Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has continued to exert his power and influence in East Africa ahead of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame.
This follows President Kenyatta’s invitation to the 43rd G7 Summit in Italy where the world’s most powerful leaders converged to discuss global challenges of terrorism, fair trade, climate change, Brexit and migration among others.
Ugandans would have expected President Museveni to be invited to the summit because of his role in fighting terrorism and efforts to export peace to South Sudan, Central Africa Republic and Somalia where the Ugandan army has been battling al-Shabaab.
However, the G7 members saw more reason in having President Kenyatta ahead of Uganda’s veteran leader.
President Kenyatta was invited to speak on, “the timeliness and challenges brought about by innovation as a factor of economic growth and development in Africa”.
President Kenyatta told the summit that the G7 must step up its engagement with Africa to lift economic growth and fight terrorism, adding that a free Africa is crucial in achieving constructive cooperation.
“A freer, more prosperous Africa is a more secure Africa. A freer, more prosperous Africa is a vital partner in solving some of the world’s most pressing problems: poverty, immigration, climate change, and terrorism. This, is the time to put Africa’s aspirations at the heart of your plans,” Kenyatta said.
Below is President Uhuru’s full speech at the G7 summit in Italy
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First, let me thank you,Prime Minister Gentiloni for the warm welcome and gracious hospitality extended to me and my delegation. I also thank you for according me the opportunity to address this distinguished gathering.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Africa is the world’s new frontier for trade and investment. Current indications are that Africa will have business opportunities worth $5.6 trillion by 2025.
Across Africa,there is a rising tide bringing with it new national and transnational infrastructure; a better-educated labour force; a youthful, dynamic population; a diffusion of technology; and, most important, the true democratization of the continent.
A rising tide lifts every boat. We now see the emergence of business clusters that stimulate innovation,the creation of new businesses, and real growth.
That’s why our returns on investment are some of the highest in the world,and that’s why members of the G7 will find, as others have found, that African markets are well worth their interest.
Indeed, right across the continent, opportunities beckon. To seize them, we will have to work together. The rewards are beyond calculation. A freer, more prosperous Africa is a more secure Africa. A freer, more prosperous Africa is a vital partner in solving some of the world’s most pressing problems: poverty, immigration, climate change, terrorism. This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the time to put Africa’s aspirations at the heart of your plans.
Now, the continent’s transformation is contingent on innovation. That’s why we have strengthened connectivity through the Smart Africa initiative,putting ICT at the center of our development agenda. That’s why the continent is developing an ICT policy and infrastructure to support one seamless digital market, to serve a billion people.
I need not tell you, Ladies and Gentlemen, that Kenya is a celebrated pioneer in ICT innovation in Africa. We have seen for ourselves the transformative power of innovation,as the Internet and mobile telephony have diffused power to networks and individuals.
Our people have proven enthusiastic innovators,enriching our democracy and development. In turn, the world has learned to appreciate to the energy and innovation of our young people, the spear-point of our development strategy.
That energy and innovation, combined with a strong ICT backbone, with infrastructure,and with an open regulatory and policy environment, has unleashed creative solutions, transforming lives.
The list is long and exciting; I’ll cite just three examples. M-Farmis a mobile platform for farmers: with the touch of a button, they can find prevailing prices for their produce.
Ushahidi(Swahili for testimony) is a ground-breaking interactive mapping tool, now used across the world to crowd-source information in elections and emergencies.
And then, of course, there is M-pesa,the mobile money platform that has brought financial access to millions who were left out of the traditional banking sector: these days, nine in every ten Kenyans access financial services through it.
These innovations, and others, have made Kenya more dynamic and resilient; they have made Kenya more investor-friendly; and they have made Kenya the hub of East and Central Africa.
I said that the Internet and the mobile phone had diffused power from states to networks and citizens. This is all to the good.
We are a democracy in a tough neighbourhood: our success will enlarge liberty;it will push back extremists bent on destroying democracy; and it will give many millions of our people an even larger stake in a stable global order.
Naturally, that success will depend largely on our own efforts, but the partnership and solidarity of the G-7 countries remain invaluable.
That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the power and promise of innovation and cooperation across borders. But we must also consider recent painful events in Manchester, which reminds us that innovation and globalization have a dark side. Far cheaper communication, and the movement of peoples across the world have given terrorists an ideological and operational reach that was unimaginable until very recently.
Terror presents a common threat. It demands a common response. Together, we can meet that threat. Indeed, we in Kenya, in partnership with many of you,have encouraging results to report. We have stopped attacks; we have unravelled terror cells; we have shared intelligence; we have saved lives.
But while intelligence and policing remain critical,we in Kenya believe the first weapon in this war is democracy.
Our people are free: free to choose their government; free to make their views heard; free to start and grow a business. That is the answer to the call of radicalism and violence. Only democracies can correct the abuses of power that breed the grievances on which terror is fed. Only democracies under the rule of law can give each citizen an equal voice in the making of his country’s laws. And only democracy can produce the broad prosperity which forestalls division.
In truth, then, only free peoples in control of their destiny can win an enduring victory over the nihilism of the terrorists.
That is why we are proud to be associated with you,the G7, as a beacon of democracy and the rule of law. We believe this is the time for a new alliance of democracies to stand together against the forces of terror.
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen is why I wish to once again thank you, Prime Minister Gentiloni,and all present, for working closely with Kenya and Africa, for the peace, the prosperity, and the freedom that all our peoples deserve.