KAAD scholars play an important role at the “Kenya Seminar” in Weingarten (8.–10.03.2024)

|   Afrika, Aktuelles, Seminare, Veranstaltungen

In West Africa, a number of states are turning away from the former colonial power France. But the alliance between East African Kenya and the West will remain - that was one of the findings of the Kenya seminar at the Weingarten Academy. There was an emotional discussion about Western values and better health care. KAAD scholars have been shaping this seminar for years through their lectures and contributions to discussions.

Kenya – a Key to Africa

By Christoph Link, participant of the seminar

Founded more than three decades ago by Comboni missionaries, the “Keniaseminar”, which takes place every year and a half, has become a constant – a meeting place for development workers and decision-makers in the Kenyan-German community. With its function as a transport hub, its high level of education and its economic power, the East African state is considered a “powerhouse” in the region – it radiates as far as Somalia, the Congo and Zimbabwe. With its pleasant climate – Nairobi is at an altitude of almost 2000 meters – Kenya is also popular with Europeans as a location and also hosts the only UN organization in Africa, the UN Environment Program (UNEP).

Kenya has also been hit hard by the corona epidemic with its lockdown of the global economy; the previous economic growth rates of five percent from 2010 to 2018 were a thing of the past, as Christopher Otieno Omolo, doctoral student at the Institute of Political Science in Tübingen, explained. The KAAD scholar explained that the Russian war against Ukraine that immediately followed was associated with immense price increases for gasoline, grain and artificial fertilizers: a further shock for Kenya's economy, which is dependent on the export of coffee, tea, flowers and vegetables. Incidentally, Russia was a strong tea importer – that too is now made difficult. Thanks to a good rainy season, we are currently seeing “signs of a stable recovery in our economy,” says Christopher Omolo. Kenya could once again fulfil its function as an “entry point” for the East African economy. Especially since the East African Community (“EAC”), which currently comprises seven states, is to be expanded to include Ethiopia and Djibouti. With Ethiopia, a “sleeping giant” will be adde, the EAC market will expand from 250 million people to 350 million. Calm also seems to have returned to Kenya on the political front. Hardly any critical words were heard at the Kenya Seminar about President William Ruto, elected in 2023, whose role in inciting violence in the unrest in Kenya in 2007 and 2008 also brought the International Criminal Court into action. According to Christopher Omolo, he is a “hard-working president” who implemented unpopular measures in his first year in office by raising taxes and cutting “unsustainable” subsidies for fuel and electricity. However, the tax increases primarily affect the narrow middle class (ten percent), and it is not yet clear whether they will also lead to better state services or end up “in the pockets of the elite”. Ruto pursued a policy of “quiet rapprochement” with his main opponent, opposition leader Raila Odinga, who sued against the election results and lost in the Supreme Court. He supported Raila Odinga in his candidacy for Secretary General of the African Union. After some post-election unrest, things are now quiet in the country.

The KAAD scholar Phidelis Wamalwa, a doctoral student at the Institute of Global Health at Heidelberg University Hospital, also attested to William Ruto's hard work: He has already introduced four regulations in favour of a better national health insurance - the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), founded in 1961. The goals are to reduce the NHIF's immense administrative costs through digitalization, but also to increase the income base and attract the informal sector as contributors – it makes up around 80 percent of Kenya's economy.

In Europe, the turning away of states such as Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso from the former colonial power France is viewed with suspicion and the seminar leader, Dr Marko Kuhn, Head of the Africa Department at KAAD, asked in a discussion whether Kenya could also turn away from the West and join the BRICS countries, for example. Kenya's ties to the former colonial power Great Britain are still very strong, as the British still have military training areas in Kenya. Of course, a turn to BRICS could bring greater political freedom, it was said, but on the other hand, the BRICS country Russia, for example, is exercising "blatant colonialism" through its Wagner troops in West Africa. Also infrastructure projects financed with expensive loans from China – which raises no questions when it comes to human rights – lead to high dependency and neo-colonial relations. The general conclusion was: There are no signs of a “shift” away from the West.

A side debate about values was also interesting: there are still strong differences as for example the Kenyan values of heavy emphasis on family and group solidarity diverge from Western values that emphasize individuality. A “clash of culture” was not seen as prevalent during the discussion, but the way Uganda, for example, takes harsh measures against activists in the LGBT community was seen as worrying.

The seminar had an invigorating effect due to the presence of KAAD scholars, who were able to provide interesting reports on their studies like climate change in Africa, wildlife protection, global health. In addition to the two speakers, another five academicians from Kenya, who are supported by KAAD, took part in the seminar. KAAD's networking with the host, the Akademie der Diözese Rottenburg-Stuttgart was was also strengthened, as well as with the diocese itself.

Ex-missionary and pastor Willy Schneider set a spiritual moment with a prayer service with “Kenyan elements”. The songs during the service were in Kiswahili.

KAAD scholarship holder Phidelis Wamalwa during her presentation on health insurance in Kenya

KAAD scholarship holder Noreen Mutoro presenting a group discussion

KAAD alumnus Bramwell Omondi