Ambassador Godec’s Remarks at the
American Chamber of Commerce Big Four Summit
June 28, 2018
Your Excellency, President Uhuru Kenyatta;
Cabinet Secretaries present;
U.S. Commerce Undersecretary Gil Kaplan, and your strong U.S. delegation;
AmCham President and members present;
Ladies and gentlemen;
I am very pleased to be with you today to open the American Chamber’s Big Four Summit. A huge thank you and congratulations to AmCham for organizing this important event, and to all of the American and Kenyan government officials and business representatives here. I would also like to extend my special appreciation to Under Secretary of Commerce Kaplan and the entire U.S. delegation for their visit and joining us. Thank you as well to our United Nations colleagues for hosting us.
For more than 50 years, Kenya and the United States have worked together in so many areas… security, healthcare, education, agriculture, trade and investment, and much more. Hand-in-hand, we’ve improved the lives of Kenyans and Americans alike. This summit is yet another step forward and a great opportunity for us to deepen the economic partnership. It allows American business to offer market-driven, private sector-led solutions that support Kenya in achieving its Big Four goals for the benefit of all Kenyans.
Over the course of our history together, a top shared priority has been expanding trade and investment ties. Last year, U.S.-Kenya bilateral merchandise trade was over $1 billion. And that does not include trade in services. There are hundreds of American companies present in Kenya, and their numbers are climbing fast. U.S. firms have created tens of thousands of jobs in Kenya and provided billions of dollars in investment.
The reasons for the strong U.S. business interest are clear. Kenya is the largest and most diversified economy in the region, and it has become the logistics, transportation, financial, and media hub of East Africa. Kenya’s sound macroeconomic management and a diversified economy bode well for the future. The Government of Kenya and the private sector have worked together to rapidly improve Kenya’s business environment. Kenya’s efforts to diversify its economy, build out infrastructure, grow its middle class, increase disposable income, and promote a culture of innovation makes it very attractive to business.
And President Kenyatta’s Big Four initiative is another important step forward in Kenya’s drive for greater prosperity. Increasing manufacturing, offering universal health care, building affordable housing, and strengthening food and nutrition security are all impressive goals. If these goals are achieved, they will move the country forward decisively. And American business can help Kenya achieve them. We welcome the opportunity to do so. American companies are powerful partners.
There is huge potential for Kenyan and American companies to build on each other’s strengths and markets, and to create shared successes — in the Big Four and beyond. Our companies are working together on many projects and potential projects. From Wrigley’s new factory, to companies manufacturing apparel and exporting it under AGOA, to energy projects such as Kipeto Wind Power, to Bechtel’s proposal to build a gold-standard Mombasa-to-Nairobi highway, to IBM’s research lab, to Loon’s plan to use balloons to offer telecommunications connections to unserved regions – together we are building the future. And that future takes a big leap forward today, with the signing of several major commercial deals and government partnership agreements, many contributing directly to the Big Four priorities. And, we hope, in just a few months, to take another step forward in strengthening our connections with the beginning of direct flights between Nairobi and New York. If this dream is realized, it will unlock further, opportunities for tourism, trade, and investment between our countries.
I do not, however, want to ignore the challenges of doing business in Kenya, and there are some. The biggest is corruption, which is undermining the country’s future, slowing growth, and hurting citizens. Corruption, simply, is theft — and it is time for it to stop. The United States welcomes President Kenyatta’s strong commitment to address this issue head on, and we are providing assistance in the fight. The battle against corruption can be won – but it will require hard work and a sustained commitment by all Kenyans.
Kenya’s strengths are the reason why we have seen an unprecedented wave of American companies exploring this market, seeking partners and opportunities, and bringing with them their technology, innovation, and enthusiasm. We want U.S. companies to be the partner of choice for Kenyan businesses. Together, we are building greater prosperity for both Kenyans and Americans.
I would now like to introduce the U.S. Under Secretary for International Trade, Gilbert Kaplan, and invite him to make his remarks.
Pamoja tusonge mbele.