Remarks by Ambassador Godec
Inaugural Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASAL) Conference
Malindi, Kilifi County
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Your Excellency Deputy President William Ruto,
Cabinet Secretary, Eugene Wamalwa,
Governor Nanok, the Chair of Council of Governors
Governors, Cabinet Secretaries,
Senators and Members of the National Assembly,
Mabibi na Mabwana;
It’s great to be here today representing Kenya’s Development Partners at this inaugural Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) Conference. As partners, we are committed to working with the Government of Kenya at all levels to sustain the impressive progress the country has made in recent years to improve the lives of Kenyans.
Quite correctly, Kenya’s Vision 2030 identifies the development of ASAL counties as a top priority. So, I would like to thank the Ministry of Devolution and ASAL counties for hosting this important conference. We are here to support you.
Although the ASAL counties are making strides in economic and social development, they continue to face huge challenges. While they are 89 percent of Kenya’s land surface, the ASALs include 18 of the 20 poorest counties in the country. And, they have the lowest development indicators in Kenya with between 74 and 97 percent of the population living below the absolute poverty line.
The environment in the ASALs poses big challenges as well. Drought is the single biggest threat to livelihoods, occurring more frequently and with greater intensity in recent years. In 2017, the ASALs faced a drought emergency with an estimated 3.4 million people not having enough to eat. And the drought was followed by unprecedented heavy rainfall and flash floods, resulting in casualties and livestock disease outbreaks in the same regions.
Problems of poverty, underdevelopment, and natural disasters are not easy to solve. But solved they must be, and as Kenya makes progress it is important that no one is left behind. Devolution is helping ensure all Kenyans are given opportunities and development takes place widely. Devolution has brought government closer to the people and people closer to the government. It has enhanced local participation and accountability, and expanded political space. Counties are determining their priorities and making budget allocations that are responsive to the priorities of their residents.
The Kenyan people are committed to a devolved system of governance, but they also have great expectations. They want to see an increase in all levels of government’s accountability to its citizens, greater inclusion, and a reduction in corruption and conflict. While individual Kenyans will evaluate the effects of devolution based on the performance of their own county, overall acceptance of devolution will depend on the collective performance of all counties. There is a need to work together and across county lines. The establishment of regional blocs such as the Frontier Counties Development Council will help.
As the ASAL counties continue to advance development, international partners are here to help. The governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, Denmark as well as other development partners such as the European Commission, the World Bank, and the UN are your close partners in development.
Each of us is implementing programs working with the government of Kenya. Each of us is committed to taking actions based on local realities and international best practices. Each of us is committed to strengthening communities to be resilient before a crisis hits. And each of us is advancing the goal that individuals and communities will be able to take care of themselves and not need assistance from outside Kenya.
Towards that end, we continue to invest in increased access to safe drinking water, improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure, higher quality health and education, expanded transport infrastructure, better nutrition, and improved service delivery by national and county institutions. We also seek to unlock the economic potential of the ASAL counties by supporting activities such as the trade of livestock and livestock products, pasture and fodder production, beekeeping, and fishing.
Ultimately we are all focused on ensuring that the best interests of Kenyans come first in our efforts to help expand health, education, security, and reciprocal business and trade opportunities.
As we all continue efforts to advance development in the ASALs, I’d like to mention three further specific and critical challenges. First, for the ASAL counties to make progress, women must be given an equal opportunity to contribute, in line with the Constitution. Today, women and girls in these counties face huge challenges, including discrimination, a lack of access to education, FGM and early childhood marriage. Women must be full participants and leaders in the ASALs if the counties are to make real progress.
Second, corruption continues to be a scourge in Kenya, including in the ASALs. Corruption discourages foreign investment and slows down economic growth. Corruption is theft, plain and simple, and it is undermining the future in the ASALs, as it is elsewhere in Kenya. We welcome President Kenyatta’s commitment to the fight against corruption, and that of key agencies, including the ODPP, DCI and EACC. But, all Kenyans must be committed to this fight. The time for action against corruption is now, all across Kenya.
Third, it is critical that Kenya and the ASAL counties continue to improve the environment for the private sector and to reduce barriers to trade and investment. Governments and Development Partners are important but private investment is essential to economic growth and building prosperity. The private sector creates jobs and opportunities.
In the last week, Kenya has very much been on the world stage. The welcome attention that Kenya is receiving reflects the country’s importance, real progress and potential. As partners, we look forward to continuing to build our shared programs to further accelerate Kenya’s advance, including in the ASAL counties. We are proud to support development that promotes transparency, self-sufficiency, and long-term prosperity.
During this conference, we hope for insightful deliberations and new commitments to action. Together, we are building a better world for Kenyans and for all of us.
Pamoja tusonge mbele. Asanteni sana.