Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis to travel to East Africa

Press releases, 14.03.2024

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis will travel to Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya from 17 to 22 March 2024. Discussions will focus on bilateral relations and regional geopolitical issues. Possible avenues for a peace process in Ukraine will also be explored. The Greater Horn of Africa is one of the most dynamic regions in the world, but is also one of the most fragile and severely affected by conflict. Mr Cassis will meet with the presidents and foreign ministers of all three countries. A meeting is also scheduled with the chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission. The AU joined the G20 earlier this year.

Mr Cassis' first destination in East Africa will be Ethiopia. The second largest country in Africa in terms of population is a strategically important partner for Switzerland, particularly in the areas of business, science and migration. In the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Mr Cassis will meet with President Sahle-Work Zewde and Minister of Foreign Affairs Taye Atske Selassie.

Addis Ababa is also the seat of the AU. The AU comprises all African countries, making it the continent's most important multilateral organisation. Switzerland has been working with the AU in the areas of peace and security since 2016. Mr Cassis will also meet with Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the AU Commission, to discuss ways of stepping up cooperation between Switzerland and the AU. Other important issues on the agenda include the conflict situation on the Horn of Africa, the war in Ukraine and the preconditions for a peace process.

First visit by a federal councillor to Djibouti

On 19 March, Mr Cassis will travel on from Ethiopia to Djibouti, marking the first official visit by a member of the Federal Council to that country. Djibouti occupies a crucial geostrategic position due to its location between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. As a major port for East Africa, Djibouti is vital to global trade. During his talks with President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh and Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, Mr Cassis will stress the importance of regional and global security and science diplomacy.

Kenya: an important partner for Switzerland for 60 years

Mr Cassis will conclude his journey with a visit to Kenya from 20 to 22 March. Switzerland has maintained diplomatic relations with Kenya since 1964. This visit will therefore also mark 60 years of bilateral relations. Kenya is a crucial partner for Switzerland due to its stable democracy, robust economy, innovative strength and importance for regional stability. The Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy 2021–24 describes the country as a 'lion economy'. The volume of trade between Switzerland and Kenya exceeded CHF 180 million in 2022. The high-level talks will primarily focus on advancing a range of bilateral matters.

Mr Cassis' journey to East Africa is also in keeping with the Federal Council's Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy 2021–24. Although the subcontinent faces numerous challenges, its rapid social, economic and political transformation also presents new opportunities. Discussions in East Africa will therefore also be aimed at informing the follow-up strategy that is currently being drawn up.

National Councillors Monika Rüegger (SVP/Obwalden) and Farah Rumy (SP/Soloturn), both members of the National Council's Foreign Affairs Committee, will accompany Mr Cassis on his trip to East Africa.

Further information:

Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy 2021–24
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Ethiopia
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Djibouti
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Kenya
FDFA article

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