Tackling global poverty together: Justine Greening’s visit to Kenya

(With fantastic pictures by Marisol Grandon – more available here)

Last week I had the privilege of hosting Justine Greening, the UK International Development Secretary, on a two day visit to Kenya. For a DFID Country Director, these visits are a real opportunity to examine future development challenges and the role of UK engagement. Though it can be quite stressful having your boss’ boss in town for a few days, especially when you've only been there for 3 weeks!

This was our Secretary of State’s first visit to Africa since the launch of our new UK Aid Strategy and was the chance for her to consider the practical shifts we are making. One of the key changes in our Aid Strategy is the explicit recognition that international development is a both a moral responsibility and is in our national interest.

In an action-packed two days we saw this first hand by examining:

  • The challenges for Somalian and South Sudanese refugees locked into a protracted conflict and migration crisis in northern Kenya.
  • Economic development opportunities and barriers that will shape inclusive growth in Kenya and across the region.
  • How we need to harness the potential of Kenya’s growing young population and the risks of not doing so.

First, we travelled to Kakuma Camp in northern Kenya, home to 190,000 refugees from South Sudan and Somalia. We saw how the UK is — with our partners — driving innovation in refugee support to reduce dependency and prepare people for return home. We heard first-hand about the challenges people face: Refugees told us about about the difficulties of not being able to work and their desire to be self reliant; Host communities told as that the situation in the camp — though dire — is often better than outside the camp fence.

We then went to Mombasa where we focused on economic development in Kenya and across the region. At the Port, we saw how Trade Mark East Africa (a DFID creation) has increased the speed and throughput at Mombasa port and along the Northern Corridor, reducing costs for over 200 million across the region. Business leaders told us about the continuing barriers to improving the business and regulatory environment and the hurdles to inclusive growth

We then met young people participating in a UK-funded pilot to provide advice and coaching, linking them to businesses. We heard about the opportunities as they develop skills and confidence and the practical challenges remaining. Local religious leaders told us about the challenges of giving young people hope and opportunity in their community and what they have achieved so far. No one had any illusions of the scale of the challenge; with 50% of the population less than 20 years old and over half of those under 25 unemployed, Kenya requires around 1 million jobs a year to harness this incredible potential.

I returned to Nairobi understanding the scale of the challenges Kenya faces and the amazing potential that exists a little better. Although I am new here, I am learning fast and think that we can play an important role working with our partners to tackle these challenges together.

I am looking forward to it.

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