Ms. Rita Kavashe, Managing Director, GM East Africa… and Vice President-elect of the American Chamber of Commerce!,
Hamjambo mabibi na mabwana. Habari zenu! Good evening.
I am happy to be here today to welcome the Chevy Trailblazer to Kenya, and to celebrate the strong ties between General Motors, a great American company, and the economic powerhouse of East Africa, Kenya.
General Motors East Africa is a model company. GM has brought jobs and investment to East Africa since 1975, and continues to invest in local talent and the local economy through Kenyan suppliers, whose products go straight to the assembly line, and account for 3,000 jobs. Whether it is supporting the Autism Society of Kenya, or leading in the battle for safe roads through the National Road Safety Trust, GM East Africa models social responsibility and giving back to the community.
As Ambassador, strengthening economic ties between the United States and Kenya is a top goal. I am deeply committed to promoting trade and investment between our two countries. The arrival of the new Chevy Trailblazer is a tribute to our strong and growing economic ties.
In a larger sense, the arrival of the Trailblazer is a reflection of something momentous at work in Kenya and in East Africa: the growth and success of the middle class. As history teaches us, whatever else we wish to say about development, a rising middle class is a great engine for positive change in society, from open, democratic politics, to an innovative, free market economy. And the middle class is clearly growing in Kenya. The good news story here is that Kenya has arrived… East Africa has arrived… and you should be proud of yourselves because GM as an employer and as an investor has played and will continue to play a significant part in that story.
GM is a great example of a great American company investing in East Africa. There are, of course, many others. From IBM’s new research laboratory to the new Best Western hotel and Subway restaurants in Nairobi, more firms arrive every day. U.S. investment in Kenya alone is $300 million, with $1 billion in two-way trade. U.S. companies have the talent, the technology, and the products to succeed in Kenya.
Our two countries are, of course, old friends. Our partnership – government to government and people to people — is now five decades old. At the American Embassy here in Nairobi, we continue to connect U.S. and Kenyan businesses, and to assist those interested in using the African Growth and Opportunity Act to export duty free to the United States. We work to strengthen Kenya’s health sector through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and many other programs. We support efforts to expand access to low-cost, renewable energy in Kenya, and to provide technical assistance to improve the Mombasa Port, to make regional trade more efficient and less costly. We have sent 46 young Kenyans to the United States, as part of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI, where they will receive training at major American universities. We are about to celebrate the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., which will feature Kenya and showcase this beautiful country, with its rich heritage, to Americans. And in August, President Obama has invited President Kenyatta to join him at the first U.S.-African Leaders Summit, which will be another great opportunity to deepen our relations. I can assure you that the commitment of the United States to Kenya is unchanged, and unwavering.
In recent weeks, unfounded rumors have circulated regarding the U.S. commitment to Kenya as the result of the updated U.S. travel warning for Kenya and upcoming changes in personnel at the Embassy. Let me be clear: we have not evacuated any citizens; we have not advised Americans against visiting Kenya; we have not banned travel here. The U.S. Embassy is here to stay. The U.S. government is here to stay. And U.S. business is here to stay.
For fifty years, Kenya and the United States have been friends and partners. We will continue to build our relations in the next 50 years. And GM has been right here as well, also as a friend and partner in East Africa. I am proud of the tradition of excellence you have built in this region. Your work here is vital – for GM, for the United States, for Kenya, and for Africa. Congratulations. It is great to welcome the outstanding Chevy Trailblazer to Kenya.
Thank you. Asanteni sana.