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President Uhuru Kenyatta's full speech at Tokyo business forum

By Uhuru Kenyatta | March 16th 2015


Distinguished leaders of Japan’s business community

Ladies and gentlemen, 

Let me start with a word of thanks for the warm hospitality which my delegation and I have enjoyed since we arrived. I am especially pleased, because this is my first visit to Japan. Suffice it to say that I would be happy to return. 

Your welcome has certainly strengthened the already excellent relations between Kenya and Japan. These ties are anchored in our common values, and sustained by the goodwill and cooperation that has been the hallmark of the partnership. We welcome this opportunity to renew our partnership with Japan’s business community. 

Ladies and Gentlemen 

A principal aim of my journey here is this: to strengthen the already robust economic and commercial relations between the people of Kenya and the people of Japan.  We appreciate that while our respective countries are already trading in various goods and services, there is substantial room for expansion of business and investment opportunities. That is why I am quite pleased not only speak to the players in commerce and business, but also to listen to their proposals and suggestions on how my government can better support them.  

Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me begin by saying a little more about our positioning. As the gateway to East and Central Africa, Kenya occupies a special position in Japan’s diplomatic relations with Africa. Japan has been quick to recognise that importance: I am happy to note that today Nairobi hosts one of the largest Japanese communities in Africa, and is the Regional Headquarters for all of Japan’s major agencies (JICA, JETRO and JBIC) as well as its largest trading houses.  

The Japanese partnership with Africa, and with Kenya in particular, has been strengthened by recent initiatives such as the TICAD process. TICAD has been an engine of growth since it promotes trade and investment in the priority areas of infrastructure and agriculture, and encourages the active engagement of the private sector to stimulate the creation of regional value chains, employment, and the exchange of technology and know-how, as well as to strengthen sectors with strong potential, such as tourism, to support Africa’s sustained economic growth.  

Ladies and Gentlemen

Kenya-Japan Trade has grown steadily, from USD 557million in 2008 to USD 1.1 billion in 2013. The balance of trade weighs in Japan’s favour; Kenya is desirous of greater equality.


Kenya’s main exports to Japan include tea, coffee, fruits, and nuts, fresh and frozen fish, fresh cut flowers, raw tobacco, sisal and textile fibres, handicrafts, semi-precious stones and soda ash, while imports from Japan include motor vehicles, auto parts and engines, iron and steel products, machinery and rubber tyres. 

I am happy to note that Kenya flowers are gaining popularity in Japan, because of the longer shelf life. I would urge Japan to consider increasing its imports of Kenyan flowers by importing directly from Kenya as opposed to going through European auctions, which only add to the delay in getting the flowers to market.

We acknowledge that communication between our two countries is a challenge. There are no direct flights between Nairobi and Tokyo, which hinders the growth of bilateral trade and tourism. Our two governments will need to address the matter, if we are to enhance our business engagements. 

Ladies and Gentlemen

Kenya is a strong investment destination which still receives a high share of FDI in the region. This is because of the enabling infrastructure that the Government has laid out and due also to our fortunate location. 

Over the last few years, Kenya has also been implementing our national development priorities through the Kenya Vision 2030 blue print. The Vision aims at transforming Kenya into a newly industrialised middle income economy providing a high quality of life to all its citizens in a clean and secure environment. We can report substantial progress, and indeed very substantial assistance from Japan, in meeting these targets.  

Kenya is an economic hub for the region due to location and proximity. We have accessible transport connectivity; diverse skills and expertise; and we are at the centre of a wide and expansive market in East Africa — over 130 million people — and in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region, which is home to more than 410 million people. These regions, and Kenya’s relationship to them, represent a huge  and relatively untapped market for goods and services of the quality that Japan produces. 

Ladies and Gentlemen 

The Information Communication and Technology sector in Kenya has registered tremendous growth in the last decade, contributing over 12 percent to the national economy in 2013 and improving millions of lives. Kenya is now a proud African ICT hub and a pacesetter in innovative technology. Our mobile money technology/service, M-PESA has been replicated in many countries with great success. My government acknowledges that ICT will increase the country’s productivity and raise the competitiveness of local businesses in a knowledge-based economy. I therefore welcome Japanese investors to explore mutually beneficial opportunities in the ICT sector such as the Konza Project and Business Process outsourcing (BPOs) centres. 

Ladies and Gentlemen

Other opportunities for investment in Kenya include manufacturing, agriculture, financial services, transport, infrastructure, energy and the Lamu Port Sudan South-Ethiopia Transport corridor Project ( LAPSSET).

This project comprises of modern port facilities and rail, road, pipelines and fibre optic links to serve a hinterland comprising Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Sudan.  

In the recent past, Kenya has also discovered oil and gas deposits and given the economic importance of the sector, we invite Japanese investors to invest in Kenya by going into joint ventures with Kenyan companies or through Public Private Partnership.  

I want to assure you that Kenya is open and safe for business and investment. It is an ideal investment destination given my government’s business-friendly reforms. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

We welcome proposals on how we can improve the current level of support to the private sector. We stand ready at all times to facilitate trade enquiries, product promotion fairs and investment forums.  Members of my delegation are ready to answer any questions or clarify any issues that you may have. In addition my Ambassador will individually follow on all the proposals and inquiries initiated at this forum and report back on progress.   

Let me close by once again commending the government and people of Japan for their commitment to Kenya’s development and their friendship over long years. I look forward to many more years of even closer partnership.

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