President William Ruto has managed to reposition Nairobi as a possible multilateral capital of Africa. His charm offensive and seduction of both the West and the East has cut an image of a man out to aggregate the voices and concerns of African States and articulate them in a manner that commands respect and admiration.
While there has been a lot of comparison and discussion on the similarities between Kenya and Singapore, today, I seek to lay a roadmap on how Nairobi can become the Geneva of Africa.
For more than three decades, courtesy of my role within the International Labour Organisation which is headquartered in Geneva, I have been a regular in Geneva and I have, consequently, observed its growth and stability over time.
Just as Geneva is synonymous with diplomacy in Europe, Nairobi has the potential to become the diplomatic capital of Africa. Nairobi has long been a hub of diplomatic activity on the continent because of its strategic location, political stability, and burgeoning international engagements have set the stage for an exciting transformation. But for that to be a reality, a number of things must be taken into consideration.
One of the pillars of Geneva’s diplomatic prowess is its unwavering political stability. Nairobi is no stranger to political stability, having been a beacon of calm in a region sometimes marred by conflict. To buttress its political and economic stability, we must deal with the political instability that characterises Kenya after every election. This is why I support the resolve to create an Office for the Official Leader of the Opposition so that political stability is achieved. Maintaining this stability is crucial for attracting international organisations and fostering diplomatic relations.
Second, efficient public transport is a hallmark of any world-class city. Nairobi must invest in its transportation infrastructure to ease the movement of diplomats and delegates. Modernising the public transport system, including establishing and maintaining a public Metro and improving the public bus networks, can make the city more accessible and appealing to international visitors.
Cotu was quick to laud the government for making a strategic policy decision to invest in transformative green mobility in Nairobi following the visit of President Ruto to the European Commission that saw the EU and the government sign a declaration of intention to finance an electric bus line “Nairobi Core Bus Rapid Transit Line 3”.
By developing and implementing a safe, clean, high-quality quality and efficient public transport system, Kenyan workers remain the greatest beneficiary for this will ease the movement of labour, goods and services.
Third, Nairobi should prioritise investments in the hotel industry. World-class hotels can provide the luxury and amenities required for high-level meetings, conferences, and summits, solidifying Nairobi’s reputation as a diplomatic centre. Fourth, we should reevaluate our housing infrastructure. Nairobi should consider developing satellite cities or relocating residents to alleviate congestion in the city centre. Such measures can free up prime real estate for diplomatic missions and international organisations.
Fifth, the healthcare infrastructure must not be overlooked. A modernised healthcare system is critical for the well-being of Nairobi’s residents and the international diplomatic community. Finally, we must work on either expanding the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, which serves as our gateway to the world. An expansive and modern international airport is imperative to accommodate increased diplomatic traffic and enhancing the city’s connectivity and attractiveness to international organisations. The path is clear; it’s time for Nairobi to seize its destiny as Africa’s diplomatic epicenter. This requires a committed, determined, focused, and result-oriented leadership. Over to you, Mr President.
Dr Atwoli is the Cotu Secretary-General