Conference – Kenyan-Indians’ Contribution to the Development of Kenya
The Conference aimed to incubate conversations and dialogue to support a nuanced and in-depth understanding about the role of the Indian-origin Kenyans from perspective of history, including its freedom struggle, and economic development of Kenya, its place in the East African region as well as their role in linking India and Kenya. The Conference examined this contribution from the perspective of different stakeholders.The conference saw participation of over 200 high-level dignitaries from the diaspora, academia, think tanks, business, media as well Members of Parliament and high-level officials from the host government. Hon’ble Mr. V. Muraleedharan, Minister of State, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India addressed the Plenary session through a video message and lauded the role of Indian diaspora in Kenya in connecting the two nations. Referring to over 30 million Indian diaspora globally, he described them as the living bridge connecting India with their host country. Hon’ble Minister fondly remembered his visit to Kenya in September 2022 to attend the swearing in ceremony of the President of Kenya HE Dr William S. Ruto.
Chief Guest Dr. Abraham Korir SingOei, Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Government of Republic of Kenya, in his address praised the role played by Indian-origin Kenyans in the progress and prosperity of Kenya. He appreciated the intrinsic quality of Indian-origin Kenyans to flourish and contribute to the economic development and growth of the country. Indian origin people in Kenya have created assets for the welfare and benefit of the society, including the health facilities in Kenya, and their impact has been felt by everyone, he said.
Dr. Manu Chandaria, a Pravasi Bharat Samman Awardee, and the doyen of Kenyan Industry, gave a special address at the Plenary session, recounted his experiences in Kenya, and called upon everyone to do their best for development of the country. He also referred to the deep bonds with India. Referring to his connection with the Indian freedom struggle, and admiration of the Gandhian values, he also praised the role played by Indians in Kenya’s freedom struggle and later on in the development of educational institutions.
High Commissioner of India to Kenya Ms Namgya Khampa, in her remarks emphasized on the need to document the contribution and role of Indian origin Kenyans in the development of Kenya and added that this conference was an attempt in that direction. She also appreciated the role of the diaspora in building bridges of friendship between India and Kenya.
Dr Bimal Kantaria, Chairman of United Asian Network (UAN) talked about his organization UAN which was launched to bring together Asian Kenyan community to make a collective impact in the society.
The plenary session was followed by panel discussions diving into the contribution of Indian-origin Kenyans in the history and development of Kenya, including in the economy. The panel discussions were titled: (i) Exploring Asian-Indian Identity in Kenya through History and (ii) Contributing to the Economic Transformation of Kenya. Academicians, diaspora leaders, think tanks, captains of industry and Member of National Assembly of Kenya explored the theme from historical and economic lens. Dr. Kenneth Ombongi, Senior Lecturer, University of Nairobi, and Mr. Kwame Owino, CEO, Institute of Economic Affairs moderated panel discussions. The panelists included – Hon. Abdul Rahim Dawood, MP; Mr. Peter Kimani, Author; Mr Ashok Shah, Group CEO, Apollo Investment Ltd.; renowned Advocate Mr. Aurelio Rebelo; Ms. Ushaben Shah, wellknown social worker & teacher; Dr. Bimal Kantaria, MD, Elgon Kenya and Chairman UAN; Mr. T.R. Ramamurthy, Group strategic consultant at IPS KENYA; Ms. Carole Kariuki, CEO – Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA); Mr. Vimal Shah, CEO Bidco; and Mr. Rajan Shah, National Chairman, Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM).
KEPSA CEO, Ms. Carole Kariuki noted the existing partnership between KEPSA and the High Commission of India in developing a mirrored version of ‘Start-up India’ in Kenya, that will provide opportunities for the businesses in private sector to network, access tools and resources, and participate in programs and challenges. She also referred to the proposed SME corridor between the two countries which will lead to upscaling of SMEs in both nations. Mr. Hindpal Jabbal, son of late Makhan Singh whose role in the independence struggle of Kenya is well documented, also made a special intervention recounting the life and struggle of his father.
Publications by various authors on the Indian-origin Kenyan community and the connect between India and Kenya through history were also displayed at the Conference venue.The conference generated interest from the participants and sparked conversation on the need for doing more to document the contributions of the Kenyan-Indians’ in the development of Kenya.