Ambassador Godec’s Remarks at the Launch of the National Strategies for Tourism and Wildlife

Deputy President William Ruto;

Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Honorable Najib Balala;

Tourism and Wildlife Sector Partners;

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Mabibi na mabwana;

Hamjambo!

Habari za jioni?

I am delighted to be here with you today at the launch of Kenya’s national strategies for tourism and wildlife.  Tonight’s focus on both tourism and wildlife is important.  The two are closely connected.  Nearly 80 percent of Kenya’s tourism revenue is from the wildlife sector.  Tourists want to see and experience Kenya’s beauty and extraordinary wildlife.  And the revenue from the tourism fuels Kenya’s GDP.  In fact, tourism may contribute 10 percent of the country’s GDP.

Tourism also creates jobs, providing perhaps 11 percent of all employment in Kenya.  It generates significant foreign revenue and is a powerful tool for reducing poverty and building the country.

So, we welcome the Government of Kenya launching the two strategies together.  The U.S. government was pleased to provide support, in particular, for the wildlife strategy and I would like to focus on it for a moment.

The strategy sets a clear vision – that “Kenya’s wildlife is healthy and resilient to threats, and valued by Kenyans.”  This is a strong and smart vision.  As humans, we have a profound responsibility to preserve our world and the protection of wildlife is an essential part of this.  We share this world with so many species.  We have an obligation to care for them, and to protect them for our children and grandchildren… for the future of the world.

The strategy provides a framework for implementing wildlife conservation and sets targets with goals and detailed plans.  Its development took a year.  Passionate stakeholders, including many of you, gathered in “under the tree meetings” to document best practices and commit to this shared vision of conservation.  And these meetings raised awareness of the need for conservation and garnered broad public support from participating communities across the country.  Efforts were made to ensure that women participated throughout the development of this strategy.  A major point raised by the women that participated was that women play a strong role in conserving wildlife and that this strategy must prioritize women’s gains from wildlife investments.  The strategy is stronger and more sustainable because of the number of people involved in creating it.  The United States welcomes the partnership we have with all of you who are working on conservation and who contributed to this strategy.  You are making a profound contribution to the survival of Kenya’s national heritage.

I’d like to recognize and thank Deputy President William Ruto and Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala.  Your leadership in the formulation of this strategy underscores the importance of wildlife and tourism to Kenya’s economy and health as a nation.  It is another important step in the implementation of the Wildlife Act of 2013, one of the best conservation laws on the continent.

BUT, I believe we all agree that wildlife in Kenya, and indeed around the world is under threat.  Under threat from human-wildlife conflict, from poaching, and from diminishing space for wildlife.  If the wildlife of the world – elephants, giraffes, lions, pangolins and so many others — are going to survive, then now is the time for action.

We hope the public review process on this important strategy will continue after today’s launch to ensure that every Kenyan has the opportunity to give his or her views and that the document fully reflects the aspirations of stakeholders.

We hope to see strong action plans that are specific and a commitment from the government to funding implementation.  Development partners want to help and will help, but we need the Government of Kenya to lead and to drive the vision.

Today, Kenya is positioned as a leader of wildlife conservation, not only on this continent, but globally.  We will look to the Government of Kenya and all Kenyans to use this strategy wisely for the benefit of the economy, the environment, the communities, and the wildlife itself.  In the end, development and conservation can and must go hand in hand.  A world where people are prosperous and where wildlife is thriving is a better world.  It is a world we should all work towards.

Congratulations on the new national strategies on wildlife and tourism.

Pamoja tusonge mbele.

Asanteni Sana!