On the 31st of May 2019, I went to Yonsei University to attend a forum that sought to involve the youth in the Global Nuclear Dialogue. There were these global leaders who gave important speeches on the need to transform global crises into extraordinary creative opportunities for dialogue and engagement. They preached nuclear disarmament, warned about the dangers of nuclear weapons and encouraged countries to pursue other forms of energy other than nuclear. Of these were H.E Ban Ki-moon- former Secretary General of UN, Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary, Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and Dr. Heinz Fischer, 11th President of Austria. The subsequent sessions weighed in on the role of Youth in denuclearization, gathering a group of young scholars who took it up with zeal and extensively discussed the subject.
The elephant in the room was N. Korea whose persistent nuclear tests have caused their neighbors sleepless nights, and other nations who have already built nuclear weapons. The goal now is to discourage these nations from toying with those weapons and preventing others who would think investing along those lines. It is noteworthy that the 2011 Fukushima power plant accident (Japan) send across a serious message. As a result countries like Germany have planned to shut down their nuclear power stations by 2022.
But then you ask, what has been done so far to address these concerns? Bring in CTBT. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans nuclear explosions by everyone, everywhere: on the Earth’s surface, in the atmosphere, underwater and underground. The treaty came into force in 1996 and its commission is headquartered in Vienna, Austria. 184 countries have signed the Treaty, of which 168 have ratified it, including 3 of the nuclear weapon states : France, Russian and UK. But some specific nuclear technology holder countries must sign and ratify before the CTBT can enter into force. Of these, 8 are still missing: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, N. Korea, Pakistan and USA. India, N. Korea & Pakistan are yet to sign it. The most recent nuclear technology holder country to ratify the Treaty was Indonesia in 2012.
So folks, why am I confounding you with all these statistics? It is pretty simple. You could be coming from one of these ‘reluctant countries’ and in one way or the other, you could cause your government to join the bandwagon. A simple tweet, a facebook update, an academic forum, a newspaper article, one of these could spur the debate and make your government see the need to sign and ratify the treaty. And we will inch towards sustainable global peace.
Life & Work of His Excellency Ambassador Mohamed A. Gello, MBS, Head of Mission, Embassy of the Republic of Kenya in the Republic of Korea-
He is the current Ambassador of Kenya to S. Korea. We delve deep into his profile, from schooling straightdown to his career. Have a read.
His Excellency Ambassador Mohamed A. Gello is a career diplomat and a holder of Bachelors of Science Degree from the University of Nairobi. He also holds two Masters of Arts Degrees in Public Administration from the Punjab University, Chandigarh, India and in International Studies from the University of London in the United Kingdom.
His career in the Public Service
Amb. Gello began his career in public service as a graduate teacher at the Wajir High School in 1986 before joining the Kenya High Commissioner in New Delhi, India as an Education Attaché in 1988-94. He also served as an Education Officer I in the Ministry of Education in 1994-95 before joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the Head of Education and Training Division from 1995-2000 after which he served as Deputy Chief of Protocol up to the year 2002. He then joined the Embassy of Kenya in Washington DC in the United States as Foreign Service officer I up to the year 2006. He headed the China Desk from 2006-09 before his appointment as the Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where he served from 2009-2015 before his next assignment as the representative of the Head of State in the Republic of Korea from February 2015 to date.
During his 33 years in public service, H.E. Gello has distinguished himself for his exceptional dedication to work and results oriented approach in the dispensation of duty. For this reason, the Ambassador has worked on specialized assignments to steer key committees on strategic themes of national and global interests including as: member of the Ministerial Executive Committee on the organization of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and the 12th Conference of Parties; member of the Ministerial executive Committee on the organization of the 8th Basel Conference; and member of the Task Force on the Rationalization, Restructuring and the Strengthening of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For his dedication to service, Ambassador Gello received the Head of State Commendation, Member of the Burning Spear (MBS) on 12th December, 2012.
So what are some of his achievements as Kenya’s Envoy in the Republic of Korea?
During his tenure, Amb. Gello has facilitated several high level exchanges between Kenya and Korea. The former President of Korea Ms. Park Guen Hye visited Kenya in May, 2016. The Prime Minister H.E. Lee Nak-yeon was in Nairobi in June, 2018 where he held consultations on mutual cooperation with H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Deputy President H.E. William Ruto, while the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Amb. Monica Juma was in Seoul in October, 2018 in the first ever visit by a Kenya Minister for Foreign Affairs to Korea. These high level exchanges denote the levels of commitment invested by both parties in deepening the existing lines of collaboration.
Since 2015, an unprecedented number of Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) have been signed between Kenya and Korea in fields of mutual interest such as health, education, agriculture, cultural promotion, ICTs, energy, infrastructure, fisheries, water and sanitation as well as trade and investment. It is worth noting that the Agreement to establish the Kenya Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) was signed in May 2016 in anticipation of Kenya’s need for highly skilled personnel to drive the Big Four Agenda entailing universal health care provision, food security, affordable housing and industrialization in the backdrop of the 4th industrial revolution.
In the endeavor to increase the value and volume of the export of Kenyan products to Korea, Amb. Gello has spearheaded sustained engagement with the authorities of the Government of the Republic of Kenya to address the non-tariff barriers impeding bilateral trade. This culminated in the securing of clearance for the entry of Kenyan bananas and broccoli into the Korean market with negotiation for the access of avocados still in the pipeline.
The Mission, under Amb. Gello’s stewardship has established cordial relations with the Kenyans living in Korea through close collaboration with the officials of the Association of Kenyans in Korea (KCK) evident in the various joint activities co-sponsored by the Embassy. The Mission has for the first time employed two Kenyans on a full time basis to the post of Administrative Assistant and Accounts Assistant. The Mission also established an internship programme that has benefited a number of Kenyans in Korea and furnished them with the requisite skill and exposure to navigate the highly competitive job market. All these initiatives have served to greatly enhance the Mission’s Diaspora outreach programme.
Kenya’s presence and prestige continues to grow in Korea due to the synergy generated by the close engagement with the Host Government as well as the Kenyan Community. This was evident in the support and participation of the Government of the Republic of Korea at the highly successful first ever global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference (SBEC) held in Nairobi on 26th-28th November, 2018 in Nairobi through the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries. The Mission’s success in maintaining a high profile in Korea can also be attributed to the support of associate agencies notably the: International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), Korea-Africa Foundation, Korea Trade and Investment Authority (KOTRA), Importers Association (KOIMA), Chamber of Commerce (KCCI), Korea Trade Association (KITA) and Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency (APQA) whose continued cooperation remains invaluable.
So what does he have to say about his experience as the Kenya’s envoy?
“Serving in the Republic of Korea has been an eye opening experience given the unique history and unique diplomatic situation presented by the geo-politics particularly in the Korean Peninsula. The tour of duty in the Republic of Korea accorded the pleasure of imbibing the rich Korean culture as well as the multiplicity of its culinary delicacies.
The most important responsibility remains steering the Mission to improve the balance of trade which to date remains in favour of Korea. Our exports are primarily agricultural and horticultural produce. Consultations are ongoing to procure Korea’s support in strengthening Kenya’s industrial capacity particularly in the field of manufacturing and value addition.
The biggest inspiration is the solemn call of duty to serve our beloved country and raise her profile in the Republic of Korea. The welfare of Kenyans living in Korea remains at the heart of the Mission’s service delivery agenda. The desire to optimize the resources to deliver fully on the mandate of the Kenyan Mission in Korea is a major motivating factor as well as steering the team at the Kenyan Embassy to invest their best effort in ensuring our flag continues to fly high in the Republic of Korea.”
In the effort to elevate the level of engagement with partners, Kenya has prioritized economic and commercial diplomacy as a key pillar of its outreach to regional and international players. The mainstay of this effort has been to showcase Kenya’s comparative advantages particularly in the agricultural and tourism sectors.
The Embassy of the Republic of Kenya in Seoul has taken up this clarion call and invested effort in advocating for a robust engagement with the Government of the Republic of Korea. The emphasis has been on information dissemination to create awareness on Kenyan products with the ultimate aim of increasing market share for Kenyan flagship products namely coffee, tea, flowers and premium tourism destinations.
In this regard the Mission, under the guidance of H.E. Ambassador Mohamed Gello and Ambassador Gathoga W. Chege who is in charge of the Economic Affairs docket, has participated in various shows and exhibitions in the spirit of amplifying Kenya’s presence in Korea and broadening the variety of products available to the Korean consumer. In the last quarter of 2018, the Mission was represented at the following key events:
1) Gangneung Coffee Festival
The Coffee Festival was held on 5th – 9th October, 2018 at the Green City Experience Center in Ezen, Gangneung. It is worth noting that the Kenya Embassy was the first foreign Mission to participate in this land mark event thus paving way for increased participation from other foreign Missions in Korea since 2015.
Through surveys conducted at the Gangneung festival, it is evident that Kenyan coffee is steadily gaining popularity among consumers in Korea owing to its distinct aroma and rich flavour. The Festival has been particularly instrumental in the promotion of Kenya’s coffee as well as Kenyan culture.
2) Itaewon Global Festival
The Festival was held on 13th -14th October, 2018 in the Itaewon Special Tourist Zone in Seoul. It is the biggest international festival in Korea and consists of over 200 booths with displays from different countries. The Festival attracts the participation of more than 1,400,000 international visitors who come to sample the diverse aspects of global culture and the array of food on display.
The Embassy of Kenya jointly participated in the festival with Kenyan handicraft dealers as a means of promoting Kenyan heritage and disseminating information on the various tourism destinations in Kenya. To date the Kenyan booth has attracted a lot of interest and recorded a large number of visitors drawn to the colourful cultural displays, the possibility of sampling a cup of delicious Kenyan coffee, the potential of a tantalizing visit to the land of the original safari as well as the warm welcome by Embassy staff who readily respond to visitor inquiries.
3) Cafe Show Seoul
The Café Show Seoul, the biggest annual coffee exhibition in Korea, was held on 8th -11th November, 2018 in COEX, Seoul. The Embassy jointly participated at the event with representatives from the Kenya Cooperative Coffee Exporters (KCCE). KCCE has consistently sent representation with merchandise for display during this important promotional event since 2012. As a result of this dedicated participation, KCCE started to export Kenyan coffee directly to major Korean wholesalers including E-mart and Lotte.
This exhibition has been fundamental in increasing the market share for Kenyan coffee in Korea and enhancing consumer awareness of premium Kenyan coffee products. It has further provided a great opportunity to develop networks with potential Korean buyers while maintaining good relations with existing contacts.
I am crazy about Korean food and when that crave came knocking, Sushi Soo Japanese Restaurant in Kileleshwa, along Oloitoktok Road became my pick for lunch on a Saturday afternoon. I have to say it was a pleasant experience. From the CBD it took about twenty minutes to get there. The restaurant is located in a serene environment, perfect for one to relax and take a breather. On arrival we were greeted by a kind waiter who then directed us to our table. It was around 1:00pm and most tables were fairly empty. Nonetheless the setup and décor, from the lamp shades to souvenirs lying on shelves, gave a welcoming Asian-feel. The soft music playing in the background allowed for light conversation as we went about our meal later.
The restaurant offers a wide variety of foods both Japanese and Korean, and at a fairly affordable price. The range starts from 700 Kenya shillings to around 6000 for family packages. We opted for the buffet since it offered a wide selection of Korean delicacies. One tray carried steamed rice with veggies accompanied by fried rice and eggs. Another held Kimbap (a rice roll with fried egg fillings, crab meat, radish, carrots and some greens, all wrapped in dried sea weed). This is a personal favorite given the many different textures offered in one bite, and its fluffy rice and crunchy vegetables. There was Tofu on a different tray, marinated in a sweet sauce, and then kimchi. Kimchi, a spicy pickled fermented cabbage is Korea’s national dish. Fun fact; a good number of Kenyans that dine at Sushi Soo tend to enjoy kimchi a lot, especially fried kimchi which is not that spicy. We tried out Bulgogi and it tested well. (Bulgogi is a dish of grilled and marinated thin beef slices) This one was made with vegetables and dipped in a sweet sauce; it might have been honey. We also tried some spicy potato pancakes and a variety of seafood. Japchae (Stir-fried noodles with vegetables) was on offer too.
Korean food is generally healthy by their way of incorporating vegetables into dishes. We dug into Korean styled chicken to boot, prepared in two forms: deep fried and battered, then in a sweet sticky sauce. It was so tender and juicy, but the sweet and sticky sauce was the winner. Generally, the meal was well put together but I would have appreciated if they had a wider selection of fruits. The dessert menu too was a bit slim; a slice of cake or some pastries would do well after such a great meal. One can also enjoy a gamut of fruit juices, smoothies, shakes, coffee drinks, teas and alcoholic beverages. Their lemonade is especially refreshing. It was a bit disappointing though that some of the waiters did not know much about the different foods on offer. This could be a bit discouraging for the new adventurous souls with the urge to find out more about the foods as opposed to just sitting pretty and minding their meals.
Having been in business for 7 years, the restaurant is gaining popularity among adventurous locals who are eager to try out different cuisines. As a result of this surge they have opened a new branch in Westlands. According to our waiter, Kenyan people lean towards Korean food because of its spicy nature. They especially relish the Korean barbeque and kimchi. Sushi Soo is a perfect fit for family get-togethers or group dinners owing to its wide space. With the mini playground in the yard, the kids will definitely have a great time. For reservations, one can call the hotline provided on their website. Smoking in the premises is prohibited and is punishable by a fine of fifty thousand Kenya shillings.
I was particularly impressed with their decision to have a mini store within the premises, stocked with Korean foods, snacks, beverages, cosmetics and souvenirs. At least in this way, diners can carry a little of their Korean experience home.
If you are looking for great Korean food in town, pass by Sushi Soo Japanese Restaurant any time between 11:30am and 10:00pm everyday.
Ever heard about the Hallyu wave? It literally translates to the ‘flow of Korea’; referring to the ever increasing global popularity of Korean culture. The wave encompasses everything from food, dressing, Korean drama and music. It has found its way in Kenya. Kenyans are listening to K-pop. Some are part of the fandoms of EXO, BTS, NCT, Twice, Red Velvet, just to mention but a few.
In June 2018, a K-drama and K-pop fan base meet up happened at ‘Food train’ by Sushi Soo restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya. It was the first of its kind. I attended and was blown away by the number of people that showed up. Soon after, a second meet-up was held in August. This took place because of one Ms. Siham Abdikadir, the founder of ‘koreanenthusiast.com,’ a blog that celebrates and promotes Korean culture in Kenya. We met and sat down for a chat.
Please introduce yourself
My name is Siham Abdikadir . I am the founder of the Korea Enthusiast blog. I am a Software Developer by Profession and blog about Korean Culture in Kenya on the side.
You started your blog on Korean culture and went ahead to start meet-ups for Korean enthusiasts in Kenya? Tell us about that.
First of all, creating a website for that blog was a big achievement. It took me 6 to 7 months of coding and creating it into what it is today. It is a platform that has allowed me to share my passion and interest in Korean Culture. Another one was creating and organizing the Korean enthusiasts’ meet-ups. My goal was to bring together all Korean enthusiasts in Kenya and offer a space to share and learn more about Korea. They had a ‘KCON feeling’ and we got to sell a lot of K-pop merchandise and played lots of games. We also had K-pop dance sessions. The events were successful and it made me realize there are actually many Kenyan people interested in Korean culture.
What has inspired you to continue with what you are doing?
Well… my motivation comes from people. You can learn something from anyone around you. Look, if Sam Okyere can be the youth cultural diplomat for Ghana in Korea, why can’t I represent Korea in Kenya?
Having founded your blog and organized these Korean cultural events, what are your goals and objectives going forward?
I would like to build on both my technology and my Korean culture blogging skills over the next several years. Focusing on materials that will benefit both Kenya and Korea like apps and books, to help those intending to venture into Korean culture research. I want to immerse myself in understanding Korean culture and help keep Korea and Kenya’s culture as close as possible.
Have you encountered any challenges?
Yes, I have.
First, convincing my parents (devout Muslims) on what I am doing and bringing my passion of two contrasting cultures together – my ethnic Somali and Korean.
Explaining to Kenyans about Korean culture, language, food and tradition. I received a cold reception at first.
Discouragements from friends and colleagues because they felt I am not benefiting from this. And teaching a foreign culture yet I am Somali.
It is very difficult to practice Korean language outside Korea. I did some self-studies to improve my proficiency and practiced a little at Mahanaim College Nairobi but still I cannot speak well.
What are your thoughts about the K-pop reception in Kenya and what it means for the Cultural Exchange between Korea and Kenya?
Kenyans interested in K-pop are on the rise. Some are even participating in activities that other International fans are in, such as holding birthday projects for their favorite k-pop band members and visiting children homes to help out with money collected from fan bases. We look forward to having our K-CON East Africa. With such events, there will be more cultural exchange between Korea and Kenya.
What is the future for the Korea Enthusiast?
Through continued blogging on Korean culture and holding cultural forums, I hope to contribute to the growth of Korea-Kenya cultural relations. This will help to promote Korean culture in Kenya and help Kenyans to efficiently cooperate with Koreans on different sectors.
The Kenyan chapter of the 2018 Korean trade fair was organized by the Korea Trade Promotion Agency (KOTRA). There was more to it than being a business to business meetings affair (B2B). A number of MoUs were signed and it was much fun going by the many interactive cultural experiences it gave. The fair was held at the Village Market, Nairobi on the 23rd and 24th of November 2018. It was of grand scale with 41 participating companies, 31 of which were Korean.
To officially begin the trade fair students from King Sejong Institute, Kenyatta University performed the Samuli nori , a traditional form of Korean music. The first day focused on business to business meetings. A special IT room was set up to aid in video conferencing. These meetings ran for two days. There was also a Korean cultural showcase on the first day with various K-Pop dance performances by students from the Korean language department, University of Nairobi and King Sejong Institute, Kenyatta University. There was also an act from Professional dancers who happened to be K-pop fans. A Korean speech competition was held in the morning hours too.
In the afternoons, there were various talk shows by the represented companies concerning their products. Some of these were Emcast, dot and connect coffee Roasters. The sessions were followed by a short Q&A session, with the audience voicing opinions and asking about the products. A fun noodle eating contest was also held to entertain and involve the audience. The noodles were Korean ‘ramyon.’ Well, the first day focused on IT and food, whereas the second day focused on beauty presentations. Some of these beauty companies were Sistar and Moretu lipsticks.
The business to business meetings proved successful. Also, the high attendance of people created a great interactive platform for companies and consumers. A lot of Kenyans were able to learn more about Korean products and Korean culture.
KOTRA’s main objective in hosting the trade fair was to market Korean products in the Kenyan market, and also link Kenyans and Korean businessmen/companies. The business to business meetings contributed to this and lead to signing of more MoUs.
The future plan is to hold trade fairs with more products available for sale and not just to exhibit. They also hope to introduce more products to Kenya and develop more trading links between Kenya and Korea.
Embassies, foreign cultural centers and trade agencies are known to be the primary facilitators of country to country bilateral engagements. In addition to these institutions, the diaspora communities have contributed too. Under their umbrella, exists a pool of associations that have actively shaped the different facets of diplomacy, be it streamlining bilateral commerce or cultural exchange. One in particular is the Korea-Kenya association. The association is based in Daegu and was founded by Mr. Philsoo Huh, a native ambitious businessman. He envisioned an association that would help promote business activities, cultural exchange and friendship between Korea and Kenya. That was back in 2014 and reflecting on this journey it is proper to say that that dream has come to pass.
The Korea-Kenya association and proportionately to Mr. Philsoo’s credit, has promoted the commercial and cultural engagements between the Kenyan Embassy, Kenyans and the Daegu area. A key region is Susseongu town which has worked with the Kenyan Embassy on a couple of areas. Mr. Philsoo has facilitated the signing of key MoUs between the two parties and that has gone to facilitate trade between Kenya and S. Korea. The group has organized and participated in events that have ended up shaping Korea and Kenya’s bilateral partnerships. These events have created platforms for networking and exchanging knowledge. One of these was the Daegu-Gyungbuk International Exchange Association (DGIEA) meeting that took place on the 18th of November 2016. The Korea-Kenya Association members, Korean friends and the Kenyan Embassy representatives gathered for an evening of friendship and robust discussions on cooperation.
Another success story, courtesy of the association, is the Kenya corner at Bomun library in Susseongu, Daegu. This is a dedicated section within the library that stocks artefacts, books, magazines, and reading materials on Kenya. Kenyan embassy donated majority of these books. The overarching goal for this was creating an avenue for Korean people to know more about Kenya, something that Mr. Philsoo Huh feels many are lacking. He points out that Kenya is an amazing country with great natural resources and promising investment opportunities but less know about this.
‘When I last went to Kenya I spent a night at Villa Rosa Kempinski hotel, went to Diani and played golf at Windsor Golf resort. When I came back and showed my friends some of the photos I took they were very surprised to learn that this was Kenya,’ said Mr. Philsoo as we sat down for a chat at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seoul. ’I’ve travelled to a lot of countries and I can confidently say that Kenya is among the amazing places I have been to.’
The Korea-Kenya Association began when H.E Amb Mohammed Gello had just been posted to S. Korea from U.A.E. A delegation of African Ambassadors to Korea had met at a forum and it is here he met Mr. Philsoo. The idea to partner with African countries for business came to Mr. Philsoo’s mind and it took shape when he got into a conversation with His Excellency Mohammed Gello. He would later gather other Korean professionals (with similar interests) and together they decided to focus on Kenya. The pool of professionals represented was quite diverse; lawyers, doctors, Judges, professors, painters, artists, business leaders and professors; brought together with the primary goal of strengthening relations between their country and Kenya, and exploring possible investment opportunities in the two countries. At that time, the Kenyan Ambassador and a few Kenyans were part of this group but later more Kenyans were invited to join. About 16 Kenyans are members now majority being students. .
The Kenyan students have benefited immensely from this association. Senior members have mentored them, specifically Mr. Philsoo Huh whose lead has been that of a father figure. He has held graduation ceremonies for some and gone forth to link them with relative industries. To bond, they occasionally meet for communal lunch or dinner. ‘The association has made my life in Korea easier and fulfilling. I can’t trade the experience for anything,’ confesses Ms. Valentine Wanjiku, an active member.
On the 27th of October 2018 the Kenya Community in Korea met for its Annual General meeting. A large number of Kenyans from all over Korea convened to elect their leaders. The session started at 2 p.m. and ended at 5 p.m. Among the attendants were Kenya’s Ambassador to S. Korea Amb. Mohammed Gello, the Deputy Head of Mission Amb. Gathoga Chege and members of staff from the Kenyan Embassy
The elections went on successfully after a couple of speeches. H.E Amb. Gello was later called upon to address the community. He reminded everyone on their role as Kenya’s Ambassadors to Korea from whichever areas they came from or positions- be it students or workers. He thanked the previous regime and congratulated the newly elected officials. The session also served as a send-off for Mrs. Gaudencia Ayisi whose term working at the Embassy had come to an end. She left Korea for Kenya towards the end of December 2018.
Mr. Creavhon Okech was elected the new Chairperson. He replaced Ms. Joy Mworia. Other key elected officials were Mr. Ndiang’ui Wahome (Secretary General) and Ms.Valentine Wanjiku (Public Relations Officer), and a couple others. Their reign will last the next 2 years. We wish them well.
His Excellency Ambassador Mohamed Gello hosted a celebratory reception to commemorate 55 years of independence of the Republic of Kenya on 11th December, 2018 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seoul. The celebrations served to amplify Kenya’s prestige in the Republic of Korea and provided an opportunity to celebrate Kenya’s remarkable attainments at home, regionally and internationally since independence in 1963.
In attendance were about 350 guests comprising officials from the Government of the Republic of Korea, Ambassadors and other representatives from the diplomatic corps, associate agencies including the International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), Korea Trade and Investment Authority (KOTRA), Importers Association (KOIMA), Chamber of Commerce (KCCI) and the Korea Trade Association (KITA). The Kenyan fraternity in Korea also came in their numbers in a show of solidarity under the auspices of the Association of Kenyans in Korea (KCK).
In his remarks, Ambassador Gello indicated that Jamhuri Day was a reminder of our hard won freedoms and a call of duty for all Kenyans to safeguard the fruits of our hard work as a nation. He highlighted the remarkable economic milestones and the blue print for future progress captured in the Presidential Legacy dubbed the Big Four Agenda. He pointed out Kenya’s growing influence in international affairs following the successful conclusion of the high level blue economy conference that was held in Nairobi on 26th-28th November, 2018 and in this respect, he expressed appreciation for the support and participation by Korea. In addition, Ambassador Gello lauded the vibrant pace that characterizes relations between Kenya and Korea underpinned by the various high level exchanges including the visits of the Korean Prime Minister Mr. Lee Nak-Yeon to Kenya in July as well as Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Amb, Monica Juma to Korea in October, 2018. He also hailed Korea’s stewardship in the ongoing effort to establish peace in the Korean Peninsula.
The Guest of Honour, Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister, Amb. Joong Wo-You, in his statement recognized that Kenya was the first African country in which Korea established diplomatic presence thus providing great impetus for the current strong ties between the two countries. He recognized Kenya’s strategic significance in regional and continental affairs and reiterated Korea’s commitment to enhance bilateral cooperation. Representing the Korean National Assembly at the occasion was the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and President of the National Assembly’s Forum for Africa’s New Era Ambassador Lee Ju-young who emphasized Kenya’s unlimited potential as a regional hub for ICTs, commerce and industry. He called for the optimization of bilateral engagement in areas of mutual interest including energy, infrastructure, health, education and agriculture.
The colourful occasion featured a Kenya Corner which served delicious Kenyan cuisine such as Mukimo, chapati, ugali, managu, samosas, bhajia and kachumbari that proved popular with both Kenyans and Koreans. A beverage point was also set up to provide a taste of premium Kenyan AA coffee which has to date found resonance with many Koreans.
Friends of Kenya including KOICA, Hyundai Engineering and Construction, Daewoo Engineering and Construction, Korea Tea Board, Paradise Group, Kenya Airways, Korea Federation of Textile Industries (KOFOTI), Goldrock Korea, LG Corp, Korea-Kenya Economic Forum KKEF, KEB Hana Bank (Itaewon) and Yooshin Engineering Company sent elaborate flower arrangements in recognition of this momentous landmark in our nation’s history. The profusion of beautiful colour was testament to Kenya’s influence and outreach in Korea as well the goodwill of our interlocutors and cordial relations nurtured over the years.
The future for Korea and Kenya is very bright. Feb.12 was the greatest and happiest day since Kenya and Korea established diplomatic relations on Feb. 7, 1964. The successful kickoff ceremony for the Kenya Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, (Kenya KAIST), which is being developed by a Korean consortium; and the signing of a certificate of commencement, which took place at the Konza Technopolis, is a historic breakthrough and fulfillment of a dream which started 10 years ago. It was reinforced by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Government of Kenya and the Government of South Korea on May 31st, 2016 during the visit to Kenya by the then President Ms. Park Guen Hye.
High-level delegations from government, academia and the private sector from both Korea and Kenya, with the Korean KAIST-Samoo-Sunjin consortium taking the lead, were present to witness the dream come true.
The Korean side sent seven delegations starting with one from the Korean KAIST led by President Shin Sung-chul, and Dr. Chung Kun-mo, a project advisory board chairman and the nuclear scientist who started the Korean KAIST, benchmarked on U.S MIT in 1971. Others were from the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, Nairobi, led by Ambassador Choi Yeong-han; Korea Eximbank; KOTRA; Samoo Architects & Engineers; Sunjin Engineering & Architecture; and Korean expatriates in Nairobi.
Kenyan government ministries and agencies were led by Professor Collette A. Suda, Chief Administrative Secretary and Principal secretary of the state department for university education and research, who was also the chief guest. Others included, the project implementation team; universities; the Kenya architectural sector; the Konza Technopolis development authority led by chairman Dr. Mutiso and CEO Eng. Tanui; and regional congressmen led by Adeline Mwau, the deputy governor of Makueni County.
The envisioned Kenya KAIST is a world-class science and technology research university. It is a very crucial institution, whose benefits will accrue, not only to Kenya, but the entire African continent.
Notwithstanding the above, let me highlight some very important benefits of KAIST to both Kenya and Korea. One, It will guide us, in our future together, as Kenya embarks, on a knowledge-based economy, and Korea pursues new markets in frontier and emerging markets.
Secondly, by conducting pertinent research that will attract FDI to Kenya, led by Korean companies, KAIST will also provide a bulwark against Chinese global initiatives, such as Made in China 2025 and AI 2030.
As Kenya enplanes innovation-led growth, leapfrogging on Korea’s highly valued experience and advanced technology, KAIST will be a linchpin, in this endeavor, and process; and the upshot will further elevate and strengthen the longstanding friendship and the flourishing partnership between Kenya and South Korea.
There is no doubt that Kenya KAIST will transform the Kenyan economy. However its sustainability will depend on funding. Prof. Shin Sung-chul informed me that the Korean KAIST has three revenue streams namely: the Korean government (25 percent), donations (35 percent) and industrial-academic collaboration (40 percent). This “triple-helix” model of technology transfer with three actors ― university, industry and government ― all playing indispensable and irreplaceable roles in the national system of innovation, has worked very well worldwide, and will work even better for Kenya KAIST, supported by industrial-academic collaboration from Korean chaebol and SMEs.
There are many Korean industries facing domestic challenges which can immediately team up with Kenyan KAIST to open new markets in Africa. One such industry is the auto industry which is lagging behind global rivals. It has even been overtaken by emerging countries like India and Mexico. It registered its third consecutive year of decline, last year, and was the only country to have declined among the top 10 countries. Now is the time for Korea to enter expanding and profitable markets in Africa.
In conclusion, this is the time to hold hands together and say “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” Let Korean companies team up with the Kenya KAIST to create either autonomous, co-owned, or regional technology holding companies, as well as affiliated companies, for mutual benefit and prosperity.
The writer (email@example.com) is Kenya’s first Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (2009-2014).