A Case for Special Rapportuers in Kenyan Foreign Policy

May 16, 13 A Case for Special Rapportuers in Kenyan Foreign Policy

The formation of a new administration is always an exciting time. It is an opportunity to seek innovative ideas that will help in the achievement of prosperity for Kenya.  In consideration of the country’s foreign policy needs, the Office of the President should consider the appointment of special rapportuers in foreign policy. This suggestion is inspired by prevailing speculation that the Executive Office envisions it will constitute trusted advisors and that the Foreign Affairs ministerial docket will fall under President Uhuru Kenyatta’s side of the coalition.

It is also motivated by the confident speech, at the swearing-in ceremony at the Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani; which clarified the need for continued strengthening of East African bonds in the pursuit of “ultimate” integration. While the concept of ‘ultimate integration’ will require illumination, as the administration soldiers on, the President was unambiguous about how the Kenyan state understands: the global context; legitimate international mechanisms; and its role in the community of nations.

In this respect ideological contours of a Kenyan external relations construct have emerged and they seek the: prominence of nationalism within a Pan-African agenda; stimulation of the existing regional integration process; opportunities of an Afro-optimistic continent that is abundant with wealth, human and natural resources; value of multilateralism; and inclusiveness in the spirit and practice of global governance institutions.

Yet this must be viewed within the context that the country is an attractive ‘frontier’ market, a gateway to the region; a hub for trade and a centre for finance.  The country is keen on peaceful co-existence with its neighbours in order to ensure its economic prosperity. The focus of external relations is not only concerned with the survival of the incumbent administration but also a greater attention to trade and investment issues. However, despite the fact that economic and commercial diplomacy is the first pillar of Kenyan foreign policy, there is no distinct conceptualization in policy and practice that separates one from the other as defined by Raymond Saner and Lichia Yiu.

In their definition, economic diplomacy is concerned with economic policy issues at international levels and institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO). It involves the monitoring and reporting of economic policies in foreign countries in order to give the home government advice on how to best influence them. It employs economic resources, either as rewards or sanctions, in pursuit of a particular foreign policy objective. This is sometimes called “economic statecraft”.

On the other hand, commercial diplomacy is the support of home country’s business and finance sectors in their pursuit of economic success and the country’s general objective for national development. It includes the promotion of inward and outward investment as well as trade. Important aspects of a commercial diplomats’ work is the supplying of information about export and investment opportunities and organising and helping to act as hosts to trade missions from home. In some cases, commercial diplomats could also promote economic ties through advising and support of both domestic and foreign companies for investment decisions.

Currently, economic diplomacy is conducted as a form of reactive pragmatism through sound economic policy, actors, activities and instruments. Therefore, the development of a concise economic and commercial diplomatic framework should be prioritized within the existing foreign policy architecture. This will require inclusivity of multiple participants and an understanding of the post-modern international environment that is characterised by fragmented relationships and socio-economic intricacies, which demand a sharper definition of Kenya’s trade interactions.


This will also require a constant monitoring of the global financial situation in order to maintain the country’s economic resilience. This can best be done through interdisciplinary engagement on sound policies and practices especially with regards to information sharing.  It will also require creative imagination on the integration path in order to achieve definitive regional unity as expressed by the desire for an “ultimate” formula.

Why would Kenya require special rapportuers in foreign policy? The presidency will need confidential and credible briefings on crucial matters that may improve the quality of decisions made. These special representatives will also instigate genuine domestic debate on foreign policy issues. This should focus on economic and commercial diplomacy within foreign policy structures. Lastly, the direct representation of the Executive by such entities will engage in continued reassurance of domestic constituencies and international partners in the face of: the effects of endemic corruption; potential political shocks with the implementation of devolution; and the progression of the International Criminal Court (ICC) cases at The Hague.

In terms of expertise a special understanding of this key foreign policy pillar will be important. Two key issues need to be at the centre of foreign policy interactions. The first is the improvement of stakeholder inclusion in policy and practise. This will involve their involvement in the development of trade negotiations as a strategy to contribute to the growth of the economy in diplomatic participation. This will also include improving the awareness of private sector organizations on the country’s rights, obligations and the mechanisms of different international agreements of which Kenya is a signatory. Such inclusivity in international trade processes should include non-governmental entities such as agricultural producers, professional organizations, private sector organizations, farmers and trade unions.

The second issue is the coordination between an Executive High Commissioner for Economic and Commercial Diplomacy-my pie in the sky proposal on the title of this foreign policy advisor a.k.a. special rapportuer- with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to ensure effective management of foreign policy. This will involve embracing basic tenets of: setting foreign policy targets; consulting various constituencies; exploring the boundaries of difficult issues within the context of overall state objectives; researching agendas of negotiating parties; and identifying future world economic scenarios to assess their effects on the Kenyan economy.

The MFA will provide guidance on the roles, initiatives and diplomatic conduct of special rapportuers under the Executive Office in the negotiations that will advance state interests. This will require proper management of diplomatic service and foreign policy. Where, the former is the appropriate allocation of resources necessary for the efficient implementation of external relations policy; while the latter is the efficient implementation of a strategy that facilitates these interactions.

Astute coordination of consultation and negotiation with different interested parties, such as, elected representatives; related ministries; academia; non-governmental organization (NGOs), media and the general public are needed to ensure an espousal of interdependence and interdisciplinary approaches by personnel. Staff knowledge should go beyond international economics, development and world events on a variety of issues so as to inform inward investment through growth oriented external relations.

The establishment of their mandate should be done through constructing special procedures and mechanisms in collaboration with the MFA so as to grant them specific authorization to investigate and report to the appointing authority. This mandate should include the examination, monitoring, advising and public reporting of issues of economic and commercial diplomacy. The conduct of this mandate should allow for exceptional procedures that: respond to individual complaints, conduct studies, provide advice on technical levels of cooperation and engaging in general promotional activities.

The structure of such an advisory office, that is a special representative of the president, could have ten Executive Commissioners. Six of them will have a sectored focus on Vision 2030 flagship projects that are currently being undertaken in tourism; agriculture; manufacturing; wholesale and retail trade; business process outsourcing; and financial services as key sectors in Kenya’s performance. Of the remaining four, three will have country specific focus at regional, continental and international levels. They will therefore coordinate actions with their ministerial counterparts. The last will serve as an administrative secretary who will be the Chief Operating Officer of this advisory staff with financial, strategic planning, and internal audit officers.

The MFA should be involved in developing procedures and practices that prevent policy, legislative and administrative conflicts on: remuneration; personnel and logistical support mechanisms; role description and application. With regards to role description the appointed rapportuers should be restricted to fact finding missions; assessing and verifying complaints. In terms of the relevance of function the terms of reference should determine the duration of service based on whether these rapportuers focus is sectored or country specific. It should also harmonise the mandate of these individuals to be closely aligned with Vision 2030.