Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mindspeak Postmortem: My impressions on the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Follow Up on his Charm Offensive on Kenyans!

Mindspeak in Session. Picture Courtesy of Belgium Embassy in Nairobi
Aly Khan hosted the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders at Intercontinental on August 17, 2013. Apart from the expected aloofness of diplomatic security that decided to conduct a security check just before the session started the session insightful as they come. The deputy prime minister demonstrated his grasp of current affairs and geopolitics of African continent. He and for that matter both Belgium and EU seemed to know that Africa is the land of rising opportunities and that the Chinese we’re way ahead of them in terms of footprint and influence in the region. Although Europe might have been colonized Africa the tables seems to be stuck against them.

Therefore, a visit by Didier Reynders an old hand in the EU seems to be a game changer in the dynamics of Africa Geopolitics. Didier was on a visit to Africa which saw him visit DR Congo before he came to Kenya. His visit to the DR Congo was the first significant visit by a high ranking Belgium government official. Also his visit was preceded by the abdication of the King to the throne in favor of his eldest son. Hence one could say a new beginning was emerging in Belgium and hopefully the rest of the EU countries will follow suit.

The Deputy Prime Minister talked about the following key topics in his two one hour presentation and later question and answer session;
Peace and Stability in the Regional
He did mention his trip to DR Congo and talked in length about his impression of Katanga and the significant role Kenya plays in the great lakes region. Also, on this issue he talked about Somalia and the enormous opportunities that exists there now that the country was experiencing stability after a long conflict. He talked of the input of the EU in bringing about and safeguarding the peace in Somalia.

The EU Market the EPA with EAC
In a response to a question from the audience he tried his hand in answering a question on the long negation between European Union and East African Community in sealing an Economic Partnership Agreement. He was aware that the head of negotiation from EU has been coming to the region and that could be a sign that the negotiations are in their penultimate stages.

China in the Region
The Deputy Premier told us his firsthand accounts of observing one of the biggest mosques in North Africa being constructed by the Chinese. However he pointed out the new emerging trend where European and Chinese are merging and doing business in Africa.

European Union and the reason why Africa ought to Integrate
Didier Reynders having participated in the formation of the Euro in the EU in the late 90’s observed that regional integration was the way to go for Africa if it seeks to be a significant player in the 21st Century.

Bottom Line
The Belgian DP and foreign Minister showed his intent of diversifying and engaging Africa. It is up to our government to do its homework and seek meaningful engagement with Belgians which could be an opening gambit to the European Market.

Follow Up On the Deputy Prime Minister Charm Offensive in Kenya
Immediately after Mindspeak the Belgium Ambassador to Kenya hosted a lunched at his residence and invited members of the business community who we’re addressed by the DPM.

Thereafter, the DPM enjoyed a Safari in our National Park and the proceeding week signed a 27 million Euros agreement with the Finance cabinet Secretary and later met our deputy president William Ruto

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