Annett Günther is the new German ambassador to Kenya. She is also accredited to the Seychelles and Somalia as well as the Permanent Representative to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) in Nairobi. She spoke to Julius Sigei
Germany is involved in many agricultural projects in Kenya. What are your priority areas?
A major part of our bilateral engagement is, of course, development co-operation. At present we are focusing on the areas of agriculture and technical and vocational training.
Our main goal is to contribute to tackling youth unemployment and to enhancing productivity in the agricultural sector, by supporting young agro-entrepreneurs.
We see agriculture as one of the areas with great potential for the economic development of Kenya. And our work is very much in line with the goals of the Big 4 Agenda, especially with regard to food security and manufacturing.
How do we make farming cool?
The farming population is ageing and the young people don’t want to go into farming. They need to know you don’t have to be behind the plough to make money from farming.
We want to focus on young agriculture entrepreneurs: Providing them with necessary skills as well as offering small support grants.
We recently met a young man in western Kenya who is doing well, selling sweet potato seedlings. With a little support he can diversify into other crops.
I also met another group of young farmers who are in a co-operative and milling different kinds of cereals. Farming has a huge potential to employ youth.
What does the government need to do to make agriculture more productive?
It may need to put in place policies to put on hold land subdivision beyond agricultural viability. And it also needs to engage the private sector.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big 4 agenda is a step in the right direction, but Kenya cannot do it alone. Money has to come from somewhere.
The government needs to ensure a conducive environment so as to attract foreign investment. Kenya offers an attractive combination of a growing economic infrastructure, favourable legal framework, a stable political environment and access to the continent’s largest economic area.
Kenya is indeed the economic centre in the East African region with a strategic location when it comes to access. This is why it also enjoys the status of a lower middle-income country.
The interest of German investors in Kenya has grown steadily in recent years.
Which other youth-related areas will you give priority?
Within our development co-operation, we would like to support the upgrade of three existing Training and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) centres in the greater Nairobi, both in terms of equipment as well as teaching and curricula development.
Several companies have already committed themselves to work within this project. The aim is to bring training and practice closer together to improve young people’s employability.
In Germany we have made very good experience with such a “dual system” where young people go to school even as they are attached to companies to gain experience and also earn something.