Canadian International Assistance to Kenya

Canada is an institutional model, with a public education system that works well, and a merit-based public service second to none. It is a model of stability and a diverse citizenry. The extent of Canada’s role and influence tends to be shaped by the issue at hand, the mix of capabilities that it can use, the relationships that it has crafted over time as well as the attention that the issue deserves and is devoted by Canada. There are instances where the expertise of Canada is noted and its input sought after, especially where the country has international connections of active levers of influence. There are several ways that Canada flexes its influence, ways that Canada operates around the globe, which include trade, investment and aid, among others. Aid, or international assistance, as it is otherwise known as, from a Canadian perspective, seeks to eradicate poverty and contribute towards the eradication of more peaceful, more inclusive and more prosperous world.

Canadian international assistance policy has helped propel the country into a leader in several development factors like health, rights and the female empowerment. Brown, (2012) observes that Canadian international assistance usually goes to development projects that are projected to have a direct impact on the lives of women and children who are the demographic most ravaged by poverty. The relationship between Canada and Kenya is one of the most emulable relationships between a developed and developing country. Both countries have commitments that range for their shared interests, including the eradication of poverty, sustainable economic growth as well as female empowerment (Government of Canada, 2017).

Canada provides international assistance to Kenya in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. According to Government of Canada (2017), the international assistance Canada provides is well aligned with the Kenya’s Vision 2030, a development blueprint whose aim is transforming Kenya into an industrializing middle income economy that is capable of providing its citizens with high quality of life by the year 2030. The international assistance Kenya receives from Canada goes towards increasing employment and economic opportunities, especially for women, improving healthcare access for women and children and the provision of quality learning environments for children. As a result of this assistance there is the creation of sustainable and inclusive economic development and employment opportunities. They also target underserved small and medium enterprises in marginalized regions for funding, which is a foreign aid approach that has the most impact on reduction of poverty and income inequality (Chong, Gradstein, & Calderon, 2009).

Some of the development projects that Canada is supporting in Kenya through international assistance include the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI). CFLI is a development cooperation designed to support small projects that are proposed and implemented by local organizations in Kenya. High Commission of Canada in Kenya (2019) provides that this funding is offered to those projects that have a direct social, economic and technical impact to the population, which sees to it that the initiative stays true to the overall goal of Canadian international assistance which is the eradication of poverty. This program is under the High Commission of Canada in Kenya, and it affords Canada the opportunity to respond to local needs at the community level, thus having a greater impact that is felt by the people. The projects funded under CFLI must address an identified community need, as well as be consistent with Canada’s thematic priority for their international assistance, which includes principles like stimulating sustainable economic growth and creating opportunities for women, youth and children, among others. It is also accessible in times of emergencies for humanitarian support. There is particular emphasis that is placed on accountability and sustainability in the projects that are awarded the funds, and a keen interest on the ability if the projects to provide capacity building, community development and empowerment, especially to women (High Commission of Canada in Kenya, 2019).

The Equitable Prosperity through Private Sector Development (EPTPSD) is a project that Canada is running in Kenya. This program intends to create sustainable economic growth and development by supporting profitable and competitive small and medium sized enterprises, or SMEs. Most of the support is in the agriculture, construction and extractive sectors, expected to reach over 20,000 men and women entrepreneurs, with a bid to help them manage their businesses well and sustain their profitability and competitiveness. The initiatives of the EPTPSD include studying supply chains and the processes that are involved in the production and distribution of goods in targeted sectors, the training and advising of the small entrepreneurs so as to help them improve their businesses, the establishment of strategic alliances among the SME entrepreneurs, suppliers and financing organizations and last but not least, facilitation of the Kenyan private equity investment companies for them to focus more on SMEs (Government of Canada, 2015).

There are ambitious development goals set by the Kenyan government, which will need the support of local businesses to be achieved. In helping local businesses and SMEs become successful, the EPTPSD is well aligned with Kenya’s Vision 2030 development goals. This program is being run in partnership with Mennonite Economic Development Associates MEDA, an international organization that creates business solutions for development and poverty eradication. The organizations that are chosen to benefit from the EPTPSD program are those that have the potential to impact small scale farmers, small entrepreneurs and other SMEs (Government of Canada, 2015).

Foreign aid, or international assistance comes with a dichotomy of positive and negative aspects, which have to be assessed on their merits, as well as the intentions of the country that gives the aid and the county that receives the aid. According Adams, Sakyi, & Opoku, (2016), one positive aspect of international assistance offers is alleviation of poverty and domestic investment.  There are millions of people who live below the poverty line in Kenya, and the aid programs Canada has in Kenya are aimed at helping local businesses and local organizations create development and opportunities at the community level. This helps in job and wealth creation since the international assistance des not just come in the form of funds, but also training and technical support for SMEs and local organizations, leading to increase in domestic investment. There is also medical assistance which helps in the promotion of equality and better lives for the people to be able to make a living. These efforts ultimately lead to an increase in the revenue and the GDP of the country, in alignment with the country’s Vision 2030, and Canada’s international assistance goal of poverty eradication (Government of Canada, 2017).

International assistance helps the involved countries, in this case Kenya and Canada, nurture diplomatic relations. Currently, the diplomatic relations between Canada and Kenya are nothing short of cordial, with Canada maintaining the largest mission in Africa in its High Commission in Nairobi. This excellent relationship between Kenya and Canada is fostered by their shared interests in areas which include poverty eradication, economic growth that is sustainable as well as the empowerment of women and girls. Government of Canada (2017) observes that all the international assistance Canada offers Kenya is intentionally crafted to address these three areas of shared interest between the two countries, which is a big boost for diplomatic relationships. From cordial diplomatic ties stems other areas of cooperation, apart from development, which are beneficial to both countries. An example is military cooperation, where Kenya has been a long time member of Canada’s Military Training and Cooperation Program which has seen hundreds of Kenyan officers receive world class military training. There is also the International Peace Support Training Center, (IPSTC) in Nairobi which receives Canadian support, with Canada having two Canadian military officers deployed there on a full time basis.

The negative aspects of Canada’s international assistance comes in the form of misuse of the aid, and poor economic management which sees the aid be wasted in ill-conceived business management decisions. When aid fails to reach the right people who need it, or is misappropriated and misused, the efforts of the international assistance programs go down the drain, and corrupt officials help themselves to the aid money at the expense of the citizens as. According to Hope (2014), such cases of misuse and corruption tend to happen when the international assistance is channeled through government agencies, which is where the aid money gets misappropriated. There have been instances where Canadian aid money, alongside aid from other countries is misappropriated from the government agencies and institutions. Such cases have caused uproars from the donors and the international community, with the donors adopting a departure from funneling international assistance money through government run agencies and organizations, to preferring local NGO’s, businesses and organizations with no linkages with the government (Hope, 2014).

Given the cases of aid misuse in Kenya, the question begs, what should be done to make Canada’s international assistance trickle down to the people who actually need it? In my opinion, the answer to this question appears to be two fold. First there is what Canada is currently doing with their international assistance in Kenya already, targeting local businesses, SMEs and organizations for direct funding. Government of Canada (2017) finds that this approach will make sure that the money reaches the poor people in need of it, especially with the current policy of selecting the local businesses and organizations that are bound to have the largest positive impact in the community. There is also the idea of direct money transfers to the people. This has been tried with refugees, and the idea behind it is that the recipients, usually women understand their needs more than foreign exerts, and the cash they receive goes to buy food, clothing and other essentials (Brown, Den Heyer, & Black, 2016). 

International assistance or foreign aid is one of the ways that Canada operates in the world. This international assistance is of a feminist nature, which has the intention of contributing to poverty eradication, the creation of a world that is peaceful, inclusive and prosperous, all in the while focusing these efforts on gender equality and women empowerment. According to Canada, the attainment of poverty eradication and creation of a peaceful, inclusive and prosperous world will be best achieved when women and girls and empowered and gender equality achieved. This is the position Canadian international assistance takes in Kenya, since these programs create situations and conditions that help foster local businesses that impact the community positively, with women owned businesses being given a priority.


Government of Canada. (2017). Canadian international assistance in Kenya.

Brown, S. (Ed.). (2012). Struggling for Effectiveness: CIDA and Canadian Foreign Aid. McGill-Queen’s University Press.

High Commission of Canada in Kenya. (2019). Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.

Government of Canada. (2015). Project profile — Equitable Prosperity through Private Sector Development in Kenya.

Chong, A., Gradstein, M. & Calderon, C. (2009). Can foreign aid reduce income inequality and poverty?,”  Public Choice 140: 59.

Adams, S., Sakyi, D., & Opoku, E. E. O. (2016). Capital Inflows and Domestic Investment in Sub-Saharan Africa: Evidence from Pooled Mean Group (PMG) Estimation Approach. Foreign Trade Review51(4), 328–343.

Hope K.R. (2014) Kenya’s Corruption Problem: Causes and Consequences. Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, 52:4, 493-512, DOI: 10.1080/14662043.2014.955981

Brown, S., Den Heyer, M., & Black, D. (Eds.). (2016). Rethinking Canadian Aid: Second Edition. University of Ottawa Press.

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