"Kenya-Japan relations: a review of twenty years of interactions 1963 - 1983'1"
Waningilo Alubengo J
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Relations between Kenya and Japan, whether diplomatic, trade, cultural or economic, have come about as a result of many years of interaction. Relations between the two countries began even before Kenya became sovereign. These relations broadened and became more intimate after Kenya became independent. This study assesses the growth and development of Kenya-Japan relations particularly during the post-independence period. Relations between Kenya and Japan are a function of mutual needs inherent in the two countries' economies. Kenya is an agricultural country whose leadership after independence wanted to achieve rapid economic development. The leadership aspired to see the country's infrastructure improved in order to facilitate greater economic development. However, Kenya lacks mineral wealth that could generate capital to enable it to undertake the kind of projects the leaders wished to implement. Furthermore, by the time the country gained independence there was a shortage of trained man power in most sectors of its economy. Moreover, the importation of skilled and specialised labour, as that of industrial products, required foreign exchange which was not readily available. Thus, apart from mobilizing local resources, Kenya required foreign assistance in the form of skilled man power, funds and technology. Initially Britain, West Germany and Canada provided these but as the number of projects increased, it became necessary for Kenya to look for assistance from other countries. The U.S.A, the Nordic Countries and Japan were the countries it turned to. Japan had shown interest in Kenya long before the latter goods became independent. to Kenya by 1930 and It was selling manufactured in 1952 it established a Consulate in Nairobi. In 1964 it upgraded the Consulate to an-Embassy. Japan sought relations with Kenya primarily for trading purposes. As an industrialised country largely dependent on international trade, Japan is always on the look out for sources of raw materials, markets for its industrial products and opportunities to invest. To Japan, Kenya was important as a market for its industrial goods. Kenya was also seen as a base for the distribution of Japanese products in East and Central Africa due to its centrality in the region. After Kenya became independent trade relations between the two countries experienced growth. The balance of trade has, however, always been in favour of Japan. This has been a cause of tension between the two countries. The reasons for the imbalanced trade were found to be : the differences in the nature of goods, level of technology and the comparative cheapness of Japanese products; aggressive marketing research and out-going tactics of the Japanese; Japanese consumer selectivity and sensitivity; the presence of Japanese corporations in the Tropics; the narrow range of Kenyan goods; Kenya's relatively expensive trade items; unco-ordinated and poor marketing strategies by Kenyans; Kenya's delayed representation in Japan and its historical linkage to the British Empire. The gap between Japan's exports to Kenya and what it imported from the latter continued to widen throughout the period studied. The disparity has always been a bone of contention between the two countries. The Kenyan Government and businessmen expressed concern over the disparity and urged Japan to buy more from Kenya. Sometimes the Kenya Government took drastic measures such as banning the importation of certain Japanese products. In the long run such measures neither checked the inflow of Japanese goods into Kenya nor enhanced Kenya's exports to Japan. The Japanese Government was aware of the tension the imbalanced trade was causing and initiated some measures aimed at improving the situation. Among the steps taken were for the Japanese to get involved in the production of Kenyan goods that could be sold to Japan, and to contribute towards the general economic development of Kenya. Economic Development Co-operation relations between the two countries is a post-independence phenomena. In these relations, Japan provided resources to Kenya. The resources were meant to improve Kenya's infrastructure and enable it to have skilled man power. To some Kenyans it appeared that Japan had an obligation to provide Kenya with the resources as a way of making up for the imbalanced trade between it and Kenya. Resources received under Economic Development Co-operation significantly to Kenya's economic have contributed development. The resources have facilitated the development of infrastructure and education in the country. Japan also benefitted from the relations. This was done through the terms and conditions under which it extended aid and loans to Kenya. One condition that was to Japan's advantage was that procurement of all items unavailable locally in Kenya was to be done in Japan. Thus Economic Development Co-operation opened another avenue for Japanese goods into Kenya. The study found that interaction between Kenya and Japan has experienced growth on many fronts. The relations have been mutually beneficial. However, Japan has derived more benefits from the relations. The potentiality of the relations has, however, not been fully exploited.
CitationA Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment for the Degree of
Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies