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US backs Kenya’s road to progress and self-reliance

By Kyle McCarter | April 21st 2019

This is a pivotal time in Kenya’s history. The handshake last year that paved the way for a stronger democracy rooted in peaceful dialogue and post-election political stability has allowed Kenya’s economy to continue growing. By all accounts, Kenya is poised to be Africa’s shining star. Opportunities for advancements in health, education, justice and prosperity are set clearly before us. The United States stands ready to help ensure those opportunities become realities for Kenyans. 

Our new strategic partnership with Kenya holds the promise of great prosperity for both of our countries and we want our investments – public and private – to provide maximum benefits possible. Our governments have built a relationship rooted in common values. The door is open for private sector-led growth to be the engine that will transform Kenya.

The US government, non-government and private entities contribute over Sh100 billion each year in health care, agriculture, education, security, and more in Kenya. Over one million people are healthy, due to the anti-retroviral medication provided free by the US government, a Sh60 billion annual investment. Our work with Kenyan Defence Forces to combat Al Shabaab is keeping the country safe from terrorism. And groundbreaking new private investment is “jembe tayari,” so let’s get started.

The US economy depends on sound infrastructure and services to facilitate long-term growth in jobs, education, and government revenues, and we want to help Kenya improve in both areas. US companies deliver world leading technologies and innovation that support Kenya’s Big Four agenda. The US model focuses on sustainable financing, not unmanageable debt. We believe that hiring Kenyans to manage, lead, and do the skilled work represents the best path to long-term profitability and self-reliance.

A clear example of how governments, workers, managers, and Kenyans all prosper through transparent business with US companies is the Mombasa-Nairobi highway project that the Kenyan government awarded to Bechtel, a world-class US engineering company.  Presidents Trump and Kenyatta committed to concluding terms of the financing agreement in Washington last year, recognising the benefits of the project.

The new Mombasa-Nairobi highway makes good sense for Kenya’s infrastructure, economy, trade, and regional leadership.  With 80 percent of East Africa’s trade transiting Mombasa, the existing road and rail service cannot keep up with the growing domestic and regional growth and trade. The new four-lane highway will be built to a depth of 90cm, twice that of other highways.  

More than 70 per cent of the estimated 4,000 employees working on the road would be Kenyans, with skill-based job training and apprenticeships for an additional 2,000. And best environmental practices will preserve wildlife and boost Kenya’s tourism sector. Perhaps most importantly, the highway provides real value for Kenya. At a cost half the price of rail and roads previously built, the highway will be built in segments, leveraging private investors to minimise government debt. The highway will be an achievement Kenyans can be proud of, benefiting current and future generations.

Doing business with the US can help fight corruption at all levels. US companies are subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which means Kenya has the US Department of Justice on its team to ensure business is conducted without graft. But for Kenya to succeed, it must end brazen corruption by a minority that operates with impunity, undermining the hard work and good will of Kenyans.

President Kenyatta is committed to this effort and the US stands firmly in support of the campaign to stem corruption and ensure accountability. I believe that a government based on transparency, inclusion, and equality is one that will bring its people greatness, and I promise you that as long as Kenya continues to strive for these goals, the United States will be Kenya’s best ally, pairing the generosity of the American people with dignity and respect on the road to self-reliance.  As the next generation of leaders in Kenya stands up against corruption and delivers opportunity for the youth of the nation, the United States will be by your side. Tutafanya kazi pamoja (We will work together). Happy Easter to all.

-  The writer is the US Ambassador to Kenya

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