OBG talks to Nicholas Westcott, Managing Director for Africa, European External Action Service

Nicholas Westcott, Managing Director for Africa, European External Action Service

Interview: Nicholas Westcott

To what extent will the EU’s approach to its African partners shift away from an aid-based relationship?

NICHOLAS WESTCOTT: A key theme of the recent EU-Africa Summit in Brussels was the importance of shifting the relationship between our continents from one based on aid to one focused on trade and investment. While the EU has pledged €28bn of aid over the 2014-20 period, the volume of trade and investment in Africa is also increasing, with EU-Africa trade accounting for 45% of the latter’s trade total from 2007 to 2012. Moreover, the success of the EU-Africa Business Forum just before the summit is testament to the dynamism of commercial relations between our companies.

Aid nevertheless remains a core element in our relationship with Africa, as efforts continue to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth in line with countries’ own development strategies. Under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), which ran from 2008 to 2013, aid from the EU to Kenya focused on agriculture, rural development and transport infrastructure. For the 11th EDF (2014-20) key focus areas include food security, resilience and governance.

How can the EU encourage deeper regional integration within the East African Community (EAC)?

WESTCOTT: Building more economically viable markets in Africa will help to establish larger companies and create new employment on the continent. The EU has therefore provided expertise and resources to support the EAC to help it develop its own capabilities to implement key objectives. This draws upon the EU’s own experience of Customs harmonisation. The proposed EU-EAC Economic Partnership Agreement is designed to coincide with expanding membership of the EAC and to reinforce the latter’s development, while also building towards the longer-term goal of a continent-wide free trade area. The EU and EAC are still negotiating some specific issues, though these discussions should be concluded in time for the transition from the current arrangements to the new regime after October 2014.

What are the main challenges to boosting bilateral investment between Kenya and the EU, in particular regarding governance and accountability?

WESTCOTT: Kenya has key strengths that encourage investment such as a well-educated and entrepreneurial workforce, good telecommunications, a sophisticated financial system and openness to outside investment. This is reflected in the country’s position on the World Bank’s “Doing Business Index”. However, corruption and the challenging security situation need to be addressed. Solving these issues is within the power of the government. No one underestimates the challenge of terrorism and, there too, the international community is willing to help, given the chance to do so.

Clearly the events around the election of 2007-08 were a shock to many and had a major impact on Kenyans’ view of their country as well as for outsiders. The response in revising the constitution, strengthening the judiciary and holding more peaceful elections in 2013 has helped to re-establish confidence in the governance of the country. However, reforms still need to be completed, with action against corruption and greater transparency vital for building accountability.

What specific measures can the EU and Kenya take to improve the prospects for peace in Somalia?

WESTCOTT: Re-establishing peace, stability and governance in Somalia is a top priority for all the countries in the Horn of Africa region and for the EU. We are working in cooperation with each other in the EU-funded AU Mission to Somalia in which Kenya has a sizeable contingent. It is in the interests of all of us that Somali people should feel free to return to their own homes and land rather than live as refugees. Both the EU and Kenya need to help the Federal Government of Somalia establish good working relations with regional administrations and to settle a framework for the federation that all can accept. This also includes building up Somalia’s security services, civil as well as military, that will help it roll back the terrorist threat and keep it at bay.

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Cover of The Report: Kenya 2014

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