Africa’s riches are old and new. The resilience and diligence of our people are ancient, yet we remain full of the energy, ambition and invention of youth.
In recent times, as we liberated ourselves and came to more equal relations with the rest of the world, our diligence earned greater respect and reward: some of the fastest-growing economies in the world are now to be found on the continent, as are some of the most innovative and enterprising firms, whose origins span the globe.
They come to us because they see the continent’s potential – potential yet to be fully tapped. New partners join old friends in this turn to Africa. This development should be welcomed.
None of us can escape the interdependent world in which we now live. None of us should want to. In the commerce and interaction of diverse peoples are born that the ideas and practices that will change the world.
That is why it is my pleasure to co-host, with President Obama of the United States of America, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES 2015 KENYA) in Nairobi this weekend.
Since its inauguration in the USA five years ago, it has grown into a truly global gathering of entrepreneurs, innovators, Government leaders and youth.
It connects men and women of imagination and enterprise to their peers around the world. It exposes us all to new opportunities, while teaching us new answers to problems of wide concern.
In its respect for diversity, entrepreneurship, and inclusion, it is a model for richer relationships between and within nations.
This is the first time the Summit has come to sub-Saharan Africa. In its choice of Kenya, the GES acknowledges the progress and potential of our nation, and its leadership on the continent.
It also acknowledges our entrepreneurial spirit, our robust small and medium enterprises, and our entrepreneur class –which now counts many of our young people, and previously marginalised groups, among its members.
Kenya’s reputation for innovation and enterprise is fully deserved. It is our habit to take risks in the hope of bettering ourselves, and our country.
That is what led many of our young men and women to go the United States even before independence.
That same spirit inspired the young Kenyans who crafted the Ushahidi app. It inspired Kennedy Odede, founder of SHOFCO, and winner of Forbes’ top 30 under 30 prize.
And it is that very same resolve which drove Dr. Simon Gicharu, founder of Mt Kenya University, and Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year 2014.
Our innovators and entrepreneurs have certainly earned the honour of the summit. We will honour them in our turn if we welcome our guests with our customary hospitality, and if we represent our nation and our continent as well as we are able.
For this is our event – all of us. As Kenyans, we have the opportunity to learn from the experience and expertise of some of the world’s top business development experts and leaders, and to share with them our own achievements and success stories.
As entrepreneurs, we will have the chance to meet them in sessions, to pitch our ideas and to grow the scale and impact of our enterprises. Investors will find opportunities for decent returns in some of the world’s most cutting-edge, innovative and responsive solutions to shared challenges.
To welcome our guests and friends with the hospitality they deserve, we have had to plan most carefully.
I am glad to say that Government, and our partners, have devoted great care to these arrangements, and that our work has been rewarded with commitments from1,400 participants – and a large delegation from the United States, accompanying President Obama.
It is an inspiration to note that of the 1400 delegates, a fifth will be Kenyans, and half African. In the days before the Summit, we will host a number of events so that our friends and visitors can prepare themselves for the big day.
Late on the first day of the event, President Obama and I will also hold bilateral talks, the better to strengthen ties between our nations.
I scarcely need to mention that our friendship with the United States of America dates back to the days before independence, and that it has remained strong into the present.
The United States is now our second most important trading partner. Indeed, our exports to the US hit 30 billion shillings last year.
Our textiles find a ready market in that country; our natural heritage brings many American visitors each year. Of course, there remains scope for better, more diversified, trade and investment in energy, in technology, and in manufacturing.
I am sure this diversification will be one of the items on the summit’s agenda. Certainly, we look forward to what is to come: to partnerships, to shared prosperity, and to a new era of innovation and possibility.
That is not to say that we do not have challenges of our own. There are those among us who still hope to pervert public enterprise for private ends. My administration has led the war against them; their corrupt schemes will fail.
Our country has endured the attacks of depraved, ideological criminals. We have fought them unrelentingly, and they know, as well as we do, that they will lose.
We have not always made the most of our natural endowments, but with the new trade, new investment, and new technology, we have begun to produce green and renewable energy on a scale unprecedented in our history.
I welcome new interest in this area just as warmly as I welcome our cooperation with the United States in our battles against terrorists and strengthening governance institutions.
For all that, it is in our values that our two countries are most alike: in our concern for the freedom of the individual, and our devotion to the cause of democracy.
It is these aspects of our relationship that will be most refreshed by the Summit, and by the visit of President Obama.
I need not tell you how eagerly we have all waited for the day, or how keen we all are to make it the most memorable of homecomings.
All I can say is that those who doubted the strength of the friendship between the two countries, or the depth of our engagement, had better re-examine their assumptions.
All I ask is that you give President Obama a hearty welcome when he visits our country.
I thank you.
Statement by Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta