist group al-Shabab in 2015. The university hosted a memorial service where 148 balloons were released for each of the students who died.
Opembe hopes the connections with universities will progress research into renewable energy as it reduces its consumption of diesel and coal. The main area of focus is producing wave energy along the long coastline of Kenya.
Image Credit: Carrie McMullan