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Millennium Post

Kenyan-Indian handshake is long overdue

Following the largely peaceful elections on 4 March, the Kenyan tourism sector has heaved a sigh of relief and has embarked on an aggressive marketing plan to boost the industry increasingly facing uncertainties.

The players are generally buoyant with the elections whose outcome has been contested but the battle has been taken to the courts and not the streets as it happened five years ago. Now Kenyans have faith in the Supreme Court after the 2010 constitutional referendum overhauled the judiciary system that was highly compromised and corrupt. Now it is a lean, professionally run arm of the government and the last resort of the electoral dispute. The faith in the courts has kept Kenyans from the streets and this is a big boost to the tourism sector.

The 2007-2008 post-election violence largely affected the tourism industry and it was after a long time that the sector recovered. In the last four years, the performance has not been optimal following the economical melt-down in Europe and the insecurity in Kenya. The insecurity has been occasioned by the random bombing of buildings and bus stops by the separatistal Qaeda affiliated al-Shabab militia based in the neighbouring Somalia as well the secessionist group called the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) who are calling for Mombasa, the famous tourist town in the Kenyan Coast to cut off from the motherland.

But, the Kenya Defence Forces’s recent conquest in Somalia that saw them take  over the al-Shabab stronghold of Kisimayu port and the Kenyan government instructive containment of the MRC has restored faith in the sector. While the number of tourists from Europe will remain unpredictable as the Eurozone economic crises hit even harder, the Kenyan Tourism Board has been reaching out to the emerging market, mainly in Asia to bolster the industry. India is one such country that the board is trying reach in order to boost the numbers that have averaged 20,000 over the last few years.

Last year, India overtook France as the number five source market. The number of tourists from India to Kenya was 12, 330. This is likely to go up in the coming year as India strengthens its economic ties with Kenya the more. Sibabrata Tripathi, the Indian High Commissioner to Kenya has indicated in past that the trade between the two countries is about $2 billion. Tourism will play a key role in bolstering in boosting the trade between the two countries in the next years. The countries can mutually tap into a number of factors to boost the relations and trade for the following reasons:


CENTURIES OLD RELATIONSHIP

In one of the most publicised documentary aired on the number one Television station in Kenya, Kenyans learnt that there was a certain section of black Indians whose origin is believed to have been in Kenya. The Indians are believed to have been shipped to India 300 years ago. The fact is, India has been doing business with Africa for innumerable years. Kenya is one of those countries that have greatly benefited from the trade. The only railway line existing in the country was built by Indians at the beginning of the 20th century and paved way for the thousands of Indians who have settled in Kenya and Uganda.

This relationship has not been exploited, especially the rich history it presents to the two countries. Kenya especially has enjoyed a friendly and cordial relationship, unlike Uganda which chased the Indian business community in 1970s, hurting the relationship that has taken decades to rebuild.

Presently, there two Indian legislators in the Kenyan parliament elected in unlikely regions. The two have lived in the areas and worked as businessmen to the extent they are a part of the community and very popular as well.

This demonstrates the success of businessmen of Indian origin in various towns in Kenya and points out of the many opportunities that exist for the Indians who should tour the country and explore the opportunities as well enjoy the country’s renowned world famous tourist’s attractions. There are thousands very successful Indian businessmen and industrialists in the country and there is even more room for expansion. That is the message that should be preached to boost the business relationship between the two countries.

Thousands of Kenyans have studied in India over the last four decades and India still remains one of the major attractions in academic matters. This is another linkage that should be explored and utilised. Beyond the educational matters, there is still more that this particular association can give.


MEDICAL TOURISM

Annually, thousands of Africans, mostly from the East Coast are referred to India for complicated medication. The sophisticated and affordable medical industry in India is an attraction that has in the recent past been exploited. Equally, thousands of medical practioners from Africa normally tour India to orientate themselves with the medical and the pharmaceutical industry and more can be built on this to ensure there is more exchange. Some of the best run hospitals in Africa are run by Indians. There is something Kenya can learn from this and medical tourism should be encouraged.

Zambia is already ahead in attracting the Indian market, similarly the South African tourism industry.

According to the World Economic Forum for Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, Kenya is ranked 14th for its natural resources, with its three World Heritage natural sites and its rich diversity of fauna.

And the Indians who have visited Kenya have been known to love the Kenya Safari and its tourism diverse products ranging from the National Park at the coast to the snow-capped Mt Kenya on the equator and the Great Rift Valley, as Jennifer Opondo the former Director of Marketing observed in India recently.

If Kenya can look into ways of providing the Indian cuisine and think alongside establishment of an exclusively Indian museum, it can add more to the attractions and as well offer more to the burgeoning Indian middle-class who are taking to tourism as a new found hobby.

While Indians and Asia in general favour North Africa destinations, sub-Saharan’s renaissance has rekindled interest and many are Asians exploring business opportunities while touring the Savanna Safaris that Africa has become famous for. Kenya is one such destination.

According to the report, Kenya’s impressive performance has been as a result of efforts by various stakeholders like the Government, marketing agencies and tour operators to promote the country as a favourable tourist destination both abroad and locally.

According to the World ‘Kenya is ranked 14th for its natural resources, with its three World Heritage natural sites and its rich diversity of fauna,’ reads the report in part.

Kenya is one of the most preferred tourist destinations in sub Saharan Africa, and for a reason.

Conceived by Kalyan Mukherjee, Consulting Editor, Africa Research by Aman Ramrakha
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