Outgoing top Kenyan diplomat basks in trade diplomacy glory

Left to Right: Outgoing High Commissioner of Kenya, Maj Gen (rtd) George Owinow; Mr Khalid Mohammed, the vice chairperson of the Association of Kenyans in Uganda; Mr Maurice Amogola, the chairman of Business Network Uganda (BNU), the umbrella group of Kenyan business people; Mr Larry Muthama, the BNU Secretary; Mr Vincent Ondiff, the BNU vice chairman; and, Sister Mary Njuguna at a farewell party for the diplomat in Kampala City on April 26. PHOTO/courtesy

What you need to know:

Maj Gen Owinow says he was able to succeed in Uganda because of his  existing vast networks

Uganda’s trade with Kenya grew by 45 percent last year, the latter’s outgoing High Commissioner George Owinow has said, citing it as evidence of successful commercial diplomacy during his tenure. 

Maj Gen Owinow’s deployment to Kampala officially ends today, capping a 24-month diplomatic posting during which he said bilateral relations between the two neighbouring countries were bolstered.

“The highlight [for my term in Uganda] is trade … Kenyans in Uganda [had] the highest of diaspora remittances back home. That shows that diaspora diplomacy; putting Kenyans together [and] helping them work with Ugandans, went well,” he told this newspaper in an interview on Tuesday.

He added: “Last year, trade between Kenya and Uganda grew by about 45 percent. It means economic diplomacy in the two countries is working.”

Business Daily, a Nation Media Group flagship business title, reported on January 4, 2024, that trade between Uganda and Kenya was up by 45 percent between January and October 2023, driven by the sale of farm produce and fuel products to landlocked Uganda.

Kenya’s exports to Uganda in the period grossed Shs2.8 trillion, a double-digit percentage point export earnings’ growth from Shs1.9 trillion, according to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

The main Kenyan exports to Uganda included iron and steel as well as petroleum products.  We are unable to verify the value of Uganda’s total exports to Kenya in the same year, but in the year before, we exported goods worth $312 million, which is less than half of Kenya’s $677 million in exports. 

Dairy or related products headlined Uganda’s exports to Kenya, according to official statistics.

The windfall for Kenya prompted Kenyan businesses in Uganda, formally called Business Network Uganda (BNU), on April 26 to throw a farewell party in Kampala during which the community lavished the outgoing High Commissioner for the commercial diplomat feat registered under his watch.

Speaker after speaker commended Maj Gen Owinow for his hard work and dedication and BNU in a statement after the farewell event, noted that the High Commissioner’s departure “leaves a void in the (Kenyan community) in Uganda and his presence and impact will truly be missed”.

The group added: “Throughout his time as High Commissioner, [Maj Gen Owinow] actively engaged in various environmental projects and initiatives to promote food security and empower local farmers. He also played a key role in fostering the growth of Kenyan-owned businesses in Uganda, offering valuable guidance and support to ensure their success.”

HOW HE succeeded

    Himself an environmentalist, Maj Gen Owinow told this newspaper in the Tuesday interview that they in partnership with Million Trees and Equity Bank planted the first batch of the 44,000 trees they expected on 110 acres of land offered by Busoga College Mwiri in eastern Uganda.     

    He disclosed that he was able to succeed in his Uganda posting because of the existing vast networks he built in the country that he visited as a child when his father worked here and his friendship with Ugandan military counterparts.

     High Commissioner Owinow said cross-border incursions by nomadic communities and rivalry between fishermen on shared water bodies remain challenges, but only dialogue can yield sustainable solutions and peaceful co-existence.