AfREC hosted Australia’s High Commissioner to Kenya H.E. Alison Chartres and WA Kenyan community leaders for roundtable consultations at UWA on 27 June 2019. The meeting continued AfREC’s practice of serving as a platform for directly engaging government, academia and African communities on key themes and issues.
H.E. Ms Chartres, who has been High Commissioner in Nairobi since 2017 and also has non-resident accreditation to Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda, was in Australia for her mid-term consultations. The post in Nairobi also has responsibility for the East African Community (EAC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). It is also a friend of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
The meeting, chaired by Interim Pro Vice-Chancellor (International) Prof. Erika Techera, also welcomed Mr Geoffrey Ngetich, newly-elected President of the Kenyan Community in Western Australia (KCWA), Dr Casty Nyaga, Vice-President of the Organisation of African Communities in Western Australia (OACWA) and a member of the KCWA Board, and Prof. Samuel Makinda EBS, a KCWA Board Member, AfREC Advisory Board Member and Professor in the School of Management and Governance at Murdoch University.
A range of important issues were discussed at the meeting, including research and education links between Australia, Kenya and the wider East Africa region, regional development priorities and challenges, the work of the Kenyan community in WA and issues of concern, areas in which Australia-East Africa relations can be deepened, and upcoming engagement activities in both East Africa and Perth.
The Nairobi post is an important one for Australia and UWA. UWA researchers have extensive links with Kenya and the other countries of accreditation. The University of Nairobi (UoN) is a key co-member with UWA of both the Australia Africa Universities Network (AAUN) and the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN). The WUN Global Africa Group (GAG), co-chaired by UWA during 2016-18, held two days of consultations at UoN in June 2017 and then convened a Research Impact Workshop at UoN in Nov 2018 on Implementing the SDGs in East Africa: Translating Collaborative Research into Policy Impact. These activities sought to identify the region’s development and research priorities—such as including climate change, forced migration, youth unemployment, food security, blue economy and political violence—and co-develop collaborative research programs and networks to address them.
A number of AfREC Fellows have active research projects and partnerships in East Africa, including projects in Uganda and Rwanda that have been recently highlighted in The Conversation Africa. In other examples, Dr Muza Gondwe, AfREC Industry Coordinator, and the Minerals and Energy for Development Alliance (MEfDA) will co-convene the forum East and Southern African Coloured Gemstones: From mine to market – challenges and opportunities in Nairobi on 10-12 July 2019. AfREC Associate Director, Research, A/Prof. Richard Vokes, is also on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Eastern African Studies.
The University of Nairobi is also a member of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) and co-hosts the ARUA Centres of Excellence in Climate and Development and in Inequalities Research. Makerere University (Kampala, Uganda) is also a member of AAUN while Makerere, the University of Rwanda and the University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) are also members of ARUA.
Kenya and other East African countries also share a regional connection with Perth and WA as Indian Ocean littoral states, with the Indian Ocean Rim (IOR) positioned as UWA’s strategic region in its new Vision 2030. This create further opportunities for collaboration in regional governance and on issues such as the sustainable blue economy and maritime security, areas of AfREC expertise through Research Fellows Prof. Erika Techera and Dr Jade Lindley as well as the UWA Oceans Institute.
Australia and East Africa also share strong people-to-people links, while the Kenyan High Commissioner in Australia, H.E. Isaiah Kabira, is Dean of the African Diplomats Group in Australia.
AfREC would like to thank the Kenyan community leaders for their participation today and thank H.E. Ms Chartres for the productive meeting. AfREC looks forward to continuing its deep engagement with Kenya and the broader East African region.