Kenya’s top diplomat Amina Mohamed visits Seychelles - Tourism and trade to get boost
Amina Mohamed, State House, Seychelles (Mervyn Marie, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Neighbouring African states Seychelles and Kenya plan to increase exchanges in tourism, fisheries, ICT, agriculture and commerce following the visit to the islands by the Cabinet Secretary of Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Amina Mohamed.
The diplomat, who is effectively the coastal state’s foreign minister, just ended an official visit to the small island state after holding talks with high level representatives of the Seychelles government and business community.
At the end of her stay in Seychelles she has described it as a ‘fruitful and productive one.’
Speaking to the local press after she paid a courtesy call on the Seychelles President James Michel at State House this morning she said she had briefed the head of state on the discussions on the ways ‘to move the relationship forward’ between Kenya and Seychelles, while also planning the visit of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to Seychelles later this year.
“ I think you will be seeing a lot more Kenyans coming to Seychelles and more Seychellois coming to Kenya,” said the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
The Seychelles head of state welcomed the move for closer collaboration with Kenya.
“We have many shared interests in the Indian Ocean, as neighbouring countries with a common vision for the blue economy, an African brand of tourism and close cooperation in defense and maritime security. I welcome the interest also from the Kenyan business community to increase trade and investment, with more business delegations planning visits to Seychelles,” said President Michel, according to a statement from the State House.
|Amina Mohamed and James Michel (Mervyn Marie, Seychelles News Agency) Photo license: Attribution|
Tourism partnerships and increased flights between Nairobi and Victoria
On Monday, Mohamed signed a joint commission of cooperation agreement with the Seychelles Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean-Paul Adam, which is an umbrella agreement that allows Kenya and Seychelles to cooperate in various fields of interest.
“In tourism we have agreed that we are going to start exploring ways of marketing Kenya and Seychelles together… we have products that are very complementary… we are close to each other two and a half hours away so it’s not a long trip which a tourist has to make to visit any of our shores,” said Mohamed.
“This is something we expect to grow quite quickly. We’ve invited the Seychelles Minister for Tourism to come to Kenya so we can carry on talking about this and see whether we can come to an agreement on how to do it.”
There are currently direct flights between Kenya and Seychelles as the national airline of the African nation, Kenya Airways, flies to the Indian Ocean archipelago.
The possibility of increasing flights as well as attracting cruise liners also featured on the agenda.
“Kenya and Seychelles are very close …I think we can have a successful cruise tourism if we come to some formal arrangements,” she added.
Tackling transnational crime in the Indian Ocean
During talks with the Seychelles Minister responsible for Home Affairs Joel Morgan, Amina Mohamed said she spoke about maritime security issues including transnational organised crime including drug trafficking, trafficking people, piracy as well as terrorism.
“I also visited Reflecs 3 and was very impressed with work being done there,” she said. She added that Kenya will send an officer to Reflecs3 Unit to work on enhanced maritime security.
The Regional Fusion and Law Enforcement Centre for Safety and Security at Sea (REFLECS3) is the successor of the Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecutions Intelligence Coordination Centre (RAPPICC) which started operations in 2012.
In a press statement on Monday, Seychelles Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Paul Adam said “Seychelles has expressed its solidarity with Kenya as it faces the threat of Al Shabab and we are together in this fight to ensure there is security in our region so our citizens can live their lives productively in order to boost our respective economy.”
|Amina Mohamed and Jean-Paul Adam (Mervyn Marie, Seychelles News Agency) Photo license: Attribution|
The two sides discussed ways which Seychelles and Kenya can offer an example in terms of tackling these security threats through enhanced intelligence sharing but also through a partnership around the blue economy.
“As we share an ocean we have expressed the will to better police this ocean, build our partnership around it and explore joint opportunities in the fisheries sector and other marine resources,” said Adam.
Commerce between close neighbours set to increase
When he visited Kenya in March, Adam signed a double taxation avoidance agreement with his Mohamed. Also the Chairman of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry Marco Francis joined the Seychelles delegation and had talks with representatives of the Kenyan Business Community.
This time round theNational Chairman of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Kiprono Kittony also came to Seychelles and met with SCCI counterparts and local businessmen.The SCCI extended an invitation for Kenyan investors to visit Seychelles.
Prisoner exchange planned
One other key issue discussed is a prisoner exchange agreement between Kenya and Seychelles.
According to information received from the Seychelles prison authorities there are a dozen Kenyan prisoners at the Montagne Posée Prison on Mahe island, the main island of the Seychelles archipelago, while there is at least one known Seychellois prisoner serving time in Kenya.
“I think it’s the natural thing to do….once they are convicted they should go back to their country of origin for imprisonment and to ensure that justice is carried out in a humane way here they have parents, siblings and families can visit and see them,” said Mohamed.
Mohamed told journalists that the Kenyan government will be engaging with the country’s Attorney General’s office in Nairobi to accelerate the process.
While in Seychelles she also met the Kenyan diaspora, as there are quite a few Kenyan nationals working especially in the fields of education and health as well as in Seychelles’ only tuna canning factory, Indian Ocean Tuna, Ltd, which is one of the largest tuna canneries in the world, employing some 2300 people.