President Uhuru Kenyatta should champion South-South cooperation as a legacy initiative. Kenya’s recent technical cooperation with Cuba in the healthcare sector demonstrates the vast untapped potential.
We must position ourselves as an attractive host of a future United Nations agency for South-South cooperation global or regional offices. Africa must learn and replicate best practices from other regions.
In March next year, world leaders will converge on Argentina to mark the 40th anniversary since the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries.
The meeting will assess progress and provide strategic direction for developing countries to share, learn, exchange and explore their complementary strengths in South-South cooperation.
The first such meeting was held in December 2009 in Nairobi where the global community stressed that South-South cooperation and its agenda should be set by developing countries themselves, and that it should continue to be guided by its long-standing principles of respect for national sovereignty, national ownership and independence, equality, non-conditionality, non-interference in domestic affairs and mutual benefit.
Developing countries attach greater importance to their non-financial forms of cooperation. They include mutual learning, knowledge sharing and cultural exchanges.
Partial data analysed by the UN reveals that South-South development cooperation (aid) from key partners may have reached $26 billion in 2015.
Kenya has been represented in key meetings on South-South cooperation and is regarded as a regional heavyweight that has spent considerable political and financial capital in support of others.
Many readily acknowledge former President Daniel arap Moi’s conflict mediation in a host of African nations, including Sudan and Somalia.
In recent years, the country has made voluntary financial and in-kind support to address humanitarian challenges in Malawi, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and when West Africa nations faced an Ebola outbreak.
In 2012, then Kenyan Permanent Representative to the UN, and the current Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Mr Macharia Kamau, served a two-year term as president of the High-level Committee of South-South Cooperation. It is the principal policymaking body, constituted by the UN General Assembly to review progress, set policies and support innovative ways of furthering technical cooperation among developing countries.
In his recent interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, President Kenyatta strongly defended Kenya’s growing ties with China. If CNN sought provocative and controversial responses, the President was both defiant and unapologetic, ceding no ground to Mr Quest. He cut the figure of an astute and informed advocate for the autonomy of the South.
His take on the Chinese loans helping Africa meet its infrastructure gap was similar to the eloquence displayed by Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, in his address to the General Assembly that touched on these issues.
The Buenos Aires meeting is expected to be a key milestone. Latin America is the most advanced in South-South cooperation, and will, no doubt, display its accomplishments.
Africa must create value and support the growth, expansion and deepening of South-South cooperation.
President Kenyatta should inspire the continent by championing and steering the country to fully understand and appreciate South-South cooperation by linking it to his ‘Big Four’ action plan. The Parliament could support him by creating an institutional and legal framework to embed South-South cooperation in the activities of the national and county governments.
Mr Chesoli is a New York-based development economist and global policy expert. [email protected] @kenchesoli