Kenya is a hotbed of vibrant culture, beauty and infinite possibility
By Uhuru Kenyatta | July 26th 2015
The people of Africa and Kenya are truly proud to welcome you to the world’s most diverse continent, and, indeed, as proved by the archaeologists, the cradle of mankind. Welcome home everyone!!
We have built mighty civilisations here in Africa, and have sometimes suffered great harm on account of natural and at times man-made calamities.
Still we rise, fired by our spirit of resilience, our undying hope for a better tomorrow. You all know that, for a decade now, the economies of Africa have been the fastest-growing in the world. Behind these growth statistics is the story of a new generation of Africans, committed to an African Renaissance.
Our fathers won the political freedom that we enjoy today. But on the socio-economic front, the continent continues to face major challenges.
This is our moment to complete the task started by our fathers in pursuit of economic freedom. It is the time for the new generation of Africans to promote inclusive prosperity.
In our pursuit of this prosperity, we have truly embraced the private sector. You the entrepreneurs in this room today, who have come from all corners of the globe, are our hope in this task.
In this new paradigm, we cannot afford the luxury of the old language of East versus West. Kenya is aligned to neither; we are, firmly and irreversibly, aligned to progress. Africa’s relationship with the rest of the world must be premised on mutual benefit, where our people and our resources are leveraged to secure the growth of our economies and prosperity for all. As large parts of the world age, Africa grows younger by the day. The youthful sons and daughters of Africa are our incredible resource. They are reaching for a new future in which their innovation and curiosity will transform the world. Kenya typifies this change.
Kenyans, using their mobile phone airtime inspired the development of MPesa, now the world’s leading mobile money platform.
This ingenuity is also exemplified by Julius Yego, who logged onto YouTube using an old mobile phone, and learned how to throw the javelin: this year he recorded the world’s longest throw.
M-Kopa, a new Kenyan innovation, has brought the benefits of solar lighting to hundreds of thousands of rural homes, enabling our children to study after school, relieving our mothers from the burden of fetching firewood and burning kerosene late into the night.
These examples demonstrate the ability of this continent to transform challenges into opportunities. Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we are a resilient and brave people. You are aware, nearly two years ago the Westgate Mall in Nairobi was the scene of a heart-breaking act of criminal brutality.
To the world, it became an emblem of extremist violence and terrorism. I am proud to inform you that a week ago, it reopened and its flagship store proceeded to record more sales on the first day than on any other in the mall’s history.
We rose above our pain, and resolved to keep marching forward. We are truly a nation that shames its saboteurs and detractors. Mr President, the democratic space in Kenya was secured by a transformation in governance.
Our people aspired for a new constitutional dispensation, which the government has implemented in both letter and spirit. In just two years, we have fully devolved government and brought services closer to the people.
From the big cities of Nairobi and Mombasa to the promising towns of Isiolo and Machakos, the impact of devolution means that no part of the country is left behind; that national prosperity will be shared in every corner of our land. Africa is the world’s newest and most promising frontier of limitless opportunity. Gone are the days when the only lens to view our continent was one of despair and indignity.
This country, this continent, does not claim perfection – but we can claim progress. The key insight is to see that we are at the beginning of a great journey. It is one that we invite you to join us.
We see, as clearly as anyone, that true opportunity demands the respect for human dignity, fundamental rights and the protection of democratic ideals.
These shared values are the bridge between the peoples of our different continents, cultures and creeds that are gathered here today. Let me conclude by saying that aside from participating in this Summit, I encourage all of you to go out and see for yourselves, the enchanting beauty and promise of this country.
You will discover that Kenya is a hotbed of vibrant culture, spectacular natural beauty, and infinite possibility. Let the world hear a simple message: the narrative of African despair and indignity is false – indeed, it was never true. Mr President and to all of you gathered here, today let that narrative change.
When you go home and as you travel around the world, tell those whom you meet about what you have seen in Kenya. Share your experiences and let them know that Africa is open and ready for business.
—The writer is the President of Kenya
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