East Africa Time Zone UTC+03:00
Capital City Nairobi
Currency Kenyan shilling
National Day 12 December
His Excellency Lazarus Ombai Amayo is no stranger to London, having been a regular visitor ever since doing his management training here in 1988. Happy to be back in the UK, which is home to a large Kenyan diaspora, he describes the UK’s “multifaceted and mutually beneficial relations” with Kenya. The youngest in a large family of politicians, academics, lawyers, bankers and administrators, he believes these relatives gave him the desire to pursue his long career in the public sector, culminating in his current role as Kenya’s High Commissioner to the UK.
Amayo, who holds a BA from Spicer Memorial College in India and an MA from Delhi University in India, taught for two years in a secondary school, his first experience of public service. After eight years working in the human resources department of what was then the Kenya Post and Telecommunications Corporation, he entered politics in 1989 and was elected as a Member of Parliament, and subsequently appointed Assistant Minister for Education. He later became the Chief Executive Officer of Catering Levy Trustees in 1993, a state corporation.
Amayo’s first diplomatic posting (1999-2004) was as High Commissioner to India, with concurrent accreditation to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Singapore. Here, his greatest achievement was increasing the number of bilateral engagements, and reactivating and convening the Joint Commission, “a framework for the purposes of guiding relations between India and Kenya.” His focus there was on developing bilateral trade and investment, but Mr Amayo is also proud of his role in increasing the number of scholarships for Kenyan students in India under the Indian Council for Cultural Relations programme.
He returned to Kenya in 2004 and served as the Director for Multilateral Relations, Director for Administration and Acting Permanent Secretary at the Ministry Headquarters before his posting as High Commissioner to Zambia and Malawi in 2006. A focus on trade and investment also defined this next posting. Here, Mr Amayo worked to increase exports and Kenyan investment, as well as promoting the interests of the large Kenyan communities in both countries. Zambia is home to the headquarters of COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), and he was active in advancing economic cooperation between member states. “We were happy to see the organisation graduate from having a Common External Tariff status to a Common Customs Union, which was a significant development in our regional integration agenda,” he remarks.
From Africa, Mr Amayo moved into the European sphere as the Director for the Europe and Commonwealth Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 2010. Dealing with the EU and other European countries including the UK was excellent preparation for his current role. In his words: “being given the privilege to serve as Kenya’s High Commissioner is like a continuation of the pursuit of the national interest, but now with a more concentrated focus on the UK.”
Mr Amayo characterises current relations between Kenya and the former colonial power as “warm and cordial.” Commenting on the numbers of British people living in Kenya and Kenyans living in the UK, he says “there is a lot that binds us together.” Amayo is keen to emphasise flourishing economic relations, noting that the UK is Kenya’s second-largest export destination and its largest European investor. Although there are over 100 UK companies operating in Kenya, Mr Amayo would like to see this number increase. Touting his country’s diversified economy as one of the fastest growing on the continent, and its position as a gateway to East and Central Africa, he says that there are “vast opportunities in Kenya for UK companies and entrepreneurs.”
Kenya has long been a popular holiday destination and the UK is still the country’s largest source of foreign visitors, but he’d like these numbers to increase. “Kenya has unique tourist attractions, whether it be the wildebeest migrations, the Big Five, the magnificent landscapes, the white sandy beaches, the people or the flora.” He acknowledges the “unfortunate, isolated terrorist incidences” that have temporarily affected tourist numbers, but was quick to add that the Government has taken appropriate measures to enhance security in the country for its citizens, visitors and their property. He emphasises that “terrorism is a global challenge that requires the concerted efforts of the international community to tackle it. Kenya is doing its part within the framework of the Africa Union to help ensure peace and security in the sub- region.”
Mr Amayo clearly relishes the chance to develop economic and person-to-person contacts between Kenya and the UK. Speaking on behalf of his team, Amayo says: “our desire is to enhance relations for the mutual benefit of our people.”