Switzerland has been present in Kenya since independence. Initially, it was primarily active in development co-operation, currently the focus is on governance and human rights. In addition, the SDC has a regional office in Nairobi from where it co-ordinates humanitarian aid for the region.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Kenya
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Political relations are good, Kenya is important for the political stability of East Africa and is economically the most powerful country of the region. For this reason, Switzerland works together with other countries to improve governance and respect for human rights in Kenya. Switzerland also fosters economic and cultural relations.
Nairobi hosts the fourth-largest UN office. The Swiss embassy represents Switzerland’s interests in the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Although Kenya’s economy is diversified, about 75% of the population works in agriculture. Flowers, tea and coffee are its main export goods.
In 2013, Kenya was Switzerland’s fifth-largest trading partner in Sub-Saharan Africa; the volume of bilateral trade in 2013 amounted to CHF 108 million. Switzerland imported almost exclusively agricultural products, while it exported primarily pharmaceuticals and chemical products.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
The SDC regional office for the Horn of Africa is based in Nairobi. It provides humanitarian aid in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Somalia.
Droughts regularly occur in the north and north-east of the country, as was the case in 2011, when more than 3 million people were rendered dependent on humanitarian aid. In addition, Kenya is again confronted with large flows of refugees from neighbouring Somalia. The largest refugee camp in the world is in Dabaab in eastern Kenya not far from the border with Somalia.
With a total budget of CHF 140 million (94.32% of which is contributed by the SDC), the 2013–2016 Cooperation Strategy for the Horn of Africa covers conflict zones in Somalia and environs, including Kenya.
Swiss Humanitarian Aid has set the following priorities in Kenya:
- Food security/rehabilitation of the environment
- Multi-sector emergency aid and humanitarian co-ordination
- Protection of refugees, internally displaced people and migrants.
Swiss nationals in Kenya
The national parks in the interior and the country’s beaches make Kenya one of the most attractive destinations for Swiss tourists. In addition, 950 Swiss citizens live in Kenya (2015).
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland recognised Kenyan independence in 1963. In the following year, the two countries established diplomatic relations, and Switzerland opened an embassy in Nairobi.
Since then, the Confederation has supported a number of different development projects.
Among these, Switzerland supported the establishment of Utalii College in Nairobi in the 1970s, specialised in training hotel professionals and today considered as a model in Africa.