The 2018 summit of the leaders of the 53 countries composing the Commonwealth has ended with agreements on mechanisms to boost trade within the group to the $2 trillion mark, confronting security threats and uniting for “blue” economic growth.
As has become the tradition, the Commonwealth summit provided Kenya with another opportunity to play a leading role on the international stage, as well as an opportunity for President Uhuru Kenyatta to aggressively pursue Kenya’s agenda of securing investment and bolstering trade with partners old and new.
President Kenyatta departed from London on Sunday, after bilateral meetings with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and President Yoweri Museveni both focused on trade and security.
“Trade with Pakistan has dropped below historical highs and the President engaged the Pakistani PM on getting trade back on an upward trajectory. Foreign Affairs CS Dr Monica Juma will be following this matter up fairly quickly,” said Manoah Esipisu, the State House Spokesperson.
“The bilateral with President Museveni also focused on trade and security. Uganda is a major partner and the leaders have to review fairly regularly the state of trade and investment between the two countries,” Mr Esipisu said before departing from London.
The President also chose to market Kenya by tapping two hugely popular and robust platforms, the policy think-tank Chatham House, and broadcaster CNN.
Parts of the deals reached by Commonwealth leaders who gathered in London and huddled at the Windsor Castle in the Berkshire countryside included an agreement to unite and promote economic growth through exploitation of enormous resources domiciled in the Oceans.
Kenya was chosen to champion the development of ‘blue’ economic growth through Commonwealth Blue Charter adopted by CHOGM 2018.
At the end of the summit on Friday evening, the Commonwealth Secretariat — which runs the organisation’s programmes — announced that the leaders had adopted a Commonwealth Blue Charter laying out the strategy for economic development through oceans.
“The Commonwealth Blue Charter will undoubtedly change the pace of global efforts on ocean conservation, unlocking the power of 53 nations on what is clearly one of the most pressing causes of our time,” said Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Patricia Scotland.
At the summit, Kenya stressed the importance of the need to prioritise the protection of oceans, and the need for the world to come up with better mechanisms to use oceans for economic development.
Kenya’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Cabinet Secretary, Amb Dr Monica Juma, said the focus on oceans was more critical for Africa where at least 50 percent of cities are located at sea level. She said threats and opportunities related to the oceans have a direct effect on at least half of settlements on the African continent.
Amb Juma also invited all Commonwealth members to the Blue Economy Conference to be held on November 26-28, 2018 in Nairobi.
The Oceans resources subject is to be pursued at a Commonwealth summit and at the summit of the seven most industrialised countries (G7) in Canada, both in June.
Kenya emerged from the summit with an endorsement across the board for its new role as a champion for blue economic development. Canada has already offered to co-host the November conference in Nairobi.
The high-profile blue economy summit will be a massive conference similar to the WTO meetings and the UNCTAD summit.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also invited President Kenyatta to the G7 meeting in Quebec, as Kenya seeks to consolidate its place as the go-to country on key global affairs.
Aside from Amb Juma being appointed chair of CMAG, which deals with conflicts and governance issues within the Commonwealth, Education Cabinet Secretary Amb Amina Mohamed will co-chair a new global campaign to ensure that all girls have at least 12 years of basic education. It is an initiative by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
This also came after Kenya was given a key role in administering Commonwealth Scholarships in order to restore integrity and efficiency to the process.
The agenda for the Commonwealth leaders included talks on the promotion of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, supporting small and vulnerable states and recognition of opportunities for economic development from the ocean.
Trade and investment between Kenya and post-Brexit Britain were one of the priority issues on President Kenyatta’s agenda during the summit.
The UK has been a strong trading and diplomatic partner for Kenya. At least 220 UK companies worth £2.7 billion operate in Kenya and employ 250,000 Kenyans.
President Kenyatta is a strong supporter of intra-Africa trade and is championing the adoption of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Kenya is expected to be among the first countries to ratify the agreement.
At the Commonwealth summit, President Kenyatta said the AfCFTA provides an opportunity that would enable Africa to create prosperity and create jobs for its youth.
The President met the UK leadership including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince William, as well as Prime Minister Theresa May.
President Kenyatta and the Queen shared a table during a banquet hosted by the Queen on Thursday where they spoke of the shared heritage between Kenya and the UK.