Minister of Sports and Youth, Minister of Development Co-ordination and Monitoring & State Minister of Digital Technology and Enterprise Development Namal Rajapaksa who undertook a two-day official visit to Kenya was accorded warm welcome and high protocol courtesies on arrival at the Airside of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi on 7 October, 2021. Minister Namal was accompanied by State Minister for Aviation and Development of Export Zones D.V. Chanaka. The Ministers were received at the airport by the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Kenya Kananathan and a group of Sri Lankan entrepreneurs based in Kenya.

On the first day of his official programme on 8 October, 2021, Minister Namal Rajapaksa jointly with the Kenyan Minister for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala inaugurated the Passenger Service Agent’s office of the Sri Lankan Airlines in Nairobi. While addressing the guests, Minister Namal Rajapaksa said that the direct air connectivity was crucial to unlock a country’s economic growth potential, to enable it to attract trade, investment, tourism and people to people contact. He expressed the hope that air connectivity and the Passenger Service Agent’s office of Sri Lankan Airlines in Nairobi will facilitate the efforts being taken by High Commissioner Kananathan to promote bilateral economic relations between the two countries.

Minister Balala proposed in his address that Kenya and Sri Lanka should enter into a bilateral arrangement to formalise capacity building and other exchange programmes in tourism and wildlife management.

While welcoming the Ministers and guests, High Commissioner Kananathan said that tourism was one of the primary industries for both Sri Lanka and Kenya and emphasised the need to cooperate for mutual benefit notwithstanding that the two countries are diverse in nature, culture and character yet unique in their geographic location. The High Commissioner further remarked that the air connectivity was without any exaggeration a turning point in bilateral relations with Kenya and Africa as Sri Lanka sought to thrive into the future in partnership with Africa by building closer ties, and by growing together while being in two continents.

During the inauguration programme the local tourism brands namely “Rediscovering the Magical Kenya” and “Rediscovering the Fascinating Sri Lanka” were launched by the Ministers of Kenya and Sri Lanka as well as the High Commissioner. It was recognised that the local brands will be used to promote bilateral tourism to serve each other with the taste of uniqueness that ants were given Sri Lankan names “Tikiri” and “Mal”.

The Ministers and the High Commissioner wished the Managing Director of the Passenger Service Agent Office Ruwan Fernando success and thanked him for his interestto promote Sri Lankan Airlines in Kenya.

Minister Namal Rajapaksa also met Minister for Sports, Heritage and Culture of Kenya Dr. Amina Mohamed at the Ministry of Sports, Heritage and Culture. The Ministers have exchanged views on the status of policies and strategies on developing sports in their respective countries and decided to conclude a bilateral Protocol for training facilities for long-distance runners and cricketers, as required. 

Further, Minister Namal Rajapaksa had a meeting with the Kenyan Minister for Information and Communications Joseph Wakaba Mucheru. The Ministers engaged in  an extensive discussion on the need for the developing countries to keep phase with the evolving advanced technology to achieve economic prosperity. The Ministers also discussed on creating Digital Single Window System for government service to automate the processes and increase efficiency. In this regard, the two Ministers agreed to continue their dialogue with a view to enter into a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding to share knowledge and expertise.

The Chairman of Uganda Cricket Association Michael Nuwagaba and one of the leading businessmen Uganda Ruwan Jayaratne, who is developing a cricket training facility in Mpigi sought the support of Sri Lanka to develop cricket in Uganda. Minister Namal advised the Ugandan cricketers to participate in U19 Cricket tournament later next year in the West Indies and to visit Sri Lanka to explore the capacity building and training opportunities, with the Sri Lanka Cricket Board.

High Commissioners of Australia and Pakistan and Deputy High Commissioners of India and the UK based in Nairobi paid courtesy calls on Minister Namal Rajapaksa and exchanged views on the ongoing bilateral engagements between Sri Lanka and their respective countries.

The Minister for Sports and Youth Namal Rajapaksa and State Minister for Aviation and Development of Export Zones accompanied by High Commissioner Kananathan visited the first ever Buddha Statue installed in a public place in Nairobi, Kenya for brief religious observances in the presence of the Sri Lankan community in Nairobi. The Buddha statue was installed in August 2021 by the incumbent High Commissioner Kananathan. The Ministers also visited the High Commission for a brief reception.

The State Minister D.V. Chanka participated in all meetings and actively contributed to the discussions to promote Sri Lanka’s interests in Kenya.

High Commission of Sri Lanka Nairobi