British High Commissioner to Nairobi Celebrates Queen’s Birthday in Grandstyle

Our Guest of Honour, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Hon Mutahi Kagwe, Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen, All Protocols Observed.
I am thrilled to welcome you all to this celebration of The Queen’s Birthday. This year, it is a double celebration, as we are not only honouring Her Majesty’s 96th birthday, but also celebrating her Platinum Jubilee, marking a phenomenal 70 years on the throne.
The Queen has remained on the throne for longer than any other monarch in British history, becoming a greatly loved and revered figure across the globe. She has been on the throne longer than 90 percent those of you here today have been born.
Her exceptional reign has seen her travel more widely than any other queen, undertaking over 260 official visits internationally, including nearly 100 state visits. She has become the UK’s foremost diplomat, confirming existing alliances and creating new connections.
Her Majesty’s bond to Kenya has always been a very particular one.
You all remember the story of how a young Elizabeth, in 1952, went up a tree as a Princess and descended as the Queen. She went on to visit our country in 1972, 1983, and 1991 – illustrating the enduring importance of the Commonwealth, and the special relationship our two countries enjoy.
She has been part of that rich history which ties the UK and Kenya. As I stated to His Excellency, President Kenyatta, when I presented my credentials nearly three years ago, that it is a partnership which encompasses moments of great delight and profound grief. It is through this history that our peoples, our industries and our Governments have created intimate and enduring relationships.
Amid the challenges in the world, we have continued to work together to create global solutions in vital sectors such as education, health, environment, trade and investment.
Kenya continues to be extremely important to the United Kingdom, with President Kenyatta visiting the UK three times in the last two years, where he and Prime Minister Johnson discussed development, education, and climate change on the global stage (AIS, GES, COP26).
His Excellency and Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed a Strategic Partnership in January 2020, with five pillars: mutual prosperity, security and stability, sustainable development, climate change, and people-to-people relations. To demonstrate this, I’d want to provide a few examples of how we’ve celebrated our collaboration.
But don’t worry, I’ve cherry-picked a few gems and anecdotes for you. If I enumerated all the areas of cooperation, you’d still be here at midnight.
The UK is Kenya’s fifth largest trading partner, with annual trade worth approximately KES 165 billion (i.e. importer of Kenyan goods). The UK imports as much from Kenya as it exports, thus our relationship is balanced.
Kenyan tea accounts for more than 40% of UK tea imports. Every other cup of tea we drink in the UK, according to my Prime Minister, originates from Kenya.
Kenya exports roughly 30,000 tonnes of vegetables and 19 percent of flowers to the United Kingdom each year. That’s the equivalent of approximately 2,400 huge red London buses only in vegetables.
Over 250,000 Kenyans are directly employed by British companies in Kenya, which employs 150 British companies.
In Kenya, we have a strong network of over 1,755 UK scholarship and fellowship graduates working in academia, defense, and security. More than 500 of these are Chevening Scholars, and applications for the next round of Chevening Scholarships will open soon. Keep an eye on my Twitter stream.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions, about 50,000 UK residents visited Kenya in 2021, making it the country’s fourth largest source market for tourists. I’m hoping that by 2023, we’ll have surpassed the 200,000 threshold.
So that I don’t repeat what our excellent guest speaker, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health, will say about our incredible health relationship, I’ll let him speak first.
We will continue to cooperate with Kenya to facilitate private sector infrastructure investment in the country. We’ll keep increasing UK investment in value-added activities in Kenya while also promoting the “Made in Kenya” brand. Through the UK-Kenya Trade Deal, we will enhance trade volume. Kenya’s commercial infrastructure will be funded by the UK, allowing exports to be cheaper and more efficient.
We will continue to support a wide range of policy reforms and laws, including promoting the rule of law, fostering transparency, safeguarding human rights, and combating corruption.
Before I move on to the concluding words of gratitude, I’d like to offer a personal story from my encounter with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. It was 2014, and I was the UK Ambassador to Yemen, and four of my fellow ambassadors were given a private session with Her Majesty.
We arrived at Buckingham Palace by car and were ushered up a vast hall’s stairs to the more secluded quarters. A protocol officer showed us how to enter the chamber properly: three steps in, followed by a bow of politeness.
I could see some of Her Majesty’s corgi dogs merrily playing on the luxurious red carpets in the corridor as we were brought to see her.
I walked into the room, forgot how to count to three, bowed, and took my assigned seat. Her Majesty graciously granted me 15 minutes of one-on-one time.
I said that I was her Ambassador to Yemen, and that we were working on a plan to commemorate her visit to Aden 60 years ago. Her Majesty said, carefully, “Yemen.” She immediately began talking about her 1954 visit as if it had been the day before, describing the ancient volcanic crater in Aden and the Sheikhs’ warm welcome and hospitality. Hearing such memories straight from my Head of State awed and honored me.
That’s enough of my remembering. Please allow me to thank our sponsors for their contributions to this event and to list them before I conclude.
Our wonderful Gold contributors are:
Bollore Logistics
De La Rue
Kenya Breweries Limited (Diageo)
Flamingo Horticulture (amazing flowers!)
G4S Limited
Bupa Global
Prudential Africa
Seaforth Shipping
Eaton Electric
Ernst & Young
Standard Chartered Bank
I would also like to thank everyone who has been involved in organising and supporting this evening. Big shouts outs please for:
Chairmania Events – for the Marquee/Décor
Tamarind – for the amazing food and entertainment
Those providing the music here tonight:
Kenya Defence Military Band
BM Entertainment
British High Commission Community Choir
The AAR Ambulance and all the security teams for keeping us safe
And Nairobi Photo Booth for helping create some great memories.
Finally, and most importantly, thank you to each one of you here tonight for making the special connections in weaving the rich fabric that binds our two countries together.
Asante sana.