By Uhuru Kenyatta
In1963, two years after I was born, Kenya gained its independence under my father Jomo Kenyatta. But my country had already been pivotal in global relations for centuries, through networks of Arab, Persian, Indian and European merchants.
As the nexus of the transit of goods between three continents, Kenya became the heart of Indian Ocean trade. Kenya’s engagement with the world is as important today as it was then. I want to see Kenya take its rightful place on the world stage, feeding into the multinational trade mosaic that has always been part of our fabric.
We are working hard to cement our strategic position at the heart of global trade, underscored by enduring peace and democracy, to provide the right conditions for foreign investment. Only by opening up developing nations to the possibilities presented by markets around the world, can we elevate Africa to a status of equity with international partners.
The invitation to me to address the world’s most powerful leaders at the G7 summit recognises the critical role Kenya now plays as that leading voice in Africa. Though disappointingly later than it should have been, Africa is finally taking its first real steps on the path of partnership and rectifying the historical injustices that forced its people into subservience.
Our continent is all too often at the sharp end of the greatest challenges facing our planet, whether that is climate change, combating extremism, or bridging the gaping disparity in trade that perpetuates poverty. It is high time a voice from Sub-Saharan Africa was given the platform our forefathers deserved, yet were so often denied.
I am both honoured and inspired, but am also very aware of the weight of responsibility that comes with this opportunity to represent Africa to the leaders of the seven most powerful nations in the world. As my government seeks to transform Kenya into a dynamic modern global trading nation, it is important to build the foundations of renewed trust between developing and developed nations. In so doing, we must harness technological innovation to spur economic growth, but also address the challenges this brings.
I will unapologetically promote the development of the African continent. Since becoming President in 2013, my administration has worked successfully with leaders across the world to reposition the great Republic of Kenya as a go–to destination in which the world can invest. We have welcomed Kenya’s son Barack Obama, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former South Korean President Park Geun–Hye and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan.
When I visited Chancellor Merkel last year, we explored how best to deepen our solid trade partnership. In December 2016, Volkswagen opened the first car manufacturing plant in Kenya after an absence of over five decades, providing direct employment to a new generation of Kenyans. I also discussed with Prime Minister May the many ways in which our two nations can strengthen bilateral relations post Brexit, as well as continue to enhance our long–standing security cooperation.
It is through such positive and deep friendships that Kenya will be elevated to a middle–income country. This also shows the role Kenya has assumed as an Ambassador for Africa, providing solutions to global trade and security issues across the continent.
This is not the time to be protectionist. My vision for the nation’s enhanced role in the world will ensure the economy is grown through crucial foreign investment. Foreign investment was at $500m in 2013, but through our continued efforts rose to $990m in just one year. Last year, Kenya leapt 28 places on the World Bank’s rankings for Ease of Business. My message is clear – Kenya is open for business, and friendship, for the benefit of all.
Africa needs foreign powers to invest directly into our economies. This crucially enables both sides to grow exponentially and ensure economic parity in our global relations.
It is essential that rather than be dictated terms that are deleterious to our own development, we fight to deliberate as equal partners in any negotiations. Only mutual respect and cooperation will secure Africa’s rightful place in international trade, thereby ensuring decent living standards and a foundation on which to build the dreams of a continent.
Our vital role as a mediator in the South Sudan peace process helped to end a 17–month civil war that had killed 50,000 people and displaced 2 million more; and shows a maturity of outlook and leadership prerequisite to be a credible voice at the top table.
By committing time and resources to South Sudan, and encouraging strategic links with neighbouring states, the entire region’s prosperity and security is bolstered.
As President Trump has repeatedly stated about his role as President of America, as President of a leading country in Africa, it is my duty to put Kenya first, Africa second but also to embrace the world. Modernity has taught us to recognise the interdependence of the three.
My dream of continuing Kenya’s journey of transformation to build a peaceful, prosperous and globally competitive country will lay the foundation to support Kenyans, and our African cousins, for generations to come.
Adding Kenya’s voice to the rich tapestry of global cooperation gives hope that we can not only elevate our own country, but also show countries around the world the great gains that can be harvested through a spirit of partnership.