African politics, Horn Watch, Kenya Watch

Kenyatta’s foreign policy memo VI: Facing East or West?


Both the West and Kenya need to exercise extra circumspection over this issue because give or take, the ICC cases will take four to five years, which will coincide with the next election cycle- and no one will benefit from the negative back and forth between Kenya and the western countries. It is not so much that Kenya has come of age; it is just good housekeeping to be in good terms with all. This cuts both ways, the era of deference diplomacy from African countries is coming to an end, not least because the unilateral world order is under a severe test – and nowhere is this as acute as in Africa, where the presence of China is rewriting the diplomatic arc of the continent. Also several African countries, Kenya included are primed to “take off” economically. China’s under the radar, as opposed to gung-ho mega diplomacy favored by the West, with its emphasis on infrastructure with little bureaucracy tied to aid, its aversion of public denunciation of its host countries, and its noninterference in the domestic human rights issues makes it an attractive alternative for most African countries which have endured decades of playing second fiddle to the West. Self-righteous one way diplomatic traffic is now counterproductive to the West’s long term interest.
However, while China provides an alternative, Kenya should guard against a reflexive uncritical embrace of China because China’s stuff is not for free. China’s foreign policy is not driven by serving poor Africans who have been mistreated by the West. Their mass migration and engagement in small trade, which was a preserve of local entrepreneurs, an upswing in poaching in most of the African countries, as well as hiring Chinese and not Africans, are all reasons to be circumspect about giving them a blank check. Additionally, in terms of technology and innovation, China is still playing catch up with the West, their flooding of the market with substandard goods needs to be stopped, lest they cause more damage.

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