President Uhuru Kenyatta will use his tour of South Africa to establish contacts with the imminent new leadership in Africa’s largest economy, as well as pursue pending agreements with Pretoria.
Officially, the President has been invited to attend the 106th Anniversary celebrations of the African National Congress, Eastern Cape due on Saturday.
But diplomatic sources told correspondent the President has on his mind the fact that Jacob Zuma’s tenure is set to end, with new leaders coming in.
“The President is using the visit to renew friendship with the new leadership of the African National Congress. This is strategic especially since South Africa is our partner and they have elections coming up next year,” the senior diplomat told correspondent a few hours before the President left Nairobi.
President Kenyatta left the country accompanied by Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, Principal Secretary Monica Juma and her Trade counterpart Chris Kiptoo, among other officials.
He was seen off by Deputy President William Ruto, who was accompanied by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Chief of Defence Forces Samson Mwathethe, and Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet.
President Zuma’s tenure has been dogged by controversies, including misuse public funds, inappropriate dealings with an Asian business family as well as illicit arms deals.He has also overseen the ANC, Africa’s oldest liberation party, lose grip of support.
But President Kenyatta has also faced a lengthy political season in Kenya, which saw two elections disputed by the opposition.
Yet South Africa is also Kenya’s significant trading partner on the continent albeit in a trade imbalance. While the country sold Kenya goods Sh50 billion last year, it only bought goods worth Sh2 billion from Kenya.
Top on President Kenyatta’s agenda, State House said, would be an attempt to bridge the balance of trade.
But then there are also visa issues. Fifteen months ago, President Zuma visited Nairobi when the two nations signed agreements, including removal of visas for diplomatic and official government delegations, defence cooperation and Lapsett project.
During his inauguration, President Kenyatta announced he would grant all Africans visas on arrival, a gesture meant to boost movement of people. Some experts believe the President should push for reciprocation from countries like South Africa.
“It is still important for him to try and push for the South African government to extend same courtesy to Kenyans,” said Mr George Mucee, the practice leader at immigration consultancy firm Fragomen.